How often do you come across urban, educated 20-somethings taking up farming as a full-time gig? Rarely, correct? Meet Chirag Tekchandaney, Jahan Peston Jamas, Sanvar Oberoi, Delzaad Deolaliwala Yash Kotak, Avnish Pandya and Sumit Shah, all friends from the same batch from the commerce stream of HR College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai, who took up agriculture to turn it into a ‘sexy’ and lucrative business opportunity.
The Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco), which came about in 2013, is India’s first industrial and medicinal hemp (cannabis) company. Located in Mumbai the company works with Union and State governments to assist farmers to improve their socio-economic standards by utilising cultivation of cannabis for industrial, construction, and pharmaceutical purposes.
Delzaad Deolaliwala, one of the co-founders of Boheco says, that all the seven friends wanted to do a business, but had no clue what. Jahaan Peston Jamas, one of his friends, returned from a visit to Australia and got back the idea of entering the hemp industry.
“We also read an article which said that 70% of the Indian workforce is agricultural. However, their contribution to the economy is a mere 13-14 per cent. And thus came the idea of venturing into agriculture and empowering farmers. Research regarding hemp cultivation and hemp products began in 2012. By the end of 2012, we quit our jobs and by January 2013, Boheco was founded. Our goal was to develop hemp as an economical crop,” says Delzaad.
Hemp or cannabis are of two types. Cannabis sativa (contains little or none of the psychotropic THC, which causes the sedative effect) and the other is cannabis indica (used as a recreational drug also called marijuana). The National Policy on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, 1985, allows cultivation of cannabis for horticultural and industrial uses. The industrial hemp has only 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) and can be used to make nearly 25,000 products including textiles, oil, milk, paper, biodegradable plastics, tofu, flour, protein powder, bio-fuel and construction material.
BOHECO has partnered with Hemp Foods Australia, one of the world’s most well-known hemp foods brands. The partnership has developed strategically, to make good quality Hemp food-grade products available in India.
The multiple varieties of Hemp Foods include:
- Hemp seeds
- Hemp seed oil – cold pressed hemp seed
- Hemp proteins – basic processed hemp hulls
BOHECO has launched a wide range of not only hemp, but also other indigenous fabrics such as Himalayan Nettle, which are processed through their handloom unit based out of India and a range of power loom fabrics that they source from their hemp collaborators across the globe.
Hemp is also used in constructions of a more sustainable and environment-friendly Green building materials. This need for creating a much-needed solution has propelled and encouraged BOHECO to have its own unique, highly sustainable construction material called Hempcrete developed from Industrial Hemp.
Over the past three years, BOHECO has also actively been collaborating with the Special Secretary – Department of Revenue and Director of Narcotic Control for the strategic exploration of provisions of NDPS (Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances) Act focused on the industrial and medicinal applications of cannabis.
Equally, BOHECO has entered a formal partnership with NBRI (National Botanical Research Institute) to create low and high THC varieties of industrial and medicinal grade cannabis, under an official research license to be granted by relevant central and state government ministries.
BOHECO was adjudged the 2nd Runner-up at the recently held Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2016-17.