Hemp In India, A Green Revolution?

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Bengaluru: In recent years, the global perspective on hemp has undergone a remarkable transformation. What was once stigmatized is now celebrated for its versatile applications, particularly in the health and wellness industry. Behind this resurgence of interest and innovation in hemp-based products are passionate entrepreneurs and visionaries who have seized the opportunity to create sustainable and health-conscious brands.

India, a land steeped in tradition and agricultural heritage, is witnessing the renaissance of a remarkable crop – hemp. For centuries, hemp was an integral part of Indian culture, used for various purposes, including textiles, paper, and medicinal remedies. However, due to stringent regulations and misconceptions surrounding the plant, its cultivation declined over the years. Today, as the world embraces the sustainable and versatile qualities of hemp, India too is rediscovering the potential of this extraordinary crop.


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Hemp has a rich history in India, dating back thousands of years. It was used to create textiles, ropes, and paper, with mentions of its use in ancient scriptures. In fact, India was one of the world’s leading hemp producers until the 1980s when strict regulations led to its decline. These days, several Indian start-ups have emerged in the hemp industry, producing a range of products from sustainable textiles to organic skincare items. These businesses are at the forefront of the hemp revival. In this exclusive interview, I sat down with one of the owners Shalini Bhattacharya of one of the leading hemp brands in India, India Hemp and Co., for The Balcony Stories, to delve into their journeys, motivations, and the future of the hemp industry. Join us as we gain insights into the dynamic world of hemp entrepreneurship and the pioneers shaping the market with their commitment to quality, sustainability, and wellness.

Tell us about yourself

I’m Shalini, I’m a creative problem-solver. I’ve grown up in Bangalore, Sophia’s, CMS and live between Barcelona and Bangalore. I come from a consulting background, operations, innovation and marketing – have worked across 10 countries with clients from MNCs to start-ups. In my professional journey, I worked with OpenIdeo, where we used tools from design thinking to solve social challenges and that made me very aware of the problems we face as humanity. The current Health crisis, Environmental crisis, Food & Water crisis to name a few.

We made a conscious decision to align ourselves with the UNs SDG, to contribute to a more sustainable future. To be a part of the solution, hence, Hemp. I run India Hemp & Co with Jayanti, my sister and co-founder. She comes from a background of Advertising, Marketing and entrepreneurship and is based in Bangalore.

Shalini and Jayanti Bhattacharya

What exactly is hemp?

Hemp is the most sustainable plant on the planet and has both nutritional and medicinal benefits. Hemp can be easily consumed in its various forms, such as flour, protein powders, cold-pressed oils, snacks, super seed mixes and extracts – which makes it very versatile and easy to add to daily meals.

It also has over 25000 uses right from fabric, bedding, oil, construction among many others. India Hemp & Co, provides an effective solution to balanced nutrition through a range of natural plant-based products using the key superfood ingredient in Ayurveda, Hemp.

Where did you first come across Hemp?

We’re a family that spends a lot of time in nature and we were aware of Hemp growing up, but only really understood the extent of its benefits when I had a back issue and was using it as medicine. In Europe, Spain especially, you can find specialty Hemp stores, it’s also easily available at supermarkets. There’s a whole museum in Barcelona dedicated to it! 


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What is the situation in India right now when it comes to hemp and other products?

Hemp is regulated under the FSSAI license and is fully legal to consume, sell and distribute. It’s treated no different from your sesame seeds or any other food grade seeds.

Industrial hemp farming is illegal in India, could you help us understand what this means. 

This is not entirely true. The government has had 2 pilot projects in Uttarakhand way back in 2019, it was the first States to where industrial Hemp is cultivated with regulations. We are seeing more States follow, given the success story and benefits this plant brings to the farmers, the environment and the consumers.


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Can you give me an in-depth forecast as to what changes will take place if hemp becomes legal in every other state? What are some realistic challenges and expectations India will encounter? 

From the growers side, maintaining quality, consistency and conserving local seed variety will be the initial challenges. Having agricultural centers and research institutions involved will be key in maximizing yield and ensuring healthy crops. From the regulatory angle: quality control and traceability will be key. In order to have a significant impact, this will need to scale globally. Once we have these in place, we can start building export capabilities since we know that there is a global demand. China has positioned itself very well as a global manufacturer.

Industry: We’re currently seeing the main uses in food, fiber and medicine. I expect to see a disruption across industries which will open up a lot of opportunities for existing players in industries such as construction for example to opt for more environment-friendly options.

In terms of the brands: With raw materials available at better prices, the market will see more specialization and less me-too brands. Innovation will be the name of the game and this healthy competition will only create more variety of sustainable food, beverage, medicine, clothing etc.

