Sucheta Bhandare And Her Ladoos Of Good Health

A farmer’s daughter, Sucheta Bhandare was always drawn to agriculture and launched Earth Poorna, a start-up, with a meagre investment, offering healthy and wholesome ragi and multigrain ladoos

Published On Mar 21, 2024 | Updated On Mar 22, 2024

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As a young girl, hailing from a family of farmers from Vadner Bhairav in Nashik, Maharashtra, she was fascinated by nature and her free-time was always spent in farms, tinkering with seeds and observing plants.

Small wonder then, that 38-year-old Sucheta Bhandare launched a start-up, Earth Poorna in 2019 and now in Goa (she lives there with her husband and child), where she has roped in local women and farmers in Goa. “I have managed to convince them to revive growing the millet, ragi, and apart from that, I work with local women to make and sell ragi and multigrain ladoos, with jaggery and dates, devoid of sugar, chemicals and preservatives,” she states. 

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Being a farmer’s daughter, naturally had the desire to do something connected to food and land. “This always played on my mind and finally Earth Poorna happened. ⁠Earth Poorna, derives its name from mother earth. It has three contexts – one is the literal meaning which means ‘full of earth’, the second one, points towards something ‘meaningful’ from its Marathi root word ‘arthpurn’, and the third context, which brings money to the homes of our farmers.” 

Always connected with nature, she shares, “Growing up, we were discouraged from consuming junk food. Peanuts and jaggery, roaster gram, puffed rice and healthy ladoos, were the snacks I grew up on. Living on a farm pushed us to eat healthy and fresh food always. We used to grow seasonal fruits and vegetables, which were the only resources.” 

The turning point came when she went to Pune for higher studies and tasted a biscuit from a packet for the first time and saw “processed food in shops.” This sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. “I realised that although, I was armed with a B Ed degree and an M Com, I wanted to utilise my education to do something in the food space with farmers – source from them and offer healthy food options to consumers,” she recounts. She adds, “Of course I successfully worked in Pune for 7 years, but eventually returned to Nashik – to my first love, farming.” 

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The starting point was a bit tough, as she could not first decide, from where to begin. Upon identifying a gap in the market, it was easier. Millets, she found, were diminishing, as not being lucrative, farmers were reluctant to grow them. Centring her business around millets, especially ragi, she encouraged farmers to grow it and supply to her, for her products. It is mobilising and elevating farmers that gives her a high. She aims to bring back the tradition of healthy eating through naturally grown products, and is committed “to undo the damage that chemical farming has done to our lands.” 

Her grandmother’s traditional recipes came to her rescue. Practical enough to give them a modern twist, she had a nutrition expert and Ayurveda practitioner, guiding her. Together they created ladoos, which are not only delicious, but also healthy and eco-friendly. 

Recalling that phase, she says, “It took us 5-6 months to do trials, tastings and perfect the final recipe, of which we were confident.” 

Her pinch-me moment, came last Diwali, after several years of hard work, when several regular customers recommended Earth Poorna to their companies and she received abundant corporate orders. “At last, we had succeeded in creating an awareness about the health aspect of these ladoos, vis-à-vis commercial ones and it felt good to see more people including corporates, making the switch for festival gifting,” says a relived Sucheta.

The entrepreneurship idea may have sounded exciting initially, but rocky roads lay ahead when she took the plunge. Reminiscing she says, “There were times when I thought, being pitted against so many brands and established players that had inundated the market, we would not last, even though our products were pure and superior. But I held on and kept making customers understand the difference, educating them and in the long run, it all paid off.” 

Social media, to an extent and word-of-mouth publicity mainly, is what she has relied upon to get the word around. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, in her case and thus, exhibitions and events, where she can display her products and get people to taste her ladoos, is critical for Earth Poorna and the route, she prefers. Although her start-up has taken off, and she knows there is tremendous potential to grow, Sucheta realises that the challenge is to sustain the business, as it is a labour-intensive venture. She is constantly working with local women, training them to learn and grow. 

Currently, a new range of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat, food products – dosas, pancakes, parathas, porridge mix, are keeping her busy. “We have developed these sans chemicals and preservatives, keeping the nutritional value intact. We are in talks with stores and places to keep these. Once this happens, we will launch officially,” she avers. 

Her husband, an architect by profession is her support system, as is her family. With orders coming from across India, she spends long hours at work. Geared to ship her ladoos pan-India, proper packaging, is what she is particular about, as she believes that being a food item, the “ladoos should reach customers in good shape”. 

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Her simple demeanour can be deceptive as that does not reveal her adventurous side. When she is not busy making ladoos or helping farmers grow ragi, she is off cycling and exploring verdant Goa and is keen to resume her trekking, which has taken a backseat owing to her one-and-a-half-year-old son, Athaang. “I love trekking and have done several Himalayan treks since 2014 and am itching to get back once my son is a bit older. I have also cycled 1700 kms from Pune to Kanyakumari. Fortunately for me, my husband too, shares this passion,” she gushes. But for now, she is heading to supervise the next order that has to be sent out.


Photo: Sucheta Bhandare

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