“Inferior Infrastructure Is What Is Letting The Indian Market Down” – Ameya Vartak, Owner Of Aamrai
What is summer without the special taste and aroma of Alphonso mangoes? While the entire world is after this super-luxury Indian fruit, only a few manage to get hold of the authentic ones. Among the Alphonso producers, Aamrai is fast becoming the most trusted name in both international as well as domestic markets. Souvik Ganguly, on behalf of SaleBhai, tried to get a closer feel of behind-the-curtain scene of Alphonso production in an exclusive interview with the owner of Aamrai, Ameya Vartak.
Question: What makes Aamrai Alphonso mangoes so special?
Answer. Well it is hard to blow one’s own trumpet! (Laughs) But yes, on a serious note, the mangoes that we offer are sourced only from Ratnagiri farms – known for producing the finest Alphonsos. We have strict quality-check procedures and government-approved ripening chambers to ensure that our customers get only the best. Another speciality of Aamrai is that we do not mix mangoes. All mangoes of a single box are from the same farm. Our packaging and presentation are much better than our competitors, giving us a huge edge.
Organic Alphonso is our speciality and we take a lot of care to maintain its standard. You must try it if you haven’t already. We only use best-quality saplings and non-GMO seeds. No chemicals are used. We have adopted natural remedies and defences against pests such as encouraging the growth of red ants that are normally present in mango trees and eat the larvae of various pests. We also follow a unique grass-mowing routine. The monsoon-heavy grass is cut in regular intervals and the grass is left in the fields for decomposition. This keeps the top soil of our farms naturally fertilised. Now you know why we are special! (Laughs)
Question: How many mango trees do you currently have?
Answer: For organic, we have around 1500 and for premium quality, we have more than 2000 trees.
Question: What are the parameters on which you grade the mangoes?
Answer: We have four categories based on weight. The ‘Baby’ grade mango is between 120 g to 160 g, the ‘B‘ grade is between 160 g to 220 g, the ‘A‘ grade is between 220 g to 280 g, and the ‘LE’ (Limited Edition) grade is more than 280 g.
Question: Would you like to tell us more about your quality-check procedures?
Answer: Yes sure. Why not? The first method is the obvious one. It is known as the touch-and-feel technique. The slightest of blemishes on a mango is good enough a reason for rejection. Our experts are very strict when it comes to assessing mangoes. Another check is done using ultra-sonic scanners. Spongy tissue is a common problem with Alphonsos and is extremely hard to detect manually. Mangoes suffering from this stay white from inside because of starch formation instead of sugar. Ultra-sonic scanners can detect spongy tissue with 90% correctness. Amidst multiple quality checks, the most important one happens in the semi-ripened stage.
Question: Which market do you consider to be the best from a seller's point of view and why? How do you rate the Indian market as compared to the global one?
Answer: Well, there is tremendous potential in the Indian market, but inferior infrastructure is what is letting it down. From a seller’s point of view, ideally we would want 100% of our products to go to the Indian market. But logistic issues, absence of cold chains, and lack of proper marketing are challenges that the Indian market has to overcome first. As far as organic mangoes are concerned, we export 70% to 80% of our supply to the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, and Singapore. However, the Indian market is doing better in the premium category with 60% share.
Question: Is mango production anyway affected by the changing climatic conditions and the constant rise in pollution levels?
Answers: Absolutely. See, you must understand that mango is a very sensitive fruit. Mildest of alterations in terms of weather conditions can create an impact on the production. Untimely monsoon and warmer summers are affecting the premier category production a lot.
Question: What are the risks involved in your trade if any?
Answer: Mango is a perishable product and longer the route to end users, bigger is the risk involved. A lot of mangoes get damaged in transit. Alphonsos are called king of mangoes and trust me when I say they demand royal treatment (laughs). The packaging has to be such that the carbon dioxide emitted by the fruits can be released without exposing the mangoes to direct sunlight. Lack of cold chains and lengthy transport-clearance procedures make it very difficult for us at times. Hope these issues are taken care of soon.
Question: How have ecommerce platforms like SaleBhai helped you in generating a bigger customer base?
Answer: To a huge extent. We are now getting orders from places that are not in our usual customer list. We always had a big customer base in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Ahmadabad, and Bangalore, but now we are getting orders from places such as Tripura, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand. Alphonso is an Indian speciality that the entire world is after. SaleBhai has given Indian customers a fair chance to enjoy this seasonal delight. Well done! (Smiles)
Question: Thank you for your kind words. Here comes my last question. As a brand, what are your future targets/ambitions?
Answer: This one is easy. We want to become the best and the most renowned Alphonso brand in the world. To be honest, that day is not far away. We are not traders. We take complete responsibility for our fruits and try to give our customers only the best.
Before you order Alphonso mango online, how about reading some rarely-known mind-blowing facts about mangoes? Click here
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