The Organic Quest in India

I first came to Hyderabad in 2009, as a researcher in the Indo-German cooperation project “Sustainable Hyderabad”. My task was to find out about organic food marketing in Hyderabad and Secunderabad. At that time, there was not so much organic food available in the city – apart from one organic shop, one or two supermarkets and a few NGOs and farmer groups.

Author RESET , 05.30.13

While organizations in the grassroots organic movement have been very strong and active in rural areas for decades, organic food started to become more readily available in cities only in the last few years. New organic shops, online retailers, farmers’ markets and consumer initiatives have started to come up almost on a monthly basis now. Most supermarkets now also sell an organic range, at least in some of their outlets. In that sense it has been an exciting time to research this topic and witness the dynamic development of the sector.

From looking only at the organic sector of Hyderabad, we decided to extend our research to include two larger and more developed organic markets – Bangalore and Mumbai. The idea was to find out about challenges that people in the organic sector face with regard to marketing, to look at successful models that manage to bring organic food to the people, and to share their lessons with other initiatives. We also tried to get an overview of the domestic market for organic products in cities, for instance how much organic food is being sold, and who are the stakeholders involved in that. So for that I visited many companies and retail outlets in Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad during 2011 and 2012, and interviewed a wide range of people involved in some way in marketing of organic food.

One of the most fun parts of my research was to do sample all the interesting organic food products that I came across. Often it didn’t even feel like work at all – more like an exciting shopping safari, trying to find the nicest food! But apart from that, I most enjoyed talking to the people I interviewed. I felt lucky to meet so many people who are extremely passionate about their work. I realized that it is not always easy or financially very rewarding to run an organic business, but the people involved in organic stores, producer companies, NGOs or consumer initiatives have an enormous amount of commitment to their work, and built a great wealth of successful and sustainable marketing initiatives.

I also faced quite a few challenges during the research. One of them was to find the organic stores. I started my quest for organic outlets by following pointers from friends and colleagues, and a few lists of organic outlets that I found online. But it turned out that many of the shops had already shut down again, had moved to a different place, or did not sell any organic products at all but just had a name that suggested something “natural” or “green” – but upon closer enquiry turned out not to be organic at all.

We also had some problems getting quantitative data, because some companies and retailers were reluctant to share data on sales figures, retailer margins and supplier contacts with us. Other companies and organizations were very more willing to cooperate, but the gaps in our data mean that we often had to make do with estimates.

We were a bit surprised to find that Bangalore – even though it is a smaller city and market than Mumbai, that it has the highest number of organic stores, and more organic sales of all cities in India. We counted at least 93 outlets selling organic products in Hyderabad, 151 in Mumbai and 180 in Bangalore. These figures include all kinds of stores from exclusively organic outlets to supermarkets and other shops that have an organic range. By now the numbers are likely to be higher, as our research was done mostly in 2011 and early 2012.

In 2011, the total sales value of organic products, according to our estimates, was Rs 9.9 crore for Hyderabad, Rs 17.9 crore for Mumbai, and Rs 21.4 crore for Bangalore. That includes certified as well as non-certified products.

Organic Food Marketing In Urban Centres Of India

By Nina Osswald & Manoj K. Menon

Published by International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA)

ISBN: 978-81-925226-2-3, 145 pages

The book can be ordered from, from info@iccoa or on

For more information see

Author: Nina Osswald for The Alternative.

The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.

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