For years, Karnataka’s Abhishek B tried to find a solution to the rampant problem of water scarcity and environmental damage in his state and finally, after months of researching, deliberating and ideating, he found the answer in millets. Having established his dine-in restaurant and catering service, Millet Mama in Bengaluru’s South End Circle is an accurate expression of Abhishek’s concerns over the environment and healthy living.
Before Millet Mama
26-year-old Abhishek, a native of Mandya district in Karnataka didn’t think that he’d grow up to become the owner of a millet-based cafe in Bengaluru, but he was passionate about saving the environment and conserving water. Talking to The Logical Indian, he said, “I read about the different environmental movements in India in my school’s textbooks, and it was since then that I wished to take up the cause.”
Unsure about how to pursue his passion, he took up civil engineering with the thought that it would help him to learn more about water and dams. However, it was the Cauvery riots of 2016 which led him to think about using millets to save the environment. This incident of water scarcity in his district led Abhishek to ponder over issues like farmers switching over to water-intensive crops, construction of dams and the lost relevance of traditional food-grains among others.
This interest was followed by research, attending workshops and even a visit to his district where Abhishek learnt that a long-term solution to the problems faced by Karnataka lies in Millets, which requires less water for production and has health benefits as well. It wasn’t long after this that he decided to hit the streets of Bengaluru with tasty millet-based food items.
Establishing Millet Mama
Abhishek knew that people have long forgotten the advantages of millets, and to rekindle their interest, he decided to develop millet-based food items with his mother, who has diabetes and has been consuming millets for years now. However, his decision to open up a restaurant and a catering service did not go unopposed, as his parents criticised him for his choices.
However, with a bit of effort, Abhishek was able to locate a godown in South End Circle of Bengaluru where many millet-consuming residents reside. There is a twist in his millet tale as Abhishek established his now nine-month-old venture with little to no investment. He said, “I did not want to invest much money into this as I wanted the focus to be on the plight of millet farmers and to empower them or provide food at cheaper rates to the customers.”
Every piece of furniture and decor in his restaurant is either received by way of donation or picked up from other places as second-hand products. Through his restaurant, Abhishek has also been trying to shed light on the indigenous artisans and their handicrafts which are often forgotten by us.
Even though his restaurant presently operates only at lunch-time, Abhishek said that they get about 40 customers per day while most of his income comes from catering services. Currently, women from the neighbourhood areas come in to cook food for the restaurant while Abhishek takes help from volunteers, interns and friends as well. Millet Mama has 50 millet-based food items, and the restaurant steers clear of using white products like rice and wheat. Sugar is also banned from the restaurant and jaggery is used as a natural sweetener.
From August onwards, Abhishek plans on scaling up his business and keep his restaurant running between 12 pm to 9 pm every day and hire permanent cooks as well. Not just that, but going forward, Abhishek plans to adopt a zero-waste policy whereby all kitchen waste will be converted into biodiesel.
As he found that more and more people have shown a keen interest in the use of millets in daily life, Millet Mama also runs internship programmes which teach sustainable living and healthy cooking.
The centre, to achieve nutritional security in the country, has been advocating for the increasing use of millet and millet-based food products which, apart from being sustainable alternative has a myriad of health benefits as well. At times like these, endeavours of millennials like Abhishek, who has been putting a new spin to this old food-grain is undoubtedly helpful.