By Aparmita Das
From cultivating exotic spices, crafting unique wines, and beekeeping to producing wholesome energy drinks and mustard oil, a group of enterprising individuals from Meghalaya made their mark on the global stage at the recent World Food India Programme (WFI) in New Delhi from November 3 to 5. These stories of determination, innovation, and community engagement not only captivated international visitors but also shone a spotlight on the state’s rich cultural heritage and its exceptional products.
Amidst the vibrant array of businesses, decked in her traditional attire, Anumahasa Sna from Mupliang, West Jaiñtia Hills, exuded a warm and confident smile. She warmly greeted everyone who visited her stall. What truly stood out was her unshakable connection to her roots – Sna ventured into the world of business with ‘Braves Enterprise’, specialising in the cultivation, processing, and marketing of the renowned Lakadong turmeric, along with other Meghalaya-based products like long pepper, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, stoneflower, black sesame, perilla seeds, and bay leaves.
Her journey was marked by sheer determination. Sna revealed, “I had only studied until class 9, and got married at an early age, becoming a mother by 17. Despite my role as a housewife, I had a burning passion to earn a livelihood.”
Initially, she distributed her products directly to customers, but eventually heeded the advice of those around her and decided to brand her products. The turning point came when she participated in the Northeast Food Show (2019), which opened doors to new opportunities and eventually earned her recognition as a brand.
During the inauguration of the Meghalaya Pavilion at WFI, Sna was visibly emotional when conversing with Agriculture Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh. She explained, “I remember my roots. I am a farmer. I was nothing earlier, but here I am on this grand stage. I will never forget where I came from, and I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the government of Meghalaya for providing me with that incredible opportunity. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision that I would be presenting my products not only to the people of my state but also to the entire nation and the world.”
Christian Kevell Passah, the co-founder of Kevell Wine, embarked on a journey that not only changed his life but also the lives of countless farmers in Meghalaya. When the pandemic hit, farmers across the state faced significant struggles, with their harvests going to waste due to various lockdowns and restrictions.
Passah and his team didn’t just stand by; they decided to make a difference. They reached out to these farmers, offering a helping hand by purchasing their harvested fruits. These fruits became the heart and soul of Kevell Wine, transformed into delightful bottles of liquid joy.
But the story doesn’t end there. They went further, embarking on a journey through the villages of Meghalaya, connecting with farmers and creating a network of support. Their determination and dedication culminated in the birth of Kevell Wine.
One might wonder what makes Kevell Wine truly stand out. Well, for starters, they produce an impressive 7,000 litres of wine each year, ensuring their creations reach far and wide.
With five wine stores to their name, they offer a diverse range of fourteen wine varieties, including exotic fruits like passion fruit, sohphie, sohmon, sohiong, plum, and even a unique meat wine made from honey. Their range also features mulberry, guava, apple, pineapple, and the beloved Meghalaya orange. According to Passah, the most preferred choices among these unique flavours are passion fruit and sohiong wine.
On possible competition in the field of wine-making in Meghalaya, he simply pointed out, “Difference is the taste of wine, clarity, and packaging.”
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle of Kevell Wine, you’re in for a treat. These wines have a shelf life of two to three years if kept unopened, making them perfect for savouring or gifting to loved ones.
Apart from making a mark in Meghalaya, Kevell Wine has also garnered recognition far beyond the state’s borders. Passah shared, “People from New Delhi know us and Kevell Wine. They saw me this time and said, ‘Hey, book four bottles for me.’ Haha.”
Their wine bottles were such a hit that they sold out on the very first day of WFI. As their popularity soars, they are already planning to revamp their packaging to keep up with the growing demand and appreciation.
In the remote village of Chigitchakgre, Randitha Sangma started Saliram Honey, a venture born from her determination to provide for her family – a 10-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter – after her husband’s passing.
Sangma proudly shared, “I have 18 beehives,” and she is not alone in this endeavour. “My whole village of Chigitchakgre is into beekeeping,” she said. The village collectively manages numerous honeybee and stingless bee colonies, making beekeeping a way of life for the entire community.
Speaking about her experience at WFI, Sangma expressed joy, reflected in her words, “I am happy to be at the programme”.
With an elated smile and a sense of pride, Suklin Dohling introduced her product, Marbin Foods, a unique energy drink made from millet. The name “Marbin” is a heartwarming tribute to her parents, Martha and Binson.
Her entrepreneurial endeavour began in 2022 when she embarked on the creation of this energy drink. Initially, she started by experimenting in her own home. Her story closely aligns with the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the first day of the WFI inauguration, highlighting the vital role of women in driving India’s economic growth.
Dohling shared her vision, stating, “In the past, people used to enjoy three nutritious meals a day, but nowadays, everyone is constantly busy and may not get all the essential nutrients they need. That’s where our millet-based energy drink comes in. It offers a delightful taste while being a healthy option.”
One distinctive feature of Marbin is its versatility. Suitable for children aged two and above, it caters to a wide range of age groups. Dohling is not stopping there; she expressed her intention to create a version of her product suitable for children below two years of age, emphasising her commitment to providing nutritious options for all.
As of now, Marbin Food is available on a personal order basis – evidence of her dedication to delivering a quality product tailored to individual needs, making it a creation that embodies the spirit of combining family values with a commitment to providing health and convenience to the wider community.
In Haripur, Selsella district, West Garo Hills, Megha Mustard Oil has become a symbol of local entrepreneurship, emphasising the unyielding spirit of community. It boasts an impressive daily production capacity of 200 litres.
The machinery used in the production process was sourced from various parts of the country, underscoring the enterprise’s commitment to quality and efficiency. What sets this venture apart is its deep-rooted connection to the locality – mustard seeds used in the production are grown in the vicinity. Local farmers play an integral role in the supply chain, cultivating the seeds and delivering them to the company for oil extraction.
The production process is managed by a team of skilled labourers who operate the machinery. Their expertise ensures that every drop of Megha Mustard Oil is of the highest quality, reflecting the commitment to excellence that defines the enterprise.
What’s even more remarkable is the formation of the Microfood and Agro Industries Association. This initiative has brought together around 200 farmers from six villages in the region – Haripur, Silkata, Nama Villa, Garodubi, Magurmari, and Fersakandhi – each contributing to the association’s growth and success.
Tribal Gourmet, led by Tanisha Phanbuh, is a venture that puts a distinct twist on Meghalayan cuisine. With a deep-rooted passion for her home state, her mission is clear: to celebrate the unique flavours, ingredients, and cultural richness of Meghalaya. She is eloquent as she says, “My focus is Meghalaya, its ingredients, taste, food, culture, and community.”
One of Phanbuh’s standout creations is an orange drink infused with Lakadong turmeric, a beverage she had the pleasure of serving during the WFI. The fact that Lyngdoh (Agriculture Minister) and the Secretary of the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department, IAS Isawanda Laloo personally sampled and enjoyed this concoction during the inauguration event, speaks volumes about its quality and unique flavour.
At the WPI, one witnessed the incredible journey of these Meghalayan entrepreneurs, each bringing a distinct flavour of the state to the world. Meghalaya’s diverse businesses illuminated the profound impact of determination, innovation, and community engagement.
And why not? Business is, after all, not just about transactions; it’s a means to connect, share, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Meghalaya with the world. This unique blend of entrepreneurship and culture made Meghalaya stand out on the global culinary map, uniting hearts and creating lasting bonds.