Milk the staple in the Indian diet has been in news mostly for adulteration and lack of hygiene during packaging. According to a national survey in 2011 by The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), 70 percent of the samples collected did not meet the required standards of food safety.
Srikumar Misra, 36 year old is working to change that. His venture Milk Mantra launched in 2009 is a consumer dairy foods venture that sells ready to drink milk under the Milky Moo brand. Srikumar claims his USP is the unique packaging format that makes the milk truly pure without the need for boiling. Milk Mantra has grossed revenues of Rs 18 crore.
From developing a strong dairy supply chain in rural Orissa to ethical sourcing from farmers and innovative packaging, Milk Mantra is attempting to give the dairy industry a makeover. Launched in 2009 by Srikumar Misra – Milk Mantra collects milk from more than 10,000 enrolled dairy farmers across 300 villages in state through its 175 milk collection points. The milk collected is chilled in bulk coolers and then taken to Milk Mantra’s plant in Puri.
On one end it works closely with rural dairy farmers, their needs and the quality of their products and on the other it has innovated on the packaging format for an urban population in eastern India.
Built in collaboration with global processing and packaging technology experts, Tetra pack, Multivac and DeLaval, the Milk Mantra plant offers ready to drink packaged milk under the Milk Moo label. With a capacity to process 75000 liters of milk daily, the venture currently supplies to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and five other cities in Orissa.
Srikumar Misra believes that it is a first of its kind packaging innovation in India. He explained that it is a three layer technology which prevents light exposure damage to milk and that is where it can credibly stand behind the whole proposition of being truly pure and no need to boil. “Consumers can take this fresh milk and just open it and have it from the packet straight. These are the differentiations and innovation in the packaging and product that we bring in consistently”, he said.
Not just milk, Srikumar has brought similar consistency to Milk Moo’s non frozen paneer that was launched in middle of 2012. With a shelve life of up to 21 days, Srikumar claims that it is not just the innovative packaging but also proper storage that helps retain the purity of this product. While setting up, raising capital and acquiring land were initial challenges, Srikumar tells us his current operational challenge is setting up cold chain infrastructure and educating retailers.
Srikumar feels that lack of cold chain that exists in the market is obviously telling. So he has to invest across the entire cold chain in terms of sales and distribution to reach the last pile. He finds it challenging. So, the company has to educate channel partners, retailers and everyone because this is a fresh dairy produce and it needs to be kept properly.
One of India's first agriculture food business start-ups to have raised venture capital, Milk Mantra has already racked in investments worth USD 5 million from angel investors in India and the UK. A major share came in from venture capital firm Aavishkaar, which has recently closed a second round of funding. Much of this investment Srikumar claims has gone into getting the plant up and running. The company is also looking to diversify its product portfolio and has recently entered the pro-biotic yogurt segment.
Srikumar has plans of developing this dairy based health drink with functional ingredients. “That is something which we have been looking at clearly developing in the next 18 months and then launching this product in major metros or other markets across India,” he said.
With an eye on getting the pricing right, Srikumar has a mark up of 10-20 percent over the prices offered by the state cooperative. He seems to be playing the right strokes with a brand generating Rs 3 crore a month. Betting high on the USD 40 billion dairy industry of which just USD 5 billion is currently organised, Srikumar is looking to increase his reach by partnering with more retailers in Orissa.