Phalada Agro Research Foundations was started in 1999 by CMN Shastry to develop Agri inputs for organic farmers to improve the fertility of the soil and protect them from pests and diseases, without using chemicals after spending two decades in the leather business. Surya Shastry, Managing Director, Pure & Sure Organic Cafe, joined the business in 2008 as a management trainee — when the Indian market had grown enough to make the company take a serious look at selling domestically as well. Today, through Phalada Agro, he works directly with around 2,500 organic farmers across the country and sells a wide range of organic products including spices, pulses, fruits, grains, oils, superfoods, and snacks in the domestic market, besides exporting to around 20 countries. Surya Shastry sheds light on his dream project, Pure & Sure Organic Café and more.
How did the idea of Pure and Sure Organic Café come about?
The idea came when we thought society is changing, people are converting to a healthy lifestyle. We connected all the dots for people who wanted an organic lifestyle. We wanted to open a store-cum-open kitchen space to make people aware and educate them about what they are eating. The Pure & Sure Café and the stores are in Jayanagar and Indiranagar in Bengaluru. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and started my career in Phalada Agro itself as a management trainee in 2008. I continued to work in different areas of the business before becoming the managing director, a few years later.
How is your brand unique and how is it different from others in this space?
Right from agricultural inputs to contract farming, we assist farmers in farming activity — right from helping them with a buy-back arrangement and passing them on to export. They are supported and involved in the entire supply chain. We are one of the largest exporters of organic spices, herbs, essential oils and extracts in the country. In 2011, we launched products for the domestic market under the brand name of ‘Phalada Pure & Sure.’ With more than 160 products, ‘Phalada Pure & Sure’ can be found at Nature’s Basket, Spar, Metro, Foodhall, Spencer’s, and such other supermarkets. Today, more and more farmers are coming forward to associate with Phalada Agro. We have more than 160 products — 70 to 80% of them is what a typical Indian family consumes daily, which can be found in supermarket shelves all over the country. We are among the major exporters of organic products such as spices and herbs.
How’s the Pure and Sure Café unique? What are some popular dishes you would recommend to other diners?
Everything at Pure and Sure Café advocates and follows the ethos of clean eating and this is reflected right from the minimalistic decor to the menu. All the items on the menu are made from organic ingredients, mostly from Pure & Sure’s own range. The fresh produce comes from farms we have been working with.
The menu caters to people who opt for vegetarian, vegan, Jain, and gluten-free dishes. We have some interesting options for meat-eaters. A cousin of the much-maligned ripe jackfruit – the smaller, raw version – is transformed into a vegan substitute for recipes that call for meat. You can find it on the menu in the form of a burger, tikki, and as ‘jackfruit keema’. Traditional snack such as nippattu is in a new form as Nippattu Falafel, while moringa is available, among other things, as part of an avocado-based smoothie. There’s also a Namma Chip-and-Dip which also comes with chakli (murukku) besides lavash and naan. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s the mango risotto cheesecake, made from organic mangoes that Pure & Sure also exports. You can also opt for fruit platters served with honey and yoghurt. We also have some old favourites such as Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, Topped Crostini, Grilled Vegetables, Chilli Cheese Toast and more.
There are many challenges in this industry. How tough has it been for you?
One of the biggest challenges with an organic food restaurant is sourcing. There is an inconsistent supply chain out there for a small space to work well. But since most ingredients are sourced internally, this is not a problem for our new cafés. The economies of scale that come from owning an entire backend are passed on to customers.
What are your future plans?
Seeing a great future for the company. Pure & Sure has ambitious plans for its cafés and stores. The first one is just over eight months old now and the second one is two months old. We are focusing on developing innovative products, building a strong brand and adding more stores in the coming years. We plan to set up more cafés in Bengaluru over the next few months, after which we will look at Mysuru, Mumbai, Delhi and maybe an international expansion as well.