Organic India's new CEO Kyle Garner talks sustainable sourcing, next steps for growth

Kyle Garner, formerly of New Chapter, recently joined Organic India, makers of consciously sourced teas and herbal supplements, as CEO. Here, he outlines his vision for the future, the state of sustainability and advice for natural products entrepreneurs.

If you had asked Kyle Garner six months ago where he would be, Boulder, Colorado is the last place he would have said. A Proctor & Gamble lifer, he had nearly 17 years experience with the massive company, culminating in spearheading the recent natural acquisition of New Chapter. “I thought I would always be a part of the New Chapter and P&G family until I retired,” Garner said.

But when a recruiter called seeking a recommendation for CEO of a natural brand, Garner’s interest piqued, and he asked which company was hiring. When Garner heard it was Organic India, makers of tulsi tea and supplements, he threw his hat into the hiring pool.

A few weeks into the job, Garner shares his plans for the conscious company and thoughts on effective corporate sustainability.

newhope360: What first attracted you to Organic India?

Kyle Garner: I had been drinking Organic India tulsi tea for years. I knew a little about the brand as a consumer, but when I started reading more about the founder and truly seeing all of the work they were doing, I realized Organic India’s mission was so critical to what made their company successful—they are working with thousands of normally marginalized Indian farmers and helping create a market for their products in a way that improves health. I started to fall more and more in love with their story.

But most people still don’t know the brand exists. As Organic India grows, there’s so much potential to not only be a part of a good business, but more importantly a business good for the planet and good for the people.

I was honored when Organic India reached out and made an offer. I felt like this was the right move both personally and professionally.

nh360: What’s your two-year plan for Organic India?

KG: We have two main initiatives. One is to simply make people aware that Organic India exists and what our mission is. This sounds obvious, but when consumers learn more about the company, they’ll grow more passionate about what we’re doing. If we simply let consumers in the U.S. market know there’s a company going beyond sustainable agriculture, we have a right to win. We’ll accomplish this growing awareness and distribution by working with our retail partners in the natural channel to educate store associates and consumers about the brand.

The second part relates to building infrastructure and working closely with our team in India to make sure we grow in a way to keep up with demand that maintains our mission. It won’t do any good if we just sell more turmeric. We have to sell more organic turmeric that’s farmed in the manner we believe is best for the agriculture surrounding the farm and for the farmers themselves. We must build that infrastructure—we don’t want to become a company that’s so big we have to buy third-party materials and run the risk of adulteration. The way we’ll do that is by building out our network of farmer partners.  

nh360: Consumers are increasingly resonating with sustainable products. Is ethical sourcing scalable?

KG: I think it is. For us, the industry challenge is that the definition of sustainable dramatically varies. There are certain third-party verifications that we can rally around, such as USDA Organic, non-GMO, biodynamic and to an extent fair trade. But when you hear people say, “we’re sustainable,” or “we give back to Mother Earth,” that’s harder to define. Organic India’s sustainability model is so closely tied with building out the supply network ourselves through direct relationships with the farmers. When you build a decent-sized, growing market for something like tulsi in the United States, you have to work with farmers to expand in the right way.

We often talk about practicing not just sustainable agriculture, but also regenerative agriculture. Conventional farming’s pesticides and chemical herbicides damaged some farms in India. To me, our model means restoring the land with organic farming. What better gift to give the next generation even if it’s on a small scale?

nh360: What’s your top takeaway for beginning natural entrepreneurs hoping to launch a sustainable brand?

KG: The purpose of your company must be tied to something bigger than yourself. Business is about doing more than just operating a company for profit and loss. It’s about doing more for the greater good. To steal a line from our friends at the B Corporation, conduct business in a way that’s not just best in the world, but also the best for the world. This is a mindset companies should aspire to.

A lot of people have the belief that if you invest in sustainability, you’re going to lose money. It’s actually quite the opposite. Sustainability and purpose inspires employees, making them more passionate about their work. And if nothing else, sustainability is better for the bottom line as well.

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