Herbal reasoning

Working with thousands of small family farmers in India to cultivate tens of thousands of acres of sustainable farmland, Organic India has become a world-leading provider of health and wellness products

During the 1990s, Bharat Mitra and Bhavani Lev witnessed the widespread environmental and economic devastation dealt to India’s agriculture by the introduction of chemical pesticides, fertilisers, and genetically engineered seeds. They also learned about the benefits and effectiveness of Ayurvedic herbs, a group of botanicals at the heart of one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, and in particular, Tulsi, a plant known as the sacred herb of India. Armed with this knowledge, and an ambition to promote True Wellness, Bharat and Bhavani launched Organic India to share the benefits of Tulsi and other Ayurvedic herbs with the world.

“Following its early years of development, Organic India quickly evolved into a holistic, sustainable business model integrating a benevolent supply chain to inspire, promote and support wellbeing and respect for the earth and all parties involved,” company CEO Miguel Gil says. “For more than 20 years, those founding principles still stand as the company continues to partner with thousands of family farms to provide genuine, organic products for healthy, conscious living.”

Central to Organic India’s vision is the company’s unwavering commitment to its ‘whole herb’ philosophy. Herbs and botanicals are the oldest form of medicine — whole herbs were a mainstay of early civilizations and are still the most widely used form of medicine in the world today, with the understanding that the whole is greater than the sumof its parts. Organic India formulas incorporate flowers, leaves, stems or roots – some of which include ‘boosting’ extracts, but always in addition to the whole herb.

The result is the highest quality, most effective, herbal products available on the market today. All Organic India product formulations are developed to preserve nature’s intelligence inherent within plants and recognized by ancient Ayurvedic practitioners.

“Our tea infusions and herbal supplements are based on the Ayurvedic principle that the greatest benefits are found in the whole plant rather than in parts of it,” Miguel explains. “Organic India herbs are grown using bioregenerative agriculture and harvesting practices unique to each plant species, honouring nature’s intelligence. Not only do we offer the world’s first organic, Fairtrade certified herbal supplements, but they also comply with all AHPA, World Health Organization (WHO), and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) manufacturing and testing protocols, ensuring product safety and purity.”

Beginning with a single farmer in 1999, the Organic India farmer partner community has grown to over 3000 farm families throughout India. With many employees coming from marginalised groups, such as women, widows, the elderly, and the illiterate, the company is proud to be able to provide training and educational opportunities to help promote self-sufficiency and new skills that can be passed on to future generations. Miguel suggests that this is yet more evidence of Organic India’s desire to have a positive impact on the earth and the people who live on it.

“We are dedicated to elevating environmental stewardship beyond simple ‘sustainability’ and that’s why we incorporate bioregenerative farming practices as part of our operation,” he asserts. “The mission of serving a community dedicated to healthy, conscious living has resulted in a Vehicle of Consciousness business model based on building altruistic economic, environmental, and social ecosystems. The outcome of that vision has been the revitalisation of many of our rural farm communities in India, where we have witnessed the introduction of community health care, education, and inclusive social change for women.

“Our aim is to go beyond the farm to help enhance the lives of our farmers through fair-market wages, access to healthcare, empowerment, and gender equality programmes, as well as improvements in infrastructure. When farmers succeed, their villages also prosper, leading to a collective enhancement in quality of life.”

As of 2020, 95 per cent of Organic India’s manufacturing takes place in the company’s country of origin, and after years of planning, the firm recently won India’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for a natural food production facility. An internationally recognised green building certification system, companies that pursue LEED accreditation are graded in several categories, including Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation. The certificate was appointed to Organic India’s new Lucknow factory, which has helped to increase the company’s product range and capacity for growth through the use of advanced processing methods.

“LEED third-party verification shows that our new facility is designed and constructed using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy saving, water efficiency, CO2 emission reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts,” Miguel notes. “Every step of the product journey at our new site, from seed to final product, is carefully shepherded, with the absolute minimum amount of external processing applied. We use in-house dry steam sanitising to clean our herbs and all our products are non-GMO certified.”

LEED accreditation is not the firm’s only achievement in recent times. Organic India has also been named as a verified B Corporation, meaning it is part of a community of businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and accountability to balance profit and purpose. In 2018 and 2019, the company earned ‘Best for the World Overall’ certification, an honour awarded to the top ten per cent of all B Corporations.

