Q&A: Miguel Gil, ORGANIC INDIA USA, Talks Regenerative Agriculture, Healthy Conscious Living

After decades in the field of international business development, ORGANIC INDIA USA CEO Miguel Gil says he was looking for something new. “I found myself reflecting on an inner void I was somehow never able to fill, despite my successes,” he explains. “I always felt that there was another more fulfilling, more meaningful path ahead of me that would allow me to be of service to a greater cause.”

When Gil was introduced to the founders of ORGANIC INDIA, he witnessed a company with a vision that mirrored his own, and eventually accepted the invitation to take the helm at ORGANIC INDIA USA. “My long-awaited calling had come, with a glorious opportunity to be of service to a community dedicated to true wellness and healthy, conscious living,” says Gil.

Today, Gil continues to be committed to the company's growth and triple bottom line, taking a holistic view of success that benefits people, profit and the planet. He's also led the company to its most successful quarter in the company’s recent history, while continuing to share stories of regenerative agriculture and environmental recovery, fair trade practices, an altruistic supply chain, and a new business model based on value contribution at every step.

World Tea News chats with Gil to learn more about ORGANIC INDIA, which has a mission to be a trusted and innovative global leader in providing organic products and true wellness solutions for healthy conscious living. The company features a full line of teas, infusions and whole-herb supplements that are USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and certified Kosher.

Miguel Gil of ORGANIC INDIA USA. Photo: Courtesy of ORGANIC INDIA USA.

Question: Tell us about ORGANIC INDIA and why the company was founded. What was the vision?

Answer: After meeting in India, the company founders – Bharat Mitra and Bhavani Lev – observed the widespread environmental degradation that was the result of decades of industrialized agriculture in that country. They also learned of the remarkable health benefits of Tulsi, a.k.a “Holy Basil,” India’s most revered plant. By partnering directly with farmers, they devised methods to recover ancient bio-regenerative farming practices to achieve organic certification for small farms and to bring Tulsi to broad audiences in the form of tea infusions – everything stemmed from a deep desire to bring rural communities out of poverty, allowing farmer producers to recover self-sufficiency and dignity.

Prior to these efforts, the idea of “organic” was unknown in India, as were herb-based teas. Now, ORGANIC INDIA is the largest herbal tea producer in India and has introduced organic and bio-regenerative cultivation methods to that country. Their original vision of promoting true wellness and healthy, conscious living became the vehicle with which they would eventually impact the lives of thousands of farmers and their communities across India, from seed to soil, field to farmer, factory to consumer.

Tulsi, the foundational herb of ORGANIC INDIA, is a classic Ayurvedic adaptogen, meaning it promotes a healthy stress response. Pictured: ORGANIC INDIA's Tulsi Sweet Rose.

Question: What makes ORGANIC INDIA unique?

Answer: So many things. We have built India’s first LEED Platinum Certified natural food production facility, setting a precedent for sustainable construction, manufacturing waste management, and food production in that country. Prior to our founder’s work with farmers, “organic” was a foreign concept in India. We have proven that a business model that starts and ends with uncompromising integrity towards our planet, our farmers, our employees and our customers can be successful, profitable and sustainable. In terms of product, we are different from many herb producing companies in that our materials never pass through the hands of brokers or middlemen – we control and monitor every step of process from farm to the retail shelf.

We have proven that reaching beyond sustainability and organic farming to bio-regenerative practices can profoundly transform lives – from soil and environmental health, to social, economic and cultural change. In rural India, there are traditional cultural practices of shunning widows, many of which stem from farmer suicides as a consequence of the effects of industrialized agriculture.

When ORGANIC INDIA started they went out of their way to hire marginalized women – widows and unmarried women. Many men said they would leave before they would work with them – the founders told the men that they could work with the women or leave; the choice was theirs. Most men eventually accepted the situation and now these formerly shunned women have livelihoods and a place in their communities.

Question: Tell us about ORGANIC INDIA’s focus on healthy conscious living. And what does the future look like for tea and wellness?

Answer: The company’s growth is directly tied to adhering to an altruistic business model, which drives our focus and message of healthy conscious living for all – occasionally, we are challenged to innovate ways to stay congruent with this model within a highly competitive marketplace, but new strategies and methods always emerge that serve to carry the vision and mission forward. Tea consumption worldwide is growing faster than coffee and marking a shift in consumer’s consciousness towards health benefits, and we intend to continue innovating with herbs to deliver efficacious functional benefits to serve this trend – an example is our soon to be launched range of immune system boosting teas.

