What is common between Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, Pauline Bonaparte, French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte’s sister, and Poppaea Sabina, the second wife of Roman Emperor Nero?
Legend has it that all these women took utmost care of the donkeys and used the animal’s milk to preserve their skin and beauty.
Rich in a variety of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, and great for your skin, check out range of soaps made from donkey’s milk on the TBI shop here.
Donkey’s milk has a long history; and its healing and cosmetic virtues have been known since antiquity, when doctors recommended it to treat several diseases.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, donkey milk has “particular nutritional benefits,” and is similar to mother’s milk as it is rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It is also considered as an effective alternative for infants who are allergic to cow’s milk.
When Pooja Kaul and Rishabh Tomar learnt about the nutritional properties of donkey’s milk during their Masters in Social innovations and entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Tuljapur, the duo decided to spread awareness and help donkey owners reap benefit from the animal.
Speaking to The Better India, Pooja says:
I was interested in writing a thesis about the dairy industry, and during my research, I came across the history of donkey’s milk. According to the 19th Livestock census of India, there are 0.32 million donkeys in India as of 2012, a decrease of 27 per cent compared to the previous census in 2007. That figure disturbed me and at the same time, made me curious.
Explaining the reasons behind the decline, she further adds:
For many donkey owners, they are a liability as they are not aware of the benefits. Most of the owners are seasonal workers, and often they migrate, leaving the donkeys behind without food and shelter. This has reduced their life expectancy to merely 6-7 years from 20 years.
Creating A Social And Economic Impact
On further research, the duo found out that one litre of milk can cost anything between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. Banking on the economic aspect, Pooja and Rishabh took the less travelled path and approached the donkey owners of Solapur.
We collaborated with 15 donkeys owners of Solapur’s Lashkar community. Under the mentorship of TISS Professor Neelam Yadava, we made around 200 soaps from donkey’s milk in October 2017. Within two months we sold all of them, says Rishabh.
The owners are now earning Rs 2,000 per litre of donkey milk, “We derive milk from each donkey on every alternate day and have fixed the mark of 200-350ml per donkey to ensure proper nutrition for their babies,” he adds.
The positive feedback from people motivated the duo and seeing the owners prosper pushed them to continue the initiative after their graduation.
During the same time, Pooja bagged a job with the Rajasthan government. While her family advised her to take up a stable job instead of working on a startup that involved risks and uncertainties, she decided to not give up on her dreams.
Pooja and Rishabh launched Organiko in October 2018 intending to empower the migratory workers and promote the importance of donkey milk in India.
We started the organisation with Rs 28,000. Earlier I used to make soaps as part of my hobby, but for the organisation, both of us underwent a training programme from a cosmetic institute in Mumbai, says Rishabh.
They approached donkey farmers in Ghaziabad and Noida, but it took a lot of time before they were convinced about the organisation and its objective.
Donkey’s milk might sound classy, but Gadhe ka doodh doesn’t. It was an arduous task to make them realise that we will be working for their own benefits. But once they came on board, they gave the best care to the donkeys, says 24-year-old Pooja.
They launched two kinds of soaps, namely, The Donkey Milk Natural Ingredient Soap and The Donkey milk Charcoal and Honey Soap.
While the first soap is a gentle cleanser which purifies and smoothens your skin, the second one has anti-bacterial properties and specialises in treating acne and removing blackheads and dead skin.
The soaps have received excellent feedback from people who have used them.
I have used both soaps and seen great results on my face. I have sensitive skin, along with an acne problem, and they helped me in controlling both the problems, says Himanshi Gupta, one of their customers.
While the product has performed well, what is even more heartening is that the lives of donkey owners improved.
Today, around 25 families who own donkeys are directly benefiting from Organiko. Every family earns up to Rs 25,000 per month. They don’t have to move from place to place, so their children’s education does not get interrupted. We have also provided shelters to 50 plus donkeys, claims the duo.
Organiko is also engaging women from the community itself and giving skill training to make skin care products.
“Till now, we have trained four women. They are now contributing to their household income,” says Pooja.
For their incredible work to emancipate marginalised communities, the organisation has received multiple awards and grants like Women Entrepreneur of the year by Asiad Literature summit 2019, Women leadership and Excellence Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2019, Social Business Champ 2018 by Yunus center, Bangladesh, WEE (Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment) fellow at IIT Delhi and winner of Startup Conclave 2018.
With a staff strength of six, Pooja and Rishabh aim to expand their mission by collaborating with donkey owners from all over the country.
They are also working on launching other products like Face Wash, Face Pack, Hair Oil, Milk powder made from donkey milk.
Using donkey milk is still a fairly new concept in India. There are several hurdles we face on a daily basis, one of them being the financial crunch. But the good thing is that now the donkey owners are willing to work with us without much convincing. We chose a difficult path, but patience is the key if an impact has to be made, signs off the duo.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)