The Weekend Leader - Vishala Reddy Vuyyala's Millet Bank: A Rs 6 Crore Success Story in Reviving Traditional Grains

Returning to Her Village Roots, Woman's Millet Business Achieves Rs 6 Crore Turnover with Noodles and Pasta

Rama Devi Menon   |  


Vol 15 | Issue 12

Who would have thought of making a big business out of the native millet that has gone out of fashion for modern youth who are more inclined to fast foods like noodles and pasta?

Hyderabad-based Vishala Reddy Vuyyala, who grew up in a village where her family cultivated millets, decided to pick the humble millet and create a brand that's both healthy and tasty.

Vishala Reddy Vuyyala started Millet Bank in 2021 after finding an opportunity in millet products (Photos: Special Arrangement) 

In August 2021, she launched her brand, Millet Bank, under her company Minkan Agro Industries Pvt Ltd, offering ready-to-cook (RTC) and ready-to-eat (RTE) foxtail millet, multi-millet, little millet, sorghum, and pearl millet noodles, cookies, pastas, dosa, idli, and pongal mix.

In just the third year, the company's turnover has crossed Rs 6 crore with overall sales of Rs 10 crore. All their products are sold on their website, and offline, they are available in all leading supermarkets.

A store showcasing their products has been set up at the Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre, which Vishala says serves more as an advertising platform for their products.

"We are also exporting our products to Dubai, and the response is great," says Vishala. "A few other export orders are being finalised for countries like Singapore and Australia."

"The first two decades of my life were immersed in rural living, where I closely observed grassroots farming. The subsequent two decades catapulted me into the fast-paced urban world, where I traveled and accumulated knowledge.

“In the next two decades, I have made it my mission to amalgamate my rural and urban experiences to breathe new life into millet cultures."

Millet Bank offers over 40 products in the ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat segments.

Vishala completed her intermediate studies at Kuppam Government College in Chittoor and earned her BA in political science, public administration, and sociology from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University.

After completing her MBA from Osmania University, Vishala worked in the tourism and hospitality industry before launching Millet Bank.

"I worked with the Accor Group, one of the largest hotel chains, and also with Gaining Edge, a global consulting firm," she shares.

The seeds of entrepreneurship were sown when she established a firm called IdentCITY, which focuses on destination/city branding and marketing services in Hyderabad.

"IdentCITY offers consulting services to attract tourism and investments by involving local governments and private stakeholders, thereby creating business opportunities for respective destinations," Vishala explains.

"It was just beginning to generate revenues when I quit the company to focus on Millet Bank. Now, my nephew runs the firm."

The Covid pandemic opened new vistas for Vishala, a first-generation entrepreneur. During the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned to her village in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

There, she learned that her sister, who lives in Karnataka, was facing difficulties in sustaining her foxtail millet cultivation.

"It was disheartening to see her sell the produce for merely Rs 15 per kg, despite its high market value. I was determined to use my skills and marketing knowledge to revive our traditional foods and rejuvenate our food systems," says the 45-year-old Vishala.

Vishala was featured in the prestigious "When Women Lead" coffee table book, curated by UN Women India

Vishala was born into a farming family in the arid Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, in a village called Mullur Krishnapuram in Chittoor district.

"I grew up watching the women in my family cultivate millets, but I failed to understand how deeply these grains were interwoven with our culture and cuisine. Unfortunately, most farmers have stopped cultivating millets over the last two decades," Vishala reflects.

"I also observed that farmers had moved away from traditional farming practices, such as growing 'Navadhanya' (nine grains: black sesame, Bengal gram, horse gram, green gram, rice, white gram, chickpeas, black gram, and wheat) as part of the crop rotation process to maintain soil nutrition."

In June 2020, Vishala began her research and spent 10 months engaging with farmers in her village to understand their challenges at the grassroots level.

By August 2021, she had launched Millet Bank, which now boasts over 40 products in the ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat segments.

With an equity investment of Rs 40 lakh from NABARD for a 2% stake, valuing the company at Rs. 20 crore, Vishala contributed the remainder to raise a total of Rs. 1.2 crore to start Millet Bank.

She also set up a millet museum in her village to highlight the benefits of millet cultivation and started encouraging local farmers to embrace this movement.

Initially focusing on her extended family to revive millet farming, she eventually expanded her efforts to include other farmers.

"Currently, we are partnering with over 1,000 farmers in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, as well as artisans and micro-units. This initiative has significantly contributed to enhancing their livelihoods," says Vishala.

The entire production process is managed through third-party collaborations, where Vishala partners with manufacturing units of various sizes, from micro and small to large. These third-party entities are responsible for procuring the grain directly from the farmers.

"We have incorporated small business units, manufacturing facilities, artisans, and farmer producer organisations into our integrated value chain. Currently, our primary focus is on packaging, branding, and marketing," says Vishala. A dedicated team of 30 employees is responsible for handling these key areas.

Vishala also deals with gifting products such as indigenous toys, diyas (oil lamps), and spice blends

Vishala's 22-year-old son, Nachiketh Reddy, who graduated with a BA in political science, economics, and sociology from Christ University, Bengaluru, in 2013, is in charge of the e-commerce and direct sales division.

With the motto "Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu," which means "may all beings everywhere be happy, free, and peaceful," Millet Bank’s logo draws inspiration from the Gadhe, a traditional container used for storing grains in the olden days.

Beyond the ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook segments, the company also boasts an exclusive gifting division named "Krisayu," offering a collection of 300 products.

This range includes traditional indigenous toys, diyas (oil lamps), spice blends, honey, and Ayurveda wellness products.

"We have also engaged rural women to craft baskets from environmentally friendly materials, which we then sell to corporate companies. To date, we have sold over 2,000 baskets," Vishala shares.

She explains that her primary goal is to broaden the geographical reach of the Millet Bank initiative, thereby extending its influence to include more communities and regions.

“Such expansion will enable us to engage with a wider spectrum of farmers and stakeholders," says Vishala.

Millets, requiring significantly less water than rice and wheat and possessing a remarkable tolerance for heat—capable of withstanding temperatures up to 64 degrees Celsius—stand out as an excellent choice for farmers in today's era of climate change and diminishing natural resources.

Their drought and flood-resistant qualities, coupled with their high nutritional value, make them viable alternatives to imported cereals.

Yet, Vishala's journey to success was fraught with challenges. She and her entire family contracted Covid-19, and she also suffered the loss of a brother in a road accident around that period.

"Many of my family members and fellow villagers criticised me, saying millet cultivation was bound to fail," she recalls. Despite the scepticism and personal trials, Vishala remained steadfast in her mission.

Some of the products from the gifting division, Krisayu

Vishala was honoured as one of the 75 women leaders featured in the prestigious "When Women Lead" coffee table book, curated by UN Women India. This United Nations entity is dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The book highlights her remarkable journey as a leader in the field of food and agriculture, emphasising her commitment to gender equality and sustainable development.

Despite a hectic routine that keeps her constantly on her toes, Vishala finds her moments of relaxation.

"I love watching movies and am an avid traveller. These two activities help keep me entertained and relaxed," she says, sharing her personal strategies for unwinding and recharging amidst her demanding professional life. - ©TWL

Milky Mist Cheese

Trending Now: