After our introduction day we spent the rest of the week going on field to learn about how RUDI works and how it might be improved. We went to two different districts to visit their processing centers, villages and Rudiben and then we spent a day in the city of Ahmedabad learning about other ways procurement could work. One foodie thing I learned while visiting the processing centers (and asking Rudiben women questions via a translator or two) was the volume of spices used in cooking here. At home, it takes me possibly years to go through a little bottle of a spice. Here, a family of four goes through a kilogram to two kiligrams of each spice a month. In that capacity it makes sense that customers repurchase the big bags every month. The most popular spices RUDI sells are chilli powder, turmeric powder, and a coriander/cumin mix.
In Ahmedabad, we started at the huge APMC market for produce where massive amounts of every kind of crop, from veggies to herbs, change hands from distributor to restaurant owner or grocery retailer. It was an amazing sight to see – the fruits and vegetables looked perfect, fresh and shiny, and the carrots were a bold red color. The huge bundles of cilantro and mint were so fresh and fragrant. Men were using metal hooks to pick up 50-100lb sacks of produce and carry and throw them onto trucks. Women were doing the same thing but carrying the sacks elegantly on their heads while wearing beautiful saris. Despite how busy everyone was, they found time to stop and stare at us. A group of followers gathered to stare and try to sell us produce. One man peeled a softball size red beet and cut off chunks for each of us to try. Someone cut up a cucumber and handed it out but we looked at each other before attempting to eat only the inside part. It’s constantly a challenge to avoid washed fruit or water that people offer us without wasting food, saying no, or offending them, especially since the produce looks so good.
We also went to a less bustling and more industrial APMC center where only garlic, onions, and potatoes are stored and redistributed. You can make a lot of Indian meals with just those three products plus lots of spices. Then we visited a wholesale marketplace with the types of products RUDI sells like tea, chillies, turmeric, rice, coriander, cumin and legumes, and to a retail shop that sells them to consumers. We got a well rounded view of how the food supply chain all fits together. We asked questions about the price they buy at, the price they sell at, the market price, the profit margin, at what point raw materials are ground, and who pays for transportation. We might use this information in comparison to the farmers prices to form a recommendation on whether RUDI should expand through wholesale. I did my best to identify all the different crops, cereals, and spices, but I learned quite a bit along the way such as:
- A room filled with dried chillies makes you cough and sneeze
- Turmeric is a yellow root that has healing properties
- Fennel with salt has mouth freshening capabilities
- Water fruit looks like black garlic but is juicy and tastes like a nut
- Green guava can be served with salt and chilli powder
- Roasted sesame seeds with turmeric and salt is also a mouth freshener
- Chai tea is milky and sweet and served everywhere you go
- Lemon pepper bubbly juice drink cools you off on a hot day (everyday) in Surendranagar
- Grilled green chillies with mustard oil and salt are delicious
- Mahsana douses food in vegetable oil and sells the most RUDI vegetable oil
- Fennel candy is an after dinner mouth freshener
- Fenugreek is not fennel and does not sell well in rural areas because they don’t know what to do with it
- I don’t know what to do with fenugreek