Made in India: Kosher Food From Gujarat Consumed in Israel
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India is opening many avenues of business between the two nations. But for Zeevabhai Mulishia from Junagadh, a business avenue presented itself almost three decades ago in the form of Kosher food, on his trip to Israel.
The Jewish community in Israel is quite particular about food quality and insists on Kosher food (that conform to the regulations of dietary law or ‘kashrut’). Hence, not many companies involved in food business can cater to the country.
Mulishia, 52, is a native of Mangrol village in Junagadh, Gujarat, and a farmer by birth. He was quite impressed by Israel, especially the Kibbutz system (a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture) practised there. Almost 30 years ago, he visited Israel to study the Hebrew culture and language and eventually settled there. An Israeli citizen now, Mulishia always wanted to do something for Israel and India.
With more and more, especially the younger generation, Israelis visiting India, the demand for Indian food kept spiking. We took advantage of this demand and turned it into a business model. We have a factory near Junagadh and we operate from Rajkot and supply around 45 Kosher-complied food products, including pickles, lentils, papad, agro products, different flour, and three varieties of rice, each labelled Kosher.Zeevabhai Mulishia, Kosher product supplier
“In Israel, all food in the main supermarket is Kosher, so is the food supplied in majority of hotels and restaurants. Not only food, but also items connected to food like paper napkins, spoons, and plates are stamped Kosher,” he added.
His younger brother, Sajan, operates from Rajkot. “We started with a few lakh rupees worth of products, and today our Kosher food supply and our turnover is roughly Rs 45 crore.”
When asked why other Indian companies have not entered the Kosher food business, Mulishia said, “The rules are very strict, and one has to abide by the laws. You cannot mix other ingredients and poor quality is not accepted at any level. People in Israel are very particular about whom they do business with. There is monitoring and checking at various levels.”
Modi’s Point Man In Israel
Muliashia is settled in Israel with an Israeli citizenship. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel in 2006 as chief minister of Gujarat and later in 2017 as the Prime Minister of India, Muliashia played an instrumental role because of his Gujarati connect.
“In 2006, Mr Modi stayed for around 10 days. He made sure to gather every bit of knowledge about desert farming, open farming, and irrigation. We had spent a lot of time together. PM Modi in those years probably had planned what he wants from Israel. I am happy that we have stronger ties between the two countries. Although India is 10 years behind, Israel has a lot to offer to India,” Mulishia, who is among one of the strong 130-member business delegation visiting India with the Israel Prime Minister, said.
Mulishia is also the vice president of the Indian Jewish Organization, and exports security system back home in India from Israel.
One of the leading members to bring people from Israel to the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Mulishia foresees a huge scope for development in agriculture, energy, security and pharmaceutical fields in India given Israel’s strength in innovation and modernisation.