It was during the pandemic when Kamal Gupta, who recently retired from the Indian Air Force, wanted to do something that would enable people to lead a healthier and sustainable lifestyle. Looking around, he observed that anything healthy or sustainable was expensive. It was then that he along with his wife Manju Gupta, a retired teacher, decided to start an affordable store.
They started with some food items but soon shifted their focus to gardening. As passionate weekend gardeners, they found it difficult to source seeds for a small garden. Most seeds vendors would give seeds in packets containing hundreds of seeds at an exorbitant cost while a balcony gardener needs seeds sufficient for a pot or two.
That is where they intervened. They decided to reduce the cost barrier from gardeners and make gardening affordable for all. They started hand-packing small packets of seeds containing seeds sufficient for a pot or two and selling them at a meagre price starting at Rs10.
It was not a smooth journey from day one. Sourcing good quality seeds was a challenge. Especially for exotic seeds like rose, lotus, strawberry, lavender, addendum the producers are very scattered and scarce. Many seeds had to be imported for the customers.
Shipping the seeds safely was another challenge. Shipping during the pandemic was a challenge as many areas were under strict lockdown. The team worked hard to ensure that seeds were delivered in the remotest places. Today they take pride in having delivered to remotest places in the northeast and even in the Andaman Islands.
Finding skilled people during the pandemic was also a big challenge. The duo worked with the local community and created a team of more than 15 women. These women were trained in computers, packing and other operations work. More than 80% of the employees in the warehouse of The Affordable Organic Store today are women.
Over time, the number of visitors to their website increased and many people started talking about them. Today more than 200 people have made videos on Youtube about their store and their experience with the store. They have more than 50k followers on Instagram and more than 10k followers on Facebook. With more than 350 varieties of seeds ranging between Rs 10 to Rs 35, they are truly enabling people to plant more.
What started as an effort for kitchen gardeners has also moved to a sustainable movement. Many people take seeds and gardening kits as return gifts for marriages and other family occasions. The Affordable Organic Store has served many functions across India including marriages, anniversaries and birthdays. Their vintage bottles are especially taken for most functions.
The Affordable Organic Store also started computer classes for women and kids with dedicated trainers. More than a hundred women and kids have learned computer in their evening computer classes in the last year. The Affordable Organic Store also runs a library for underprivileged kids. These kids are provided free comics to hone their reading skills.
The Store has successfully finished one year and the founders are heading strong in their goal of creating a sustainable future. Their long term goal is to enable people to grow more than a billion leaves. They truly believe that every leaf is our way of making the earth a better place.