Many entrepreneurs start their business because they identify with a particular problem or see an opportunity to fill a gap in a market before diving into it wholeheartedly. This was the same for the winner of the 2018 ^Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards (for the Asia-Pacific region), Swati Pandey.
How it started
Arboreal Agro Innovations was originally a social venture idea that was presented at the end of a sustainability focused programme at Imperial College London. One professor was so impressed by the potential impact that he invested in Swati’s idea with a USD7,000 cheque. Then, Swati followed up with further market research and transformed it into a plant biotechnology company.
Before Stevia came into the picture, they first started with general herbal products (e.g. Ginseng) to target the larger market. After that they came across Stevia and she saw how it could help diabetics. She could relate to that angle as her own mother was diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago, hence she experienced it with her own eyes how it affects families and life as a whole. (Source: BBC World News)
According to WHO, the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. In addition, India has the highest number of diabetics in the world. Now, the company has a clear focus on Stevia – a 100% natural, zero calorie sweetener which is a healthier solution for people affected by diabeties and obesity.
It was her personal motivation to find a solution to type 2 diabetes and the market opportunity for Stevia that led to her decision to build Arboreal full time.
Arboreal Agro Innovations
Arboreal Agro Innovations is a global plant biotechnology company combining scientific R&D with sustainable and scalable supply chains for natural products. They have a triple focus to achieve economic, social and environmental value.
The company, is vertically integrated to enable consistently high quality and affordably priced Stevia products. Product quality is achieved through cultivation of a high-yielding variety of Stevia as part of a scalable, traceable and sustainable supply chain and processing it through a patentable extraction process with a bio-refining method.
Swati mentioned in an interview, “Arboreal, at its core is driven by the philosophy of creating shared value and measurable triple bottom-line impact – across social, economic and environmental dimensions. I truly believe that Stevia is the right preventive solution to stem the epidemic spread of diabetes and obesity and the opportunity to lead this transition to a lower sugar and healthier world is what drives me every day.” (Source: Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards)
For the farmers and the environment
According to a CNBC interview, Swati mentioned that the company works with farmers in the most underserved regions of Uttar Pradesh in India to help reduce the cost of cultivation and boost their incomes so that they are able to benefit from the bioeconomy potential of the country.
On the other hand, since Stevia is a high intensity sweetener, it requires about 30 times less water, land and resources compared to sugarcane for achieving the same amount of sweetness – thus, is very environmentally-friendly to produce.
Swati aims to remove about 3.1 trillion calories in the global diet and help around 135 million people to get out of obesity or pre-diabetes every year. She also looks forward to impact 5,000 farmers and their families in the next 5 years, along with saving hundreds and thousands of acres of land to deliver the highest quality bio-nutritional products to the world, from India.
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^The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards encourages women Entrepreneurs to solve global challenges.