This series of posts – called the ‘Story of Zizira’ are extracted from my 2016 year-end notes covering the journey so far about Zizira, our one-year-old venture. What we have covered so far:
It is not like we knew all that we needed to about agriculture in Meghalaya and in the Northeast India. Yes, we knew about its pristine nature and that agriculture was the main stay of the region. However, our team had love for the land, was eager to learn, could relate to the vision of Zizira and brought with them strong leadership skills imbibed from their years in Chillibreeze.
A bonus was their hands-on experience, as many had their own vegetable patches and gardens, even had relatives and friends who were into farming.
The first step for the Zizira team was to understand about farmers, the crops and to identify the uniqueness of the region, which meant exploring. Since authentic information about crops, prices and farming practices were not readily available to the Zizira team, they set out in search.
We started by visiting the research center of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), meeting with government officials, went to colleges and set out on field trips to meet farmers.
The team interviewed people they met – farmers, scientist, Govt. Officials. Taking photos and recording became a habit. On each trip they seemed to uncover something new that they did not know about.
As an organic extension of this activity exploration became our theme and brand. We are explorers hunting for the unrealized potential of the region. We needed a catchy theme because besides branding and making a profit we want to create a movement. We want to see farmers benefit. We had T-Shirts made that said ‘Making Farmers Famous’ and gifted it to people the team met with.
As you can see, we started bottom up. We created a website to promote the vision of Zizira and to build traffic so that we could sell online. We created interesting content around the explorer theme.
Stories evolved from the many visits. It was a cycle – the field visits generated reports, photos and learning which were uploaded as content on our website.
Our strategy is working. Our guess is that many farmers may already be benefiting. Why? We see new interest in the region, thanks to our mobilization efforts. We get people from outside the region contacting us, and even visiting our office. They are interested in sourcing turmeric, chilli and other produce. Some are interested in growing seeds or contract farming.
Since we started with the idea to discover the best opportunities we followed up on some of the leads generated through our website. Our model was to discover. We did not want to jump and make a big investment without exploring the opportunities. We used a lean startup model of trial and error. We wanted to make small cost mistakes as a path to discover the opportunity that best fit Zizira and our vision of helping farmers and building a movement.
Unfortunately, we got pulled into a big project that failed! Failure is a great teacher. This helped us change our strategy a bit. Will tell you about it in the next post.
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