Mriganka Kumari, Founder, Pratapgarh Collective recently appeared on NewsX for an exclusive conversation, as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List, Mriganka spoke about her brand, the recent controversy around adulterated honey and making India aatmanirbhar.

Talking about her brand and it’s conceptualization, Mriganka said, “Pratapgarh Collective was conceived in 2017. I had just finished working in Delhi and was spending a lot of time back home, doing a lot of exhibitions and I happened to meet Dr. Nitin and he educated me through the process which was fascinating. How the raw flower honey is prepared and with the new kind of machinery and technology available, this is something I really wanted to dab into. Also, I was looking to attach myself to the agricultural industry, a cottage industry, which was low in consumption of power, labour and something sustainable and eco-friendly. That’s how it came about”.

Speaking about the response received since the brand started, keeping in mind the Covid pandemic, Mriganka said, “I wanted to launch Pratapgarh Collective in 2019, but like every venture takes time, my website of under construction, I was still designing my packaging, 2020 March is when we launched ourselves and around then the pandemic struck. It was actually a good time for us, a blessing in disguise because I feel a lot of people had a lot of time on their hands, so there was great visibility, people were actually reading the content. People were paying heed to what you had to say, so we had three months to work on our visibility and our outreach in general but Covid did impact us. It had it cons, the mobility was a problem and the courier service was a problem. Even if people were liking the product, how do you get send the product across and also the whole migration was happening so our farmers weren’t there so, nobody was actually harvesting the honey that time. Of course, with time, things started easing out and it picked up again. Those three months worked”.

Providing the USP of the brand and talking about how it’s different, Mriganka said, “Coming from a place like Pratapgarh, I feel that Pratapgarh Collective is an extension of me and I live a simple life. That’s what Pratapgarh Collective believes in- simplicity, what you see is what you get. Our philosophy is bee to bottle, farm to table. We don’t overheat or over pasteurize our honey, it’s in the rawest form. We believe in ethical sourcing, we do believe in the bulk game and numbers but, not putting a strain on the supply chain. So, every batch is a small batch made with a lot of labor and love, by a beautiful team. We work very hard and it’s the purest honey we can provide”.

Talking about the recent adulterated honey controversy, it impacts on consumers and on Pratapgarh Collective, Mriganka said, “Honey is such a food item, which is extremely vulnerable to food fraud. Any sort of adulteration will lower food quality. The easiest thing is NMR which is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, a five -minute procedure. What it does is, it differentiates the compound mixture. What intrigues me is that you can control the soil quality, but how do you control the air quality. The bees make honey as they do, the process won’t change. So, also as a supplier, you have to have your conscience clear, people are trusting you with their health, you’re feeding people. Having said that, our honey is over pasteurized or overheated and our single source of nectar is from a mono flower, we do 100% raw flower honey”.

Speaking about the new emerging trends after, Covid in the industry, Mriganka said, “Everything is becoming more virtual and digital, everybody is seeing that shift and working towards that shift and so are we. When you’re on Instagram, you use #farmtotable, so what I see that people are now shifting to the old way of living and that’s great because that’s what Pratapgarh Collective wants to do. We want to celebrate the old age practices, the way we used to live earlier, what you grow is what you get on your table. There’s a big trend in e-commerce, of course, Instagram is used everywhere. Our main work mode is via Instagram and the website”.

Speaking of Instagram, Mriganka spoke about celebrities, fashion industry, sportspersons endorsing and appreciating the brand. She said, “Even when I started, I was extremely confident about my product. I was never intimidated or felt apprehensive in reaching out to people. Of course, I had help from friends and family who work with these people, so access was easier. There were a lot of people, many celebrities who I shot emails at and they were kind enough to reply back. They genuinely liked the product, hence they posted it. Many of them reached out to us via Instagram as well so it’s nice and also our process into this has been slow and organic. People are reaching out to us because somebody’s tried it and they liked the product. It’s very overwhelming and nice when that happens”.

Talking about the citizens of India coming together to support local products to make India truly aatmanirbhar, Mriganka said, “This is a great time for local, homegrown brands and startups like myself to grab the opportunity because I feel there is a vacuum and void that can be filled right now. The government is aiding local brands and especially women entrepreneurs. There are subsidiaries in departments the horticulture. I think everyone is now realizing that we need to stop looking at the West and look inward because these things are already there, you just need to appreciate them more and realize the benefit of it. Something as simple as honey had been a part of Ayurveda and we know it’s benefits. I think it’s a great time for startups like myself to reach out and grab the opportunities being presented”.