Mark your calendar, Sunday 20th November, for Khalis Market at Gulberg Galleria Lahore. Why? Because apart from all the other vendors, Organic Box is bringing nature’s gift for it’s clients. So we got hold of Ms. Areefa Teymur Ali Khan, CEO and Founder, asked her about the brand.
Q. Tell us about yourself and how Organic box came into existence?
Areefa: Organic Box came into existence in December 2013. It was stroke of an insight while we were at an international conference on agribusiness. There we realized that what the world is trying to achieve in name of Organic and going back to farming;our grandfather, father & uncles were already doing that since 1947 on our lands. They were ploughing & growing food for family the natural – the original way. So after coming back, we formalized the venture into Reef’s Organic Box.
OB is run by Areefa who is founder & CEO while Taimur Ali Khan, co-founder, and manages all the operations. In Lahore & Islamabad, we have other team mates who are essential and integral part of our team. OB owes everything to our parents and grandparents who taught us the real way of living. Without their support and recipes nothing was possible.
Q. Can you define the Organic? Also things that we buy off the shelf with Organic written on it, are truly organic or not?
Areefa: The word “organic” refers to the way that farmers grow, raise, and process food. The organic farmer strives to use methods that encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Agricultural products are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Animals are raised without non therapeutic antibiotics or growth hormones and are allowed some access to the outdoors. Organic foods can’t be irradiated.
In Pakistan, so far no one can put Organic label officially (unless it’s imported) as there is no government regulation. Organic Box feels its responsibility and is raising voice in all the right corridors to bring organic legislation so that our customers buy from us with confidence. And this step will also remove/ separate us from non-serious & fake organic brands.
Q. What does Organic Box has to offer? OB can never be for masses?
Areefa: Organic Box has more than 40 desi items ranging from staple foods to oils and back-to-basic recipes i.e. Panjeeri, Saag, Gachak etc. Definitely OB or any organic brand can’t be for masses. For mainly two reasons; unlike conventional farming an organic producer has limited quantities of produce as no fertilizers or soil strengthen chemicals are used. The cost of growing also increases per acre. Secondly, due to the limited growth & production the cost to end user becomes higher.
Organic & Natural food is OB’s passion and we really keep our realistic prices& affordable as compared to market. We are also trying to bring a mechanism, somehow, where everyone can enjoy fresh, organic & natural food without affecting their pocket.
Q. How a customer get assured that they are buying Organic stuff, anyone can wrap things in Organic labeled packaging?
Areefa: In absence of legislation/ certification we can only advise people to be aware, be vigilant, and choose pure & natural ingredients while buying. Meet your farmer and ask them about their growing & packing methods. The only way to trust is to verify. Customers should try to buy directly from the farmers; it will allow you to trace your food and have positive affect on farmer as well.
Q. What is your product range? What is your supply chain?
Areefa: OB has 40 plus desi items on its list. But our best sellers are Desi eggs, desi chicken, desi ghee, Honey, different varieties of attas, porridge, organic gur & shaker, spices, seeds, and some value added items i.e. Panjeeri, sarsoka cooked saag, makaiki roti & gachak. Our farms at District Okara are connected to our pickup points in Lahore & Islamabad where the orders are booked and dispatched through our delivery partners; STL (Lhr) and TCS Hazir (ISB). Our orders are also going to other cities that are dispatched to city specific logistic solutions.
Q. Can any grower or farmer become organic producing brand?
Areefa: Yes they can but it’s a long tedious process. It takes a lot of commitment at various levels and once on the road to organic it take years to over right the effects of conventional farming practices involving use of fertilizers, pesticide, non- GMO seeds & antibiotic hormone injections.
Q. Organic Box, how long it has been in market?
Areefa: This December OB will turn 3 masha Allah. We started supplying to Lahore since December 2013 and now mid 2016 extended our service to Islamabad/ Rawalpindi and surrounding cities.
Q. Can you share an experience where OB has changed someone’s life through their product?
Areefa: Alhamdolilah there are many cases. In general, many women who consumed OB’s authentic Panjeeri have found it really helpful in recovering from post-delivery pains & troubles. And now they don’t only recommend us to other expecting mothers but also giving their new-borns& toddlers OB’s desi eggs, chicken and ghee. In future, there will be a generation who OB can proudly claim to have nourished with organic, pure and natural food; food that our grandparents called food.
Q. Pakistan is Agri based country with huge variety of produces, do you believe we have a chance to make a mark in Organic produce globally?
Areefa: Yes of course, its only matter of legislation and certification and you’ll see how border open for Pakistani products.
Q. Khalis Market, 20th November 2016, what should your customer look forward to at this event?
Areefa: As always we are very excited to be at Khalis Food Market on Nov 20th at Gulberg Galleria, Lahore. Our customers will see variety of new product range, improvised packing and live cooking of our authentic recipes e.g. sarso ka saag, makai ki roti and makkhan. We’ll be introducing special gift packs for our customers as well.
Q. Can you share your experience of these farmer markets? Have they actually served their purpose
Areefa: Indeed these farmers markets have actually played the role of catalyst for small growers, producers and manufacturers. They not only provided a platform but also gave the confidence to showcase one’s products. Now these markets have become their own identity. Anyone displaying at these markets is considered automatically genuine because of the scrutiny done by organizers that goes before giving a stall to a vendor.
No matter how accomplished OB becomes but we’ll keep coming to these farmers markets for all the right reasons.
Q. Any words for our readers of how Organic Box change their lifestyle?
Areefa: Organic Box is your partner in bringing you the real food. OB is our passion, our motto is; “Keep it Real, Keep it Local”. And it has a reason because our food is locally grown from non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds hence making it real and also traceable. We are the Only Farm Fresh products brand in Pakistan providing more than 40 products with a professional Organic food training background.
Our message to reader is to holistically switch their lifestyle to real, pure and close to natural living including your food; you’re what you eat! Please, eat real food!
How? Take a close look at your food choices and ask yourself, “Did people eat this 100 years ago?” if not, don’t eat! The problem is we are not eating food anymore we’re eating food like products. Please wake up and switch to organic life i.e. free from toxins & artificiality.
Do yourself good; eat locally grown food and without preservatives. It will save you a lot of hassle & money that maybe spent on doctors and buying medicines. Mark somewhere, when diet is wrong medicines will be of no use and when diet is correct medicines won’t be required!