Predicting trends
Though Organic India exports to over 40 countries worldwide, the company’s largest market remains in India, followed closely by the USA, a territory that accounts for 30 per cent of the firm’s revenue. One of the largest turmeric producers in the world, Organic India also offers tea infusions and whole herb supplements rooted in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian health system.

“Our products are formulated using traditional wisdom and modern science to support true wellness,” Miguel declares. “We sell to a wide range of customers via our own website, and through external platforms such as Amazon. We have approximately 70,000 total points of distribution across 8000 brick and mortar retail stores within the continental United States. Additionally, we have a growing sector of wholesalers and practitioners who carry our supplements and teas.”

Of all the products in Organic India’s growing range, the company’s Tulsi Sweet Rose tea infusion remains the most popular after gaining a cult following all its own. Known in India as ‘The Queen of Herbs’ or ‘Holy Basil’, Tulsi would be a beneficial addition to the diet of many people around the world, argues Miguel.

“Tulsi, Ayurveda’s cherished adaptogenic herb, has been used for more than 5000 years,” he remarks. “It is the foundation upon which Organic India teas and infusions are formulated and can be used to aid in stress relief and uplift mood, support the immune system, and facilitate the body’s natural detoxification process.”

As the company looks to build upon its existing product lines, Research and Development plays a key role in discovering new ways for Organic India to succeed in its mission of delivering genuine organic products for healthy, conscious living.

“We are always innovating,” Miguel proclaims. “Whether its sustainable packaging or pioneering delivery formats to help consumers incorporate herbs with ancient wisdom and health benefits into their daily lifestyle, we are always looking for ways to grow.

“Organic India has two full-time R&D teams — one in India, and the other in the US. Our objective is not only to expand our lines of herbal supplements and tea infusions, but to develop innovative new methods that help to bring the magical power of herbs to a broader audience.”

In a changeable and fast-moving sector, one of the R&D department’s toughest tasks is predicting the next big trend. In the coming years, Organic India expects to see a continued emphasis on immune health in a more proactive manner, personalised nutrition supplements, and advancements in probiotics and alternative formats. For now, the company is focused on its newest product – Psyllium Pre & Probiotic Fiber.

“Psyllium Pre & Probiotic Fiber offers 5-in-1 benefits including: organic prebiotic fiber, which nourishes beneficial gut bacteria; the inclusion of Triphala, a classic blend of 3 Ayurvedic herbs – Amla, Bibitaki, and Haritaki, known to aid in digestion; and heat-stable probiotics, which are essential in supporting a healthy microbiome,” Miguel reveals. “The product comes in three delicious flavours too – Original, Cinnamon Spice, and Orange – which adapt to baking, mixing with other foods, and blending into smoothies and shakes.”

Quality and integrity
As a leading wellness brand in a challenging time for global health, Organic India has taken it upon itself to make a number of positive contributions towards the fight against Covid-19. Among the company’s efforts have been the distribution of close to 5000 free kits containing immune-supporting products, the provision of Turmeric Formula, Immune Lift adaptogen blend, and Tulsi teas to Colorado hospitals, and a collaboration with the Grassroots Aid Partnership (GAP) to help provide healthy food and support to vulnerable communities in crisis.

“Employees who can work from home have been doing so and, thanks to Zoom and other online services, our team hasn’t missed a beat,” Miguel reports. “Even with a skeletal crew in our warehouse, the team has really pulled together to adjust and keep the company moving forward. It’s been difficult but also very affirming that our team is adaptable for whatever comes our way. Our work with the GAP is something we are particularly proud of, and we are glad to have had the opportunity to serve hot, nutritious meals and fortify supplies in the heart of communities impacted by Covid-19.”

Looking forward, Organic India hopes that by expanding and growing its digital marketing and sales, the company will be able to make its products accessible to a wider audience. As the business continues to grow, Miguel believes the firm is living proof that it is possible for a company of Organic India’s size and scale to be both economically viable and a ‘vehicle for consciousness’ in the global market.

“We’ve stayed true to our founding principles for over 20 years, refusing to take shortcuts on quality and integrity,” he states. “That level of attention and transparency translates into the product, so it makes for a positive experience and an emotional connection with a brand that is making choices that benefit the global community. We are all interconnected, respected and part of the same society. You can’t fake that.”