Mechanical engineers Piyush Manish and Aditya Kumar, childhood friends and co-founders of ‘Puresh Dairy’, say they never intended to get into the milk business.
But the shocking visuals of milk adulteration and malpractices in the dairy industry prompted these two youngsters to conceive a business where that would no longer happen.
And for almost two years now, they have kept that promise – to serve unadulterated organic milk and milk products to customers, without malpractice or cruelty.
Corporates to startup
In 2017, Piyush attended an n event known as ‘Momentum Jharkhand’. It was presided over by ministers, senior executives from the Tata group and other major industries, projecting possible opportunities in Jharkhand.
Though Piyush, then working for the Tata Group, was inspired by speeches in the event, informal discussions with attendees revealed that the possibilities he was dreaming of were still a distant dream.
“The people said all the money spent was in vain as there is no local ecosystem to support it. So we decided to have a startup specifically in Ranchi to support local systems, encourage youngsters and develop an ecosystem to support new talent,” Piyush said.
Piyush, who was with the Tata Group for over a decade, moved to Ranchi, his hometown, in 2017. Once there, Piyush joined up with his Aditya, who was also working for Tata group, decided to quit their respective jobs and start a software company in 2018.
The duo, without any background in software development, decided to learn coding themselves, despite the lack of any local expertise.
“With Rs 15 Lakh as capital money, we struggled and decided to do business through a company named Minnova digital solutions,” Piyush said.
“We were a small company trying to enter the field of technology and developing software for mini-projects by governments, enterprises and companies,” says Piyush.
The duo had to visit companies and institutions to understand their functioning, operations, logistical issues and then innovate technological solutions to solve these problems.
One such occasion, Piyush and Aditya had to develop a distribution software for the dairy industry.
“We were shocked to see the condition of the industry,”
“From adulteration to inferior quality products, to the treatment done to the milk, to the antibiotics and also the handling of unsold milk – these revelations gave me trauma,” Piyush narrates.
Piyush said that the project made him decide one thing. “I was not going to feed this kind of milk to my two-year-old daughter,” Piyush said.
Piyush immediately procured a couple of cows, housed them in a small piece of land that the family owned and began getting milk for the family himself – straight from the source.
“The cows gave 10-12 litres of milk, and soon we started giving the surplus to friends, relatives and colleagues. They loved the pure quality of the milk,” he adds.
With that as a seed, Piyush asked his friend and business partner whether they could do something about solving the inferior quality milk issue in the industry.
“We both agreed to solve the mismanagement, and planned to scale the initiative,” he adds.
The idea did not entirely convince Piyush’s father.
“My father worked in the banking sector in his career and was convinced the venture would not succeed. He disbursed loans to many dairy companies. He warned me that about 50 per cent of these companies fail to succeed,” Piyush said.
“My father cautioned me that the dairy industry worked on very slim margins, and even small spillages or wastage could not be afforded. And I was going to sell my milk at almost double the average price,” he said.
The average cost of milk varies from Rs 35-Rs 46 per litre, against the Rs 60 per litre proposed by Piyush. Piyush said the warning made him conduct thorough research before he entered into the sector.
“We conducted interviews with 200 families over the next two months. Surprisingly, they wanted to have timely and fresh milk and had a willingness to spend more,” he added.
Piyush said they started ‘Puresh Dairy’ by selling five litres of milk per day initially, growing to 100 litres and now have 1,000 customers to serve.
Technology and quality interventions
Piyush says the quality of the milk remains the same – farm to customer.
“We have ensured that the milk, once procured, is maintained at four degrees Celsius at all times. Only organic fodder, rich in proteins, is fed to the cows. This ensures that the milk received is protein-rich and of the highest quality,” Piyush says.
“We also make sure the cows are free to roam, and the shed has a roof that is 20 feet high for good ventilation. The urine and manure get collected throughout the day to keep the area clean. These byproducts get used to grow organic fodder for the cows,” he explains.
The dairy entrepreneur says a mobile application was developed to take care of the logistics and solves the delay issue.
“The delivery person knows the precise quantity of milk or milk product to carry when he leaves for delivery. So no extra milk or product is travelling around the city. 28 boys are delivering milk products between 6 am, and 8 am,” Piyush adds.
The delivery person is tracked through the GPS at all times, ensuring it covers the desired path in the given amount of time.
Piyush said the timing ensures that the customers get fresh milk whenever ordered. The app allows the customer to order more or even cancel the milk up to 2 am.
“We do not want the milk to get delivered as per our convenience, and the customer consumes it long hours after it reaches the house,” he adds.
The added benefit is that the delivery persons are not tied up the whole day and are free to continue other activities.
“Many families realise they need additional milk late in the night. But there is no way to inform their daily milkman about the same at such odd hours. The app allows us to update orders, giving customers flexibility,” he adds.
The delivery charges are also cheaper, Piyush claims. “We charge Rs 4 per day for delivery against Rs 40 or 50 that a food aggregator charges to deliver food items. The membership plan ensures customer loyalty,” he added.
The year and a half old startup, which began operations in November 2018, clocks Rs 2 Crore yearly in terms of revenue.
“We sell in four cities including Ranchi, Ramgarh, Bokaro and Hazaribaug making Rs 15-18 lakh a month. The cost of cow milk is Rs 60 per litre, while ghee costs Rs 1,000 per kg, curd Rs 100 per kg and paneer at Rs 440 per kg,” Piyush said.
Not an easy road
Aditya Kumar added that the road was quite challenging to travel.
“The fact that we wanted to start a hi-tech facility with a mobile application in Jharkhand itself was a challenge. There was no setup in terms of infrastructure or local talent,” he adds.
The co-founder said the company remains bootstrapped with families to take care. “We are still evolving and planning to expand in other cities,” he adds.
The other thing was changing people’s buying habits. “People changed to buying milk pouches because it was convenient and affordable, not necessarily for the quality,” he explains.
Aditya said, “People often relate the quality of milk with fat content. We still face the issue daily with people questioning the quality of milk-based on fat and not other nutrients.”
“We are targeting the same model for other cities like Raipur, Patna, Indore, Bhubaneshwar, Nagpur and Chhatisgarh through franchisees. We aim to become an ‘Ola’ for dairy products,” Aditya adds.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)