What I Learnt From Pepper Joe
While looking for more information about Bhut Jolokia, a chilli pepper that grows in the Northeast of India and considered one of the hottest in the world, I came across an interesting website. An e-commerce site, that sells seeds of the world’s hottest peppers. The story of how, Joe, the promoter of this business, got a lead to Bhut Jolokia and followed up on it was interesting. It was in the year 2000 that Joe heard about this ‘Ghost Pepper’ as it was called. He then went exploring, to find the source and to test the seeds. It was only 9 long years later that he started selling the seeds. Why?
“I didn’t want to put an inferior product out there. So I may have missed out on some business the last few years.
“We continued the testing in 2008 in our test gardens in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Fort Myers and Myrtle Beach. and in 2009 we offered them for sale. WOW…it has been a long journey.” He says on his website
What did I learn? Well, Pepper Joe is a passionate entrepreneur. When he ‘smells’ an opportunity, he goes after it and perseveres. He is nimble and fast. He knows how to select unique plants to grow. He takes risks, grows what might be popular and he grows what his competitors don’t. He is successful, so he must have a good strategy.
When I saw the herbs he sells, I could tell that he knows the plants and varieties that are a little different and have the potential to become popular. He knows the trends.
I bought his brand of seeds of Greek Oregano, Garden Sage, Spearmint and Rosemary. I will plant them and help them grow, but I prefer planting the ‘Pepper Joe Strategy’ in the ‘Zizira mind’ and letting it grow for a while!
So, what about Zara
You may wonder what a food company like Zizira, has to do with a clothes company like Zara. It is their strategy that is of interest. Zara, from what I understand, watch trends, know the market prices and move fast. This is what they say on their website: The Group lays the foundations for a distribution system capable of reacting to shifting market trends extremely quickly.
What Should Zizira Do to Be Like Them?
To be like Pepper Joe or Zara will require us to be smart, nimble and a little different from the crowd. To achieve this means we need to constantly learn. We have to be curious. The whole Zizira team needs to know why we do what we do. And everyone needs to be business savvy, farmers savvy and have an entrepreneurial drive. This will take some time to develop, but we need to keep at it day by day.
If can do this, we will be able to make smart decisions. We will know which opportunities to pursue and know when to say NO.
How will these strategies help?
I think that Pepper Joe’s strategy will benefit Zizira and impact farmers. It requires being nimble and teaching farmers to be nimble. The strategy we choose can have a long-term impact on farmers. Let’s now look at how the strategy we chose impacts farmers.
We need to look at the long-term
If we choose a short-term strategy, we can have an immediate impact. But, if we chose another strategy, it might be slower to implement, but have a bigger long term impact. I am going to advocate for the long term. And, being nimble ourselves and sharing this knowledge with the farmers.
Here is a hypothetical example. Suppose we rush to get all farmers in Meghalaya growing turmeric and we don’t raise them up, but we just push them to grow turmeric. We don’t teach them to be nimble, but teach them to only be followers. We cause them to be dependent on Zizira. Suppose the price crashes. These farmers would have benefited financially in the short run, but they will be stuck once the prices crash.
On the other hand, suppose we raise up farmers to be entrepreneurs and raise them up to be flexible. We select the best and we help them be the best they can be. We are able to encourage them to make the most of their small tracks of land and get the highest return. They will then excel and prosper. That will become models for other farmers to follow. Note, it is important to select the best farmers, those who show some drive, seem ethical and are ‘hungry’ to do better for themselves.
Our team needs to lead by example
We have a great team who will be a good example to farmers. Now, suppose we raise this team to be capable of seeking out the best opportunities for farmers. This team learns the trends and know what crop a farmer can grow this year to make the most money. Suppose our team learns to make the most of every opportunity. They work with farmers to help them move with the trends. Both are flexible. We know the market – we know trends and we can adjust and the farmers are ready to work with us. We work with farmers to put the puzzle together.
Harder, longer path
Going with a long term perspective will be much harder and a longer way forward. It is a dream that is harder to achieve. It is what Chillibreeze did. We took the hard, slow road.
Chillibreeze is urgently taking the slow road. Seems like a contradiction, but that is what we are doing. We are intensely and intentionally doing things that will last and will have a greater impact in the long run. I think we can apply Chillibreeze’s vision and values to Zizira.
Zizira needs to make a profit and we need to benefit farmers. Yes, lots of great insights and plans. How do we do this? We are on the job. Even I do not know how it will work out. I will be sharing my learnings and experiences and hope to see you come with me on this journey. More than that, I would like to hear from you. Would you like to be a part of a community where questions about Zizira, its strategies to help the farmers at the same time being profitable, how to make a difference to this remote region in the Northeast India etc. will be discussed? Wait to hear from you.
Strung together as a narrative by Vilasini Kumar