An avid nature lover, Priyanka Amar Shah had spent most of her childhood with animals. Greenery has stayed with her through all these years.
In 2011, this Mumbai resident founded iKheti — a full-fledged eco-friendly enterprise that smoothers farming among city dwellers and offers workshops, consultancy and gardening resources.
“My brother and I, we have troubled our parents like crazy cause there wasn’t a single day when we have not rescued animals at home. Once we actually confiscated 100 parrots from a bird seller and had to keep them at home before we could release them. Most of our childhood was spent in government quarters so we were lucky to be surrounded by greens always. We even tried building a Tree House but failed miserably. In short, we have been a crazy nature-loving family and my family has always supported this craziness of mine,” Priyanka shared.
Currently, she is a pet parent to 2 dogs and 5 cats. Excerpts from the interview with SheThePeople.TV:
How iKheti started up?
I always had the business keeda in me, I remember my brother and I had a collection of more than 1000 books and during the summer holidays we would set up a small library on the water tank under our building and that’s how we earned our Summer pocket-money by renting the books we owned. I was hardly in Standard 4 or 5. When during MBA College I got an opportunity to present a business ideas in front of VC’s I took the chance.
IKheti was born over a casual family dinnertime conversation in late 2011. I simply chose a path that seemed so natural, so right to me. Ever since its inception it has never been a business venture for me. It’s just been a smooth transition to the next best thing.
Starting up iKheti and working in farming in a city like Mumbai, what’s the inspiration behind it?
We always lived in societies that had a lot of green covers. Our balconies were filled with plants and especially basic edible ones like curry leaves, lemongrass, ajwain, pudina, chilli, etc. Hence, it just naturally made sense to encourage others to follow the same suit.
What is market gap you are trying to address through this enterprise?
A kitchen garden or urban farm promises quite a few benefits. It provides families in this space-starved metropolis with one’s private green area as the lung space at home. It makes available chemical-free vegetables right at home, thereby reducing the dependence on the vegetable market.
Urban agriculture will help to turn urban locales into food production units, encouraging people to learn and practice sustainable lifestyles and helps offset carbon emissions by reducing the distance between the crop and its consumer. It also brings better health and nutrition, increased income, employment, food security and contributes to social life.
Promoting sustainable farming and eco-entrepreneurship, Did you always know that opening up an eco-friendly business was something you were going to do for the rest of your life? If so, when in your life did you realize this?
When I was young I used to love watching this particular cartoon “Jetsons” . It showed a world full of robots with no plants, trees, animals or nature. I was sure I never wanted to live in a world like that which made me ponder and encouraged me to do something for the environment.
At iKheti we constantly work towards finding innovative solutions to combat issues related to urban farming whether it’s related to waste management, managing space constraints, water issues, etc. Like vertical farming with automatic irrigation system. These use much less space and water than traditional farming and more produce can be generated.
Tell us about your future plans.
The reason iKheti was started was to empower people to practice sustainable Urban farming. I would like to spread the same to other metro cities.
I personally believe we have ended up hurting our mother earth so much making it barren across countries that it’s time to pay back. Therefore, the youth today have the added responsibility of saving the planet.
Any Commercial venture should leave the planet a better, safer and more beautiful place for the generations to come.
Any challenges? How did you overcome the challenges that tried to stop you throughout?
Organizing the unorganized market was the biggest challenge. Also, we realized that there was a lack of awareness about Sustainable Urban farming and especially in a city like Mumbai to convince people to give up even 50sq ft of space for farming is difficult.
We started conducting awareness through workshops. We have conducted more than 150 workshops for age groups between 3 and 80+.
Advice to other aspirant women who dream of doing the same deed, but are demotivated somehow.
You won’t be able to live with the weight of an unfulfilled dream for the rest of your life.
There will always be moments where you would be like “I wish had pursued it, I wish I had fought for it”. Fight for it cause if you don’t anyone else will fight for it either.
How would you rate the food chains or farming institutes that need to display more responsibility on the ecosystem?
It would be 5 on a scale of 1-10. Not just farming institutes every educational institute needs to work on Ecological sensitizing.
Any future plans include regional areas and working in education? Workshops?
We are already working with educational institutes, corporates, societies and even places of worship to promote community urban farming. We are also working with the farmers to educate them about the long-term effects of organic farming.
Currently, we are a team of 7 people out of which 3 are girls. Agricultural sector still dominates the economy of India with a lot of women working in the fields. But the scenario totally changes when it comes to urban areas of India with a large percentage of women who have migrated from rural areas still prefer to be unemployed.
My long-term goal is to empower women, especially those who have come from the rural areas.