Naturellement

naturellementScalzo, Sophia. Naturellement, Entrance. December 2019.

“Naturellement” is a company located in Auroville, with their restaurant being surrounded by a lot of trees and plants (see last picture), keeping in line with this search for nature that the founder is transmitting, before all in the very name of the company, “Naturellement”. It was created in 1991 by Martina Ljungquist, a Swedish woman who was originally a kindergarden teacher but who decided to take a brake from her job by going to Auroville. So, in 1991, she came with a small amount of money and most importantly a wide knowledge in European recipes. She started by investing 6000 roupies (about 75 euros!), and the company was at first creating jams, butter and tofu. But starting to produce galettes was the tipping point that helped her company grow very quickly. Keeping in mind that she had no business experience whatsoever, she still managed to adapt as the company grew, but always sticking to her motto: “No compromises, high standards.” Linking this company’s goals and actions to the UN’s resolutions, we can see that it participates in 1,2,3,4,5,8,10,11,12.
All of what she produces is made with the best products one can find, and no compromises will be made in order to increase her benefits for example. A small phrase that stood out to me was “good spirit”, she repeated it several times that she always tried and still tries her best to insure that a “good spirit” exists in the company, whether it is among the employees or even in her relations with them. She employs 35 women, mostly non-educated women in order to give them a good life and a second chance. These women do not understand the concept of loans with interests for example, so they often get manipulated into taking loans with exorbitant interest rates. To overcome this problem, her company offers interest-free loans to these women, thus making sure they will not be taken advantage of. In addition of helping these women save a large amount of money, her company also gives them knowledge, helps them with health and family matters as well as nutritional lunches, English classes, sport activities, study and recreational tours. Martina makes huge efforts for the well-being of her employees, sometimes at the detriment of profits for her company, but the human side of things is a priority for her, something that would never happen in a European company in my opinion. This is not a profit-driven company, and that’s what makes it so special. Would a business model like this one succeed in Europe or in the US? I doubt it.
An issue that I found very interesting is that they make less margin on products such as jams and marmalades because of European subsidies. It is a double-edged sword, because the Indian people benefit in a way from these subsidies, they can buy jams and marmalades at a very small price. On the other hand, the subsidies hurt local businesses such as Naturellement, because people tend to buy the cheaper product thus diminishing the sales of these local businesses. After weighting the pros and cons, do you believe that these subsidies are a good or a bad thing?
Paul Harding

naturellement2

Scalzo, Sophia. Naturellement, Table. December 2019

 

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