From the consumer perspective: We’ll see a range of options and make leading a more sustainable, environment-friendly lifestyle a lot more accessible. The main challenge so far has been creating awareness, but we don’t expect the adoption cycle to be any different from other innovations we’ll so past the curve to include the early majority, late majority (the skeptics) and the laggards to follow.

Will hemp farming alter our air and water quality? Are there any environmental disadvantages?

Hemp absorbs 1.5 tonnes more of CO2 than it produces. It’s a carbon negative plant. It also infuses the soil with Nitrogen, enriching it and eliminating the need for additional nutrients and pesticides. It is a very hardy crop with short cycles (4months), can be a very viable solution for the environment and health crises that we face today. There are no downsides to this.


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Can you speak to the people confused about the differences between hemp and marijuana? 

Well, Cannabis Sativa is the family of plants that both Hemp and Marijuana come from. The difference is important to note. Both have THC (the psychoactive component that gets you high) and CBD. Industrial Hemp plants that are regulated in India contain primarily CBD (negligible traces of THC – <0-3%) and will definitely NOT get you high. Think of Hemp as the sober, responsible cousin. 

India has had quite a strong yet complicated connection with Cannabis. It has been a very important part of our culture, since the Vedic period (end of the Bronze Age) it’s been mentioned as one of the 5 sacred plants in the Vedas. 

It’s only as recent as the 1980s when, due to the pressure from the US and their War on Drugs, that Cannabis was classified as a synthetic drug (which it is not) and banned. That’s also why we’re seeing different States in the US, revisiting and declassifying it as a drug. 

How versatile is hemp? Can you talk about its environmental, nutritional, and economic advantages?

Customers are often forced to compromise on ingredients, quality and/or packaging. The planet should not have to suffer because of this. We at India Hemp and Co. are presenting you with an alternative, more sustainable choice.

A natural, plant-based, nutrient dense superfood that protects your heart, brain and skin health. What’s more it’s packaged in 100% biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

  • Its protein content (32-39gm of protein per 100gms) vs chicken (32 gm of protein per 100gms*)   – think about that for a minute.  
  • It is rich in minerals such as Calcium, Iron and Potassium and Vitamin E
  • A good source for Omega 3 and Omega 6 (together they have anti-inflammatory properties) 
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Hemp seeds have several additional health benefits such as aiding in digestion, benefiting skin disorders, reducing symptoms of PMS and Menopause and risk of heart disease by producing nitric oxide (which dilates blood vessels leading to lowered blood pressure) from amino acid arginine which it contains in very high amounts.
  • Also incorporating more plant protein in your diet, reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, blood-cholesterol. 
  • Not only is it vegetarian but also vegan and gluten-free.

What are the products that India Hemp & Co produces? 

We have 4 products, available in sizes and combinations – Hemp Hearts, Hemp Trailmix, Hemp Protein powder and cold-pressed Hemp Seed oil. 


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Why did you want to start a business with Hemp? What was the reaction of your family?

When I faced a chronic back problem in 2017, we discovered the many nutritional and medicinal benefits of this plant that has played a key role in my healing process.

Locals have been reaping-benefits of this highly sustainable plant for centuries now and widely used in Ayurveda. It is both nutritious and great for the environment, proven to be an effective tool against deforestation as well as in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere – we now feel responsible for not just protecting it but actively promoting Hemp.

As creative problem-solvers and entrepreneurs, we would like to merge our love for nature along with our worlds of sport, art, and business to demystify this plant and bring to your table some natural, nutritious goodness, from the hills.

Our family had questions about it, they were not surprised since they saw the impact it was having on my healing journey and have been extremely supportive!

What is the aim with India Hemp & Co.?

Now is our time to redesign our relationship with nature and our own lifestyles to be able to live more sustainably with the limited resources the planet has. Our role as a business is to help inspire those changes.

We’re working towards building a more sustainable future, where all food and drink is sustainable. We’re driving that change, using hemp as our vehicle.


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Do you have a favourite customer story?

We have a couple! We had a customer, who’s brother had a severe case of psoriasis. He hardly got out because of the severity of it. His life has completely changed since using our Hemp seed oil. He is able to have a more free life, not bound by his conditions, his skin has improved considerably and they wrote to us to thank us. It was very touching.

We also have stories about fussy babies and grandparents who are getting their nutrition by simply adding this nutrient dense seed to their existing diet!

Hemp’s resurgence in India is not merely a return to tradition but a leap into the future of sustainable agriculture and industry. As awareness grows and regulations evolve, hemp has the potential to transform various sectors, from textiles and construction to health and wellness. The journey of hemp in India is a testament to the adaptability and resilience of both a crop and a culture, as they embrace a more sustainable and prosperous future together.


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