From GoMo to more

A crunchy, munchy snack food with health benefits may seem like a contradiction in terms. GoMo is not and that is unusual. Just as unusual are the ingredients that have gone into the creation, selling and sustaining of a breakthrough product that emerged from a chance meeting in 2016 between Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata and Stephen Badger, the chairman of American confectionary giant Mars Inc.

That meeting was the starting point for what promises to be a long and fruitful relationship for the two institutions involved. The first outcome of the coming together is GoMo. There are more in the pipeline for a partnership based on a shared vision of better health and nutrition. The goal is to build a nutrition platform through which tasty, healthy and locally made products can be brought to the market.

There is a double bonus in the GoMo initiative, which in its current avatar is aimed at the rural populace. Apart from nutritional benefits for consumers, the supply chain of the undertaking is designed to provide entrepreneurs in villages with livelihood opportunities. Uncommon collaborations of the kind are par for the GoMo course.

The ongoing phase of the project commenced in January 2019, when the product was launched, and it is spread over 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and Gujarat. Mars handles the manufacturing at its facility in Khed in Maharashtra and the Trusts drive community-based sales. There was the option of reaching GoMo to people through government nutrition programmes. The venture has chosen what is reckoned to be a superior path.

Healthy bites

  • GoMo is a legume-based snack; its main ingredient is split yellow pea flour
  • It is rich in proteins and is fortified with key nutrients
  • GoMo sells in packs costing Rs10 and Rs20 in three flavours
  • 1.2 million packets of GoMo have been sold thus far
  • 927 ‘social entrepreneurs’ sell the product

The Trusts are developing a network of social sector enterprises to market GoMo. The conduits are women entrepreneurs in villages who intersperse their sales pitch with messages on nutrition. The idea appears to be working: in excess of 1.2 million packets of GoMo have been sold thus far and more than 1,700 village women earn sales commissions.

These ‘social entrepreneurs’ make upwards of 1,000 a month but there is more to it than the money. “I was a housewife and the house was my world. I was bored of it; I wanted to get out and do something,” says Shikha Verma, a 26-year-old from Palhari in the Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh. “Becoming a social entrepreneur was my way out.”

The different strokes theme has been a constant with GoMo. The product was developed in association with the University of California, Davis, and the St John’s Research Institute, Bengaluru. Yellow peas, rich in protein and fibre, are the base ingredient and clinical trials established the nutritional value of the newbie on the snack block.

GoMo has set the stage for the Tata Trusts-Mars combo to look farther afield in nutrition. “We want to have farmer groups from whom we can procure [raw food material],” says Mansharan Seth, an advisor with the Trusts. “We are also working on a product for pregnant and lactating women. Down the line there could be other foods, forms and shapes delivering nutrition in a fashion similar to GoMo.”