Gobinder Singh Randhawa from Landa village in Punjab comes from a family of farmers. However, in 2003, the then village head, Sardar Baldev Singh and Sardar Jagjit Singh Kapoor became his role models for their apiculture practices.
Inspired by the idea, Gobinder attended a week-long course at the Punjab Agriculture University and started beekeeping with two other friends. “The prospect seemed lucrative and we took a loan of Rs 2.8 lakh for the business to buy 120 honey boxes,” he tells The Better India.
However, his two friends dropped out soon after they felt the business would not pick up, leaving Gobinder to run the business alone. Apart from the initial hiccups, Gobinder faced many challenges, even to the point of selling his family’s gold jewellery. But the risks paid off as his business today earns him crores.
Earning From Bee Venom & Propolis
Talking about his journey, Gobinder says, “In 2004, a Varroa mite infection spread among bees across Punjab. About 99 per cent of the bees died due to the infection. We lost a majority of the boxes and only a few frames of the bee colonies survived. The loss was immense.”
That’s when his friends dropped out. “One of my friends left for Australia, while the other ventured into another business,” he adds.
The 39-year-old says that he decided to continue, and in 2009 he obtained licences for import and export for honey. “But the business was slow and it became difficult to survive. I made sales of Rs 20,000 a month, while on the other hand the loans and its interest started piling up in lakhs,” he explains.
Gobinder says that he had invested a considerable sum in setting up shop and was left with less money for marketing and promotion. “The sales suffered, and I eventually sold my family’s gold jewellery a couple of times. But the money could only be used for repayments and reducing the burden of loans.”
Over the years his business slowly picked up, with more orders coming in from the USA. “The exports started by 2012-13 and the sales increased steadily. I earned more profits,” he says, adding that besides the domestic market, his products receive a significant demand from the USA. He is now targeting the European market.
At present, the business earns him Rs 4-5 crores a year. “I earn from products like honey, bee wax, bee pollen, bee propolis, bee venom, royal jelly and trading bee colonies,” he adds.
He has also established a group of over 310 farmers whom he has guided and helped in the beekeeping business.
Narender Pal Singh is one such farmer that Gobinder has helped. “I set up two shops to sell honey in the past 10 years after Gobinder assured me of good profits. Today, I earn Rs 35,000 per month as profits after negating the sales and other expenses,” he adds.
Gobinder says that some challenges continue as farmers tend to spray pesticides near bee boxes, which kills the bees. “The farmers are made aware of the same and have become more sensitive over the years. But the losses continue as there continue to be cases of bee box thefts,” he adds.
Looking back at his journey, Gobinder says he does not regret dealing with any of the challenges and hard times. “Patience is of utmost importance in any business. A salaried employee starts receiving returns in a month. But it is uncertain with a business. However, I enjoy doing business as it is far more rewarding than a job,” he adds.
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Edited by Yoshita Rao