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Three friends have got together to give Madurai the first exclusive Millet Mart.

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Sofware IT Consultant Selvaganesh, Vijayaprakash, who works with HelpAge India and businessman Vivekan call themselves the three M's. Their store is called "Millet Mart" and Madurai Meenakshi Millets is their parent company that manufactures and supplies millet products across India. It was launched in June 2015 that they launched the store with 20 self-manufactured products and an initial investment of Rs.1,50,000.

Before putting out anything on the shelf, we first eat to several times to the taste, benefits, accuracy of portions. "We are essentially the guinea pigs," laughs Selvaganesh, who got into the business of millets to help his diabetic mother eat the right kind of food. "I started researching and read a lot about millets and that is how I evolved my own kanji Mix!"

It contains all the four major millets besides hand-produced rice, diabetic cure herbs, dry ginger, garlic, pepper and Himalayan rock salt (Indhuppu). A 500 gm packet priced at Rs.150 serves for 12 meals if you follow the instruction for preparation. Vouches Vijayaprakash, who regularly consumes the kanji mix for dinner, "I have lost 2kg weight in a month of time and feel much fitter now."

The friends say they are not selling millet value-added products merely for business but purely out of the passion to keep health hazards at bay. "Our aim is to create awareness and educate people about healthy food," they echo.

Vijayaprakash feels though the craze for organic food is growing, millet is a far more utilitarian and beneficial crop. "Given our air and water pollution, nothing can be 100 percent organically grown," he says and adds, "the advantage with millet is that it requires less irrigation. Also, the farmers from whom we procure the yield to manufacture our own health products use bio-fertilisers."

It didn't even take three months for the three friends to meet the break-even for an initial investment. Now, they do a minimum business of over 2 to 3 lakhs every month and the kanji mix which is their most expensive item flies off the shelf in no time. "We sell at least 500 packets each month and are very happy that people are liking it and returning to us for more," says Selvaganesh.

In the last 36 months, 50,000 customers have visited the store. Of them, 2500 keep making repeated visits and 2,500 now order online. Each of them was given information pamphlets about various kinds of major and minor millets and their impact on the body and also the recipes, where required.

While their company has introduced millet laddus which are prepared home-made, natural, hygienic with no preservatives, additives added besides the most popular kanji mix, the Millet Mart is now stocking 50+ different products procured from their own companies. "We want the Retail Sales Partnership (RSP) to grow," says Selvaganesh. While their 3M products have found a way to stores across Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Theni, Bodi, Andipatti, Trichy, Kulithalai, Rajapalayam, Tirunelveli and Nagercoil, they are also outsourcing items like rice and lentils from their own brands across Tamil Nadu and India.

"We do not want to mix our product line but focus only on health food," asserts Vijayaprakash. The trio plan to open more stores across the city by the year-end. The next immediate ones may be at Tallakulam and Kalavasal in Madurai" says Vijayaprakash. The friends are keen on saving the next generation from chemical infections and are in talks with a few city schools to introduce millet products on the school menu.

"We have interesting snacks like peanut laddus, millet laddus priced between 10 per piece or packet and these can be healthy choices for school kids," says Selvaganesh. They have also launched a wellness basket containing samples of their major products.

At Rs.500, it makes a nice corporate or returns gift, says Selvaganesh, and we have begun to receive bulk orders.

In recent years the city has seen a spate of stores selling organic products and some even wrapped up due to low or no profit margin. But the millet magic seems to work. From just one or two shelves displaying millet products in different departmental stores, the wonder nutrient now has an exclusive store to itself in the city.

It probably indicates demand is growing with the urban man making Millet his friend. The three M's have created a new blueprint "MILLET MART" by bringing value to what we eat.

Thanks a lot!