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Harshit sahdev’s startup ‘himshakti’ boosting incomes of farmers through ‘pahadi namak’

(News Trust of India): Didsari is a small village in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, known for its special flavored salts. Almost every home in this town makes its mixture of salts, a long-standing custom that combines normal salt with other spices such as turmeric, chile, garlic, pepper, and more.

But Didsari had challenges following the severe floods of Uttarakhand in 2013, which caused damage to its land. During the rehabilitation work, Harshit Sahdev, a kind life coach and counselor from Dehradun, helped build a bridge of hope.

Harshit’s relationship with the people grew stronger, which led to a return in 2018 with Chloe, a lively French visitor. Meeting old friends showed the village’s current difficulties. Wanting to create long-term change, the pair started a new goal.

Chloe made a simple comment on the taste of ‘Pahadi Namak’ (Pisyun Loon) during cooking, which inspired Harshit to start a business. The idea of sending these salts to France came up, leading to a project to strengthen the local economy.

Pooling their resources, Harshit and Chloe invested Rs 10,000 to procure the salts for export. Demand increased, exhausting their stock within days. Encouraged by the enormous response, Harshit formalized his project, calling it ‘Himshakti’ in 2018.

Fast forward three years, and Harshit stands at the head of a booming enterprise, peddling salts and spices worldwide, from the bustling streets of India to the remote reaches of France, UK, USA, Russia, and Vietnam.

But what makes Didsari’s salt different? Harshit unravels the tale of transformation, one sale at a time.

Harshit created collaborations with five female farmers, empowering them to craft the salts. Supporting Self-Help Groups, he enabled the procurement of organic products, from spices to salt, bread, and tea.

“These farmers hail from remote hinterlands, devoid of basic infrastructure. Yet, their culinary prowess is unsurpassed. With expert advice, we enhanced old salt formulas, increasing their flavors. Our salts improve foods, exciting taste buds,” Harshit shares with The Better India.

The trip begins with procuring salt from Rajasthan’s Sambhar Lake, boasting a pH level of nine, among the world’s highest. Naturally iodized, it teems with 84 minerals, including zinc and copper iron.

This salt, flavored with locally obtained herbs and spices, undergoes rigorous preparation. Harshit gives technical expertise and financial aid to farmers, ensuring quality and flavor. Future collaborations with NABARD aim to intensify support, promoting spice cultivation and livelihoods.

Delving into their product range, Harshit elaborates, “Our hemp seed salt, gluten-free with antioxidant and neuroprotective properties, is derived from ‘Bhaang Ke Beej’. Turmeric salt, a mix of turmeric, cumin, and black pepper, offers immune-boosting properties. Meanwhile, our red chili garlic salt, a blend of red chilies, Kashmiri chilies, garlic, and black pepper, lends flair to culinary creations.”

Affordable price promotes wider accessibility, while fair recompense uplifts farmers like Shubham Pawar, battling with marketing obstacles. “This venture has been a godsend, providing not just seeds and fertilizers but also a steady income,” Pawar maintains.

The societal ripple effects are obvious.

Empowered by financial independence, one woman liberated herself from an abusive marriage, supported by Harshit and the community.

Harshit warmly recalls the euphoria among farmers upon seeing Didsari’s name printed on packaging, a testament to their newfound notoriety on the global scale.

Today, Himshakti has a market value of Rs 9 crore, with a turnover in lakhs. Positive response from clients and investors underscores its rising success.

Beyond direct sales, Himshakti’s reach extends to agreements with notable institutions like JW Marriott Mussoorie, Jaypee Residency Manor, and La Villa Bethany, enhancing its influence.

Sunita Kudle, proprietor of a Mussoorie homestay, attests to the attractiveness of Himshakti mountain salt, a staple in her culinary repertoire. Anuradha Chopra, a homemaker from Dehradun, extols its flavor and health benefits, a proof to its growing popularity.

Investors and mentors alike admire Himshakti for its practical impact, proven by cooperation with Hindustan Salt Limited to promote ‘Gulabi Namak’. Recognized by IIM-Kashipur, the venture obtained a grant of up to Rs 25,00,000, propelling Harshit to diversify into cereals, flours, and teas, benefiting communities one product at a time.