Using a family farm in Palghar, Maharashtra, Nitya Ganapathy, through her venture, Nei Native, provides homemade ghee produced with the traditional method.
Nitya Ganapathy and her mother visit the farm in Vikramgad in the Palghar district of Maharashtra every 10 to 15 days from Wadala to carry out the process of churning curd at exactly 4:35 a.m. to obtain the “best butter”. According to Ganapathy, the founder of Nei Native, the homemade ghee venture, the environment surrounding the farm is peaceful and meditative during that time for them to focus on the process of churning, which requires much precision. “The same taste cannot be obtained if the process is done later in the morning. Ghee making is both art and science,” says Nitya Ganapathy.
Every fortnightly, the mother-daughter duo produces a fresh batch of A2 ghee for their customers. It is no pain for them to travel from their house in Wadala to Palghar as the family, like many Indian families, has always been involved in making ghee at their home. It is now with the help of the family farm in Palghar that they have decided to make homemade ghee accessible to all those people who lack time to make this staple in their homes but crave to taste the fresh and homemade ghee.
However, the production of ghee was never on the bucket list of Nitya Ganapathy, even if she was habituated to seeing her mother and grandmother making ghee in their hometown in Chennai. As she completed her schooling, she moved to Delhi for higher studies and later shifted to Bombay to pursue a Master’s degree in Media. Soon after, she got associated with media giants like Viacom 18 and The Times of India.
To provide ‘nostalgia’
While the family was happily making the ghee for themselves, one day, during the second lockdown in 2021, Ganapathy realized ghee is one thing that unites almost every community in India. “Be it Hindus, Muslims, Punjabis or Parsis, all of us love to add ghee to our food,” she says. She also observed that due to lack of time, many households have stopped making ghee in their homes, since it is a long and “painstaking process” and thus, she thought of providing this “nostalgia” to people.
Initially, Ganapathy was confident about the ghee her mother would make and hence focused on launching her homemade production. But as she also knew that ghee comprises a competitive market, she thought of researching at a smaller level. She bought 35 different ghee from various brands to understand their uniqueness and the reason for their growth. Later, between June to August, she planned a door-to-door sampling of her ghee in the premium residential societies of a few areas in Mumbai.
With a limited budget, she tied up with the managers of a few societies for the sampling and would also put up stalls in the buildings and distributed almost 10,000 sample jars in three months. While some used to fill up the feedback form for the ghee, Ganapathy also made sure to circulate google forms for feedback to ensure social distancing norms. “The sample size was small but the positive results made me confident about my product,” says Ganapathy, who then left her job to focus on making ghee.
The most important element that also made her ghee stand out from the competition was a detailed focus on the flavour, texture, and aroma. “I was always enchanted by the flavour, texture and aroma of the ghee made in my home since childhood, and hence, I knew that our ghee would make others also remember their own homes and childhood,” Ganapathy says.
While Nitya’s mother took up the charge of making ghee, her daughter came up with the name ‘Nei Native’, where’Nei’ means ‘ghee’ in various South Indian languages. She also handled the design work for the products. On the other hand, her father handled the procuring of filter coffee power from Coorg, which became the second-most selling product of the brand. Meanwhile, Ganpathys’s driver would bring milk for the family, and her cook and maid would help in the process of making ghee. The distribution was handed over to the watchman of the society in the initial days.
As the demand for the ghee saw a spike, the family started using the farm in Vikramgad for mass production. Currently, the farm serves as a ground for the production, labelling, and packaging of the products. Even though it has cows and buffaloes, Ganapathy also invites the local farmers of the area to procure milk and also involves them in the ghee-making process. It takes 25 to 30 litres of milk to prepare one jar of ghee, Ganapathy says. As a first step, they boil the milk, after which the boiled milk is converted into curd – known as curdling. The curd is churned by a wooden churner which Ganapathy and her mother do before dawn. Ultimately, they make 1000 jars of ghee every 15 days amounting to 2000 in a month.
The family does not forget to add “natural preservatives” to the ghee to ensure longevity and freshness to the products. “Not that people do not know about the natural preservative being added to the ghee, I would like to keep ours unrevealed because I believe, that is the uniqueness of our product,” Ganapathy says, adding that it is because of the preservative that the shelf life of the ghee is 8 to 9 months.
After the packaging, the tempos carrying the products reach the warehouse at Wadala, from where the distribution takes place. The major challenge faced by Ganapathy, sometimes, is the reaction of people who questions the ghee-making after observing the slight change in the taste. “In the traditional process of making ghee, it is not always necessary for every batch to yield the same taste,” says Ganapathy, who also mentions this on the label to avoid any confusion. What does not change is the aroma of the ghee produced on the farm. As Ganapathy says, “One might disagree but I believe that 50% of the ghee is all about its aroma.”
Currently, Nei Native, along with selling cow and buffalo ghee, also offers filter coffee powder, peanut butter, honey, and thirattipal; a dessert from Tamil Nadu. Most of the traffic for the products comes through the website, while the brand also has a presence on e-commerce sites like Amazon, Flipkart, and grocery websites like Nature’s Basket. Moreover, Ganapathy is also planning to expand the product line and add other superfoods like moringa, green tea, jaggery, and more.
Nei Native has sold 6000 jars of ghee in the last 10 months. Amidst the hustle-bustle that comes with the production and distribution of ghee, what keeps Ganapathy going is when people say that the ghee reminds them of their mother and their childhood. “I wanted to provide the ‘home-coming feeling’ to people and I am glad that we have succeeded,” she says.