When Ciolino opened a fruit market in a shopping mall in a city in southern India, it was the first in the country to offer fresh produce.
Now, more than half of the fruit and vegetables sold there are homegrown.
But the business has also become a haven for the growing black market of apples, as consumers search for cheap and fresh fruit and spices at bargain prices.
A year ago, the market, in the heart of the city of Nashik, had around 2,000 people buying fruit and vegetable from vendors.
But now, there are around 1,500.
Some have taken to selling raw apples, and others sell frozen or canned ones.
Ciolino owner Ram Vilasanath says the demand is there, but the supply is not.
“There are more and more shops hawking fruits and vegetables in Nashik.
The market is now almost deserted,” he said.
“A lot of people are not buying the produce at the market.
But when they go to the market in their own homes, they find that there is more and better produce there,” he added.
The fruit market has become an important source of income for the farmers who make up the bulk of the Nashik community.
Farmers, who pay about 2.5 lakh rupees ($3,500) a month in taxes, pay only about 1,000 rupees to Ciolinos farmers for fresh fruit, said the owner.
They sell their produce to the shops, and sell the rest of the produce to their families.
“When I came to India, the people had a different view of me.
But today, the community is accepting me,” said Ram Vilath, who runs the fruit market.
“I am not in the business of selling fruit, but of distributing it.
The farmers are doing it for me.
They have helped me a lot,” he concluded.
Ravinder Kale, a farmer from Nashik’s Jangli district, said that the demand for apples was overwhelming.
Kale, who is also the director of the Indian Federation of Agricultural Enterprises, a trade group, said a number of farmers were struggling to find enough land to grow the fruits.
“The demand has grown and the farmers are now selling more fruits than they were before.
The fruit market is an economic lifeline for many farmers,” Kale said.