INTERVIEW: ROHIT SHARMA
FOUNDER & PRESIDENT
INDIAN INDUSTRIAL HEMP ASSOCIATION
Rohit Sharma is Founder and President of the Indian Industrial Hemp Association, and Managing Director of AMRO Organic Hemp Pvt. Ltd. Through more than five years working in the hemp industry, Rohit has contributed to projects in a wide range of sub-sectors — from medicines and food to building materials and composites. He serves on the European Industrial Hemp Association’s (EIHA) ad-hoc advisory group.
HT: How would you describe the interest in hemp in India these days? What’s the level of enthusiasm among those looking into hemp farming, processing, etc.?
RS: Five years back we used to get one mail in three months. Now we get 70 to 100 emails per day regarding hemp products, farming, legalities and imports. It shows the level of interest, popularity and enthusiasm for hemp in India, and the IIHA team is doing all efforts to increase and support this movement.
HT: How do you see the hemp industry building itself out in India? What kind of hemp products do you think will be the first to really take off?
RS: Development will be in medicinal, food and cosmetics first, followed by clothes, bio-composites and construction.
HT: What are the main remaining challenges with respect to legislation and regulation for a vibrant hemp industry in India?
RS: IIHA has covered and furnished all legal aspects required by the Indian Government as per evidence based approach, we are know just filling for permission in all states one by one. Uttarakhand and Jharkhand are already finalised by us others will also happen soon.
HT: What are the needs regarding development of processing facilities for hemp products? What are the infrastructural challenges or goals?
RS: India is ready with everything required for growing and harvesting, through processing. But the real challenge is marketing, which will require a lot of funds to disseminate the right information about the benefits of hemp, and to remove the taboo.
HT: What possibilities do you see for financing at various levels of the hemp value chain?
RS: I think foreign direct investment can play major role in financing. IIHA is already working on this and we support and assist such groups and companies who wish to adopt toll processing, contract farming or packaging in India which will help them a lot in increasing their profit margin by getting quality work at lesser price. Parallelly, this will also help India to grow its Hemp market.
HT: What are India’s biggest chances in the hemp export markets?
RS: India will play big big role in the hemp export market within five years, we will definitely take over fiber dominatingly looking at our expertise in jute and allied fiber. Also with good quality and cost effective Hemp products India will also attract other domains.
HT: How did you, personally, come to be interested in hemp?
RS: It’s a long story. It started with the war on this plant. I come from a farm family and we’re still active farmers. This plant used to be a lot of trouble for us, as it grew wild every year on our field and other farmers’ fields. We found ourselves deploying more and more labor to cut it down every year which was very expensive. Also, once the police came to ask why we are growing marijuana in our field. So finally I started looking for a solution on Google — what chemical we could use to destroy this plant. That shows how little we knew about hemp. The thing is, I couldn’t find anything bad about hemp and, quite the opposite. All this led me to study and learn more about it, and . . . that was it. Now I’m here nurturing this plant all over INDIA. So I’d say I’m too small to have chosen hemp. Actually, hemp chose me. Namaste!