When New Jersey-based Bryan Lee (37) came to India in 2011 on a fellowship, farmers in Gurgaon only wanted to click pictures with him. The belief that nobody could help them out of the debt cycle was deep-set, motivating Lee to set up Krishi Star in August 2013. “Our goal is to ensure farmers own a greater part of the supply chain,” says Lee. He zeroed in on whole peeled tomatoes as Krishi’s first product. “It is a niche product with very few competitors,” he explains.
With ₹10 lakh from savings, Lee produced a test batch of 100 kg in August 2013 and a bigger batch of 3 tonne in November, which sold out in a month. Available in 3-kg cans costing ₹250, the tomatoes are hot property at eateries such as Pali Village Café and Café Zoe. While restaurants place orders for 270 kg during the festival season, leading hotels order 900 kg every alternate month. While Krishi earns a profit of 36% on each can, the farmer’s co-operative-owned unit receives ₹15,000 for each day’s production. Krishi, which is sourcing tomatoes from the Nashik APMC, is in talks with farmers in Nashik and Gujarat for direct procurement. Another tie-up with a processing unit is on the cards as well. With a six-member team, Krishi Star has clocked ₹6 lakh revenue from two production cycles so far. Looks like it’s a season of change for Lee.