When Sharda Nanda immigrated to Australia from Nepal in 2007, his priority was finding work in his profession as an engineer to support his family. Now he is the founder of Simsha, a national supplier of quality frozen fruit grown in North Queensland, with plans for future growth underway.
Sharda was grateful to find work as an engineer after arriving in Australia, but he harboured a dream of running his own business one day. In January 2014, Sharda took his first steps down that path by becoming a silent partner in a banana farm. This venture inspired him, and in November 2014 he bit the bullet, quit his job and purchased his own banana farm.
Unfortunately, Sharda learnt the hard way that being a good engineer didn’t, by default, make you a good farmer. By September 2015 the farm had failed and Sharda was back at the drawing board. This failure, however, did yield fruit; it sowed the seeds for his next venture.
While running the banana farm, Sharda noticed that only 60% to 70% of his produce ended up in the supermarkets with the rest being thrown away due to supermarkets only wanting perfect looking fruit for their customers. Sharda started freezing left-over produce and customers found a use for this frozen goodness and kept asking for more. After closing the banana farm, Sharda responded to this need by opening Simsha in 2016 – bringing quality frozen fruit to the market.
From the beginning, Sharda’s goal was to sell 100% Australian frozen fruit products. However, given that he sources all of his quality produce from farms in North Queensland, his products are actually 100% North Queensland!
Simsha’s frozen fruits are processed completely naturally and this is something Sharda is very proud of. His products contain no additives or preservatives and water and sugar is never added. The sugar content listed on the nutritional labels is from the fruit itself – naturally.
Simsha’s signature products are frozen banana, mango, pineapple, passionfruit and avocado prepared in a variety of ways – whole, chunked, halved, diced, pureed, pulped or juiced. However, Sharda can source any vegetables and fruits that grow in Tropical North Queensland.
Something Sharda is also proud of is Simsha’s manual processing. His staff hand-select each piece of fruit and check it for defects and optimum ripeness before it is processed. This care and attention means customers get maximum flavour and sweetness. Staff also hand peel bananas and mangoes and pineapples are always cut by hand.
Machine-peeled bananas need to be reasonably hard in order for the machine to function properly, resulting in unripe bananas that lack flavour and sweetness. Manual processing means human eyes check each piece of fruit for optimum quality and ripeness. Careful hand-peeling also avoids the possibility of skin being packed with the fruit. This care and attention to detail is why clients love Simsha’s quality products.
Simsha services a variety of clients including food manufacturers, food service distributors, wholesalers, franchisers, retailers, restaurants and cafes. The business currently works with wholesalers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, as well as supplying to local businesses.
Squeeze Me juice bar in Townsville is a regular client and The Tiny Mountain Brewery on Palmer Street uses Simsha’s pineapple and mango juice and puree to create their delicious Pineapple Mango Quencher beer. There will soon be a dedicated retail outlet at Simsha’s processing premises in Garbutt for retail customers to purchase locally-grown fruits such as mangoes, passionfruit, pineapples all year round, frozen fresh from the farm.
Simsha currently employs three to four local staff in the winter and up to ten or more during the summer mango season. The company has enjoyed steady growth, with annual turnover increasing 20% to 30% each year, despite the 2019 flood and COVID-19.
Given this steady growth and planned retail outlet, Sharda expects to be able to employ more permanent staff in the future. Sharda and his marketing agent are currently negotiating with some of the big supermarket giants to include Simsha’s products in their range; a very exciting prospect for this high-quality, niche Townsville business.
Not one to stand still and wait for things to happen, Sharda also reached out to Trade and Investment Queensland (TIQ) for assistance in exporting his products overseas. TIQ is the Queensland Government’s dedicated global business agency, helping Queensland exporters take their products to world markets.
TIQ connected Sharda to Study Queensland, a state government organisation dedicated to promoting Queensland as a premier study destination. From here, Sharda was connected to university students from some of the state’s top universities, including JCU, who analysed the overseas’ market to find export opportunities that Simsha could pursue. Singapore is a current possibility.
Sharda speaks highly of TIQ’s assistance.
“At TIQ, I have my own Business Development Manager based here in Townsville, Vic O’Keefe, who has an agricultural background which is ideal for my business. Vic has been extremely helpful and I recommend getting in touch with TIQ if exporting is something you’re considering.”
When asked about the challenges Simsha has faced as a business, Sharda says the main issue is people comparing Simsha’s products and prices with inferior and cheaper imported produce.
“Our customers love us for the quality of our 100% North Queensland produce and we always say to people… if you’re seeking cheaper, overseas produce, then we’re not the right business for your needs.”
When asked how he uses his own products at home, Sharda doesn’t hesitate.
“Mango, banana and passionfruit smoothie is my all-time favourite!” he laughs, “And I’m looking forward to trying the Pineapple Mango Quencher beer when I’m next in town!”
By Susan Mattocks for BDmag