By TAPASH TALUKDAR
A vegetable vendor carrying an IIM-Ahmedabad MBA degree sounds like a spoof of some 1970s Hindi movie on unemolyment, but ask Kaushalendra, who has chosen to do the unthinkable, and he will give you an eye-opener: “No business is small, as long as it delivers a big mission.”
Kaushalendra ventured into selling vegetables in Bihar after receiving MBA degree from India’s top B-school IIM-A. He topped the PGP-ABM batch in 2007 but declined offers from MNCs and boarded a train to Nalanda to work with his ‘own people’. The son of a farmer, who mostly studied under street lamps, always had an aim to revolutionise the lives of farmers.
In 2008, he formed KNIDS Green in 2008, bringing together more than 3,000 farmers to deliver fresh vegetables in major districts of Bihar. This public-private partnership firm was set up with the support of Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), which supplies fresh vegetables in air-cooled push-carts.
In the last two years, Kaushalendra has seen the emergence of a new Bihar where people have the freedom to invest on their consumption patterns. “I inherently sensed that administration in Bihar have provided people a new freedom,” says the 29-year-old entrepreneur, who sees his mission in making Bihar a “vegetable hub of the country”. Towards this purpose, says Kaushalenra, the challenge before KNIDS is to bridge the gap between growers and end-consumers through a systematic supply-chain technique and effective distribution network.
KNIDS encourages farmers to produce organic vegetables and monitors the grading, sorting and packaging of the product before supplying it to its partnered vendors for immediate distribution to residential, commercial and market places. This integrated process has wiped out the commission of middle-men and raised the farmers’ income by more than 35%. Kaushalendra’s brand, Samriddhi has become a household name in Patna, Ara, Jahanabad and Nalanda districts of the state. Samriddhi’s designer push-carts offers vegetables at competitive prices to consumers, in some cases 15% lesser than the local vendor.
“It is a volume-game,” he says. The current 50 push-carts help in increasing the shelf-life and reduce the wastage of agri-produce to a large extent,” says Kaushalendra. “Then, there are display ads on these fibre-frame carts, which the firm re-invests into strengthening the supply-chain, distribution processes and firmly adds number of farmers.” As a true marketer, Kaushalendra even makes free home deliveries for larger volumes and issue cash memos to maintain transparency. “In vegetable business, you should know how to sell fast,” he says, before adding, “Chances are that our vegetables might be reaching to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s residence too.”
Two years in business, KNIDS has already done a trade of Rs 4 crore and is hoping to foray into Dubai markets for exotic vegetables. For which, Kaushalendra is setting up a poly-house to grow various varieties of bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower etc. Plans are afoot to raise Rs 50 crore through venture capital funding to expand the reach and cover the entire state.
“It took me nine months to hire my first employee,” he reminisces. “The locals did not understand the concept of a start-up firm.” The Friends of Women World Banking provided him a loan of Rs 5 lakh to kick-start his venture. And Kaushalendra kept their faith in him. “Things are changing now,” he says. Out of his staff of 40, half of them have joined him leaving behind their urban postings. For a young-entrepreneur like him, who saw floods destroying villages over the last many years, providing regular incomes to farmers is an over-whelming feeling. But he is looking ahead instead of recounting his achievements, when he says, “The excitement has just begun.”
Courtesy: The Economic Times