Photo: Courtesy of ORGANIC INDIA USA

Question: ORGANIC INDIA offers functional teas, such as its recently launched “Tulsi Focus” tea. Are functional teas here to stay or is this just a trend?

Answer: Tulsi, our foundational herb, is a classic Ayurvedic adaptogen, meaning that it promotes a healthy stress response. Given the times we’re living in, offering a natural, wholesome product to aid bodies and minds in adapting to environmental, physical, and emotional stress speaks to the heart of our vision and mission. Our product benefits take that vision out of “abstraction” to direct benefit to the consumer.

The circumstances we find ourselves in today, with a global pandemic, have driven many to search for tools and products that promote health and resilience on every level. Recent events have been a wake-up call for many to proactively attend to personal health and wellness. I believe efficacious functional teas, along with ethically sourced functional food products are here to stay.

Question: What other tea product launches are planned for 2021?

Answer: ORGANIC INDIA will continue to develop functional tea sets made with efficacious herbal blends that offer both pleasing flavors and health supporting characteristics. While all our current products meet these criteria, we want to expand our categories to include support for stress, digestion, hormonal balance, and immune system health and support. Given the pandemic, we’re prioritizing a dedicated immune support herbal infusion range based on our flagship herb Tulsi.

Question: What do you want tea retailers to know about your teas?

Answer: We want retailers to understand that selling our products means joining a supply chain based on altruistic values and principles, with the health and well-being of the consumer as the final delivery goal. We know that our customers cherish our commitments to the environment, regenerative agriculture, fair trade principles, and our B-Corp standing. We believe that more and more consumers are deeply concerned about where foods come from, and how they are delivered. Moving forward, we believe that the market will demand higher levels of transparency and accountability from producers.

Question: ORGANIC INDIA has a medical doctor on its team in an advisory role. How does he fit into the company, in terms of tea and your mission? Do you know of any other tea companies that have a doctor on their team?

Answer: Dr. Alejandro Junger joined us as our medical director because his commitment to health and consciousness aligned with that of our founders. He brings a wealth of knowledge regarding functional medicine, gut health and healthy diet, as well as deep insight into the effects of modern-day life and stress on health, He’s out in front of the traditional medical community in terms of his understanding of these issues and how to address them. Dr. Junger embraces lifestyle as the antidote to so many prevalent diseases and provides his guidance and wisdom to our community, you could say a perfect fit to support our mission to promote healthy conscious living. We know of no other tea companies that employs a medical director.

Question: What role does regenerative farming practices play in growing the company?

Answer: Regenerative agriculture is the alpha and omega to ORGANIC INDIA – it all begins and circles back to regenerative agriculture. While you can measure the beneficial outcomes of these farming practices in a linear way, in terms of environmental recovery, there are corresponding quantum impacts on rural societies – cultural and economic – that occur simultaneously. Aside from the micro-level benefits, there are meaningful benefits that relate to the massive challenges of climate change we face now, with the carbon sequestration that comes from regenerative agriculture. We believe that if these methods were brought to large-scale farming and food production world-wide, so many issues we face would begin to resolve themselves. ORGANIC INDIA is driven to share our story of regenerative agriculture as an example of what is possible when we work with nature, rather than against it – just watch the movie “Kiss the Ground.”

Question: ORGANIC INDIA talks about its “triple bottom line.” What does that mean to the business?

Answer: We believe very strongly that businesses can operate as conscious organizations, with an unwavering commitment and focus on a triple bottom line approach – where profit, people and planet are fully respected. At ORGANIC INDIA, all decisions are made with the triple bottom line in mind.

Question: This year has been challenging for everyone. What recommendations do you have for your colleagues in the tea community to help them thrive?

Answer: Because we came out of the gate as a mission-driven company, we have found that simply staying true to that vision has helped us navigate these times. For other organizations looking to focus efforts toward holistically beneficial supply chains, I would advise that every move you make in that direction counts. It’s about incremental steps and progress over perfection. This strategy contributes to brand authenticity and as consumers become more discerning, these efforts will pay off in the near, middle, and long term.

Question: Thanks for your time! Last question: What does the future hold for ORGANIC INDIA?

Answer: We will continue to strive to be of service to our communities dedicated to healthy, conscious living and will expand our product portfolio under that banner to bring new, functional and innovative product formats to market. Our goal is to become more and more visible to a broader demographic audience to drive awareness of preventative health, even after the pandemic is behind us. We will also continue to hold up the brand as a thought leader and innovator in the realms of the transformational power of regenerative agriculture, building altruistic supply chains and business models, and as always continuing to be an environmental steward.

To learn more, visit OrganicIndiaUSA.com.