Imagine carrying 30 to 40 kgs of goods effortlessly at the age of 80. Most of us can only dream of this yet many locals in Himachal Pradesh can do this on their steep mountain terrain. This sight moved Vignesh Murthy deeply, he set out to look for the answer behind this. It turned out to be hemp. The locals would include hemp in their diet from using it as a pickle to having it in their atta.
His frequent travels showed him how hemp was unintentionally growing in multiple parts of India. Knowing this secret pushed Murthy to study hemp and its benefits. Turns out hemp is not only beneficial for human health but also for the environment. Growing this plant would not deplete the land of nutrients or water. It could also be the crop to grow in an area where rain is unpredictable and where the temperature fluctuates widely.
He then launched his own hemp-based brand called Wildleaf in 2016. Wildleaf is a farmer-first, sustainable and affordable hemp brand that wants to bring hemp and its benefits into the lives of many Indians. Unlike other hemp brands, Wildleaf strives on his USP of affordability. This is done to make hemp get a place as an FMCG product in Indian kitchens.
The Bengaluru-based venture currently sells Hemp Seed Oil, Hemp hearts, Hemp Flour, Hemp Seeds and more. They soon would enter other product categories like soaps, clothing material, beer, cheese and even hempcrete (hemp-based concrete). The venture has tied up with several Goan cafes which use hemp in everything from artisanal loaves of bread to chappatis.
The hemp market is accelerating widely due to the many benefits of the hemp plant. Over 25% of hemp’s calories come from its protein content. They also contain the richness of omega-3s and omega-6. Hemp seeds are a rich source of vitamin E and various minerals. It is projected to grow with a CAGR of 34%, going from $4.6 billion in 2019 to $26.6 billion by 2025.
Hemp in India is grown on Himalayan roadsides, in the wild and in other regions. But since its ban under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, it remains an underused industry. Will Wildleaf with its affordable and sustainable products bring the benefits of hemp closer to Indians?