Delhi: An urban eco-farmer beats the odds

- June 19, 2024
| By : Shashi Sunny |

Overcoming a severe accident and pandemic challenges, Anant Mandelia revitalised his sustainable farming startup, Delia, setting a benchmark in organic produce and winning prestigious awards

REAL VEGETABLES: Organic tomatoes grown by Anant at his company’s farms in Faridabad

Delhi: Anant Mandelia, the visionary behind Delia, an agricultural startup focussed on sustainable farming and organic produce serving Delhi-NCR, faced monumental challenges after its inception just before the pandemic.

Founded in 2019, Delia was set for a promising start, but the outbreak of COVID-19 brought unforeseen difficulties. Adding to these challenges, Anant, the founder and managing partner, suffered a hit-and-run accident in 2022 during an evening walk near his Greater Kailash 1 home in New Delhi.

The accident resulted in a severe brain injury, confining Anant to the ICU for a month, followed by several months of hospitalisation. It was his sheer grit, determination, and the support of family and friends that helped Anant recover and breathe new life into Delia, which was also struggling amid these trying circumstances.

Today, both Anant and his enterprise have made a remarkable comeback. Sales are on the rise, and Anant has been honoured with the Dun & Bradstreet Trailblazer Award (2024) at the International Business Analytics Leadership Conclave for Best Agricultural Startup. His story is one of resilience and innovation in the face of adversity.

Despite ongoing health issues, including occasional seizures, Anant has stabilised his business, transforming it into a profitable venture that contributes to the well-being of others. Delia, a brand under SatSumi Farms (named after his late grandmothers Satya and Sumita), is now respected for its chemical-free and innovative farming techniques.

“We supply to the best eateries across Delhi-NCR and directly to consumers,” says Anant. 

“New-age parents want organic and pure produce for their home kitchens to ensure good health for their children. Delia guarantees the highest quality agricultural produce, grown using the most sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Even the water used is treated. Yes, the cost is higher, but many families are willing to absorb this cost for long-term health benefits, which, in turn, reduces medical expenses. Organically grown produce also tastes far better.”

HONOURS: Anant’s eco-farming initiative Delia has gained recognition and awards post Covid-19
HONOURS: Anant’s eco-farming initiative Delia has
gained recognition and awards post Covid-19

Anant’s interest in organic farming deepened after he became a father. Now, as a father of two, Vedant, 12, and Idaya, 8, Anant and his wife Pratha are pleased that their family consumes the safest and best vegetables daily.

“We grow vegetables in a greenhouse using hydroponic agriculture,” Anant explains. 

“In Europe, this method, along with AI and robotics, is widely used, but it is costly. We’ve developed a hybrid model, adapting what we observed in developed countries to fit Indian requirements. For instance, we use manpower, which is abundant in India, and we’ve met with great success. Today, I am a certified organic producer.

“Many in the organic vegetable business buy regular vegetables, stock them in special warehouses, get certified as organic traders, and sell at a lower cost. Usually, the ordinary consumer lacks the awareness to differentiate. It takes at least four years of stringent inspection to get certified as an organic producer. I am ready to furnish my certificate to anyone who cares to inspect it.”

Anant emphasises that his farming is overseen by PhD agricultural experts and employs the most scientific methods, with everything done in-house to maintain strict quality control.

“Earlier, we used aggregators for distribution, but the quality of the produce delivered to consumers was not up to the mark. Now, we handle everything ourselves. Orders can be placed on our website and delivered directly from us. When I resumed control of my company after my recovery, the goodwill we had generated at the start was plummeting. I had to rebuild from scratch. Over the past year, we have regained our lost goodwill and ground, even winning awards.”

On a personal level, Anant has endured two open brain surgeries and extensive time on a ventilator and in the ICU.

EARLY START: Anant Mandelia began his eco-farming initiative back in 2019
EARLY START: Anant Mandelia began his eco-farming initiative back in 2019

“I have no recollection of the accident or the events for a month after. A medico-legal case was registered by the police based on CCTV footage. I have not initiated any legal proceedings since I have no memory of what transpired. Right now, I am in a happy place and thankful for my life, family, and work. I believe it was my destiny to go through and overcome these challenges. I believe in simple living and high thinking.

“Currently, I am focussed on growing my startup while contributing positively to the environment and society. I want to leave a positive legacy for my children and augment our family assets for future generations. Considering the severity of my injuries, I never thought I would recover fully. My life is nothing short of a miracle.”