After completing his B Tech, Abhinav Singh accepted a job offer from Microsoft and later moved to England to live a comfortable life.
But after a while, he realised that despite having all the comforts a luxurious life has to offer he missed being close to his family and friends. “I used to travel across Europe and party on the weekends. It was quite like a dream but even though I felt happy I never felt accomplished,” he says.
Realising that his heart was always back home, he moved back to India in 2015. While working at Microsoft’s office in Gurgaon for almost a year, Abhinav knew what he wanted to do next. So, along with visiting his family back in Varanasi, he did his research on taking up agriculture as a profession.
“Our family has been into agriculture for generations, except for my father. We had a few acres of ancestral farmland at Chilbila, our native village in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. So, I thought why not make use of it? That’s how I started researching on what to cultivate and finally ended up taking up gerbera cultivation,” Abhinav tells The Better India.
Now he sells around 2,000 gerbera flowers a day, which earns him an income of Rs 1.5 lakh per month. Besides, his agri-venture provides livelihood to hundreds of people in his native village.
The ‘blooming’ business
Before attempting to cultivate gerbera, he says that he tried his hand at organic vegetable farming. “But for some reason, it didn’t work out and I had to give up that plan. So I researched for a more viable product to cultivate and stumbled upon the idea of gerbera farming,” he adds.
He further explains, “Through my research, I understood that these flowers are high in demand in states like Uttar Pradesh, especially during the wedding season. But since they are not cultivated here, they are mostly sourced from places like Pune and Bengaluru. That’s how I decided to give it a try.”
Gerbera flowers are one of the most widely used ornamental flowers across the world. They are available in several colours and have a longer shelf-life making them an economical agri-product. “Even after plucking, gerberas survive up to four days in summer and up to 10 days in winter, which gives us a lot of leverage unlike cultivating vegetables,” says the 36-year-old.
Cultivating the flowers came with a set of challenges, says Abhinav. “As it is a perennial plant, it requires cool climatic conditions. Therefore it is essential to set up a polyhouse where they can be grown under a controlled environment.”
To set up a 4000 sqft polyhouse unit in one acre, he needed an investment of Rs 58 lakh for which he relied on a government scheme that offered a subsidy of 50%. “Once we submit our project plan, we get an allocation of 12 months within which we have to construct the polyhouse, plant [saplings] and get the subsidy done. But it took me around two years to get the project and loan approved as gerbera farming was uncommon where we live,” he says, adding that he received Rs 29 lakh as subsidy from the government and the rest was managed with the loan and his own money.
Finally, in October 2020, he planted the first batch of gerberas on his one acre of land. “Almost after three months, in February 2021, we had our first harvest of gerbera flowers. Since then there’s no looking back,” he says, adding that he cultivates around 2,000 flowers a day with an average price of Rs 4 per flower.
The gerberas are always sold in bundles of 10 and their price fluctuates according to the demand in the market. “The price ranges from Rs 30 per bundle to Rs 110 per bundle, which is mostly during the wedding season,” he adds. “Now I earn around Rs 18 lakh per annum from the gerberas.”
Abhinav, who cultivates seven different colours of gerberas including red, yellow, magenta, pink, valentine pink, orange and white at his farm, says, “The quality that we have managed to produce is at par with the ones cultivated in Bengaluru and Pune, which have the best quality in India.”
“I market it from Varanasi as there is more connectivity to different parts of the country like Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru. Also, it serves as a key point for several districts nearby like Azamgarh, Ghazipur, Jaunpur, Chandauli and so on,” he adds.
His gerbera farm also provides direct and indirect livelihoods to several farmers in Chilbila village. “Turning to agriculture was something I always longed for. At the same time, I always wanted to provide livelihoods to at least a few of the villagers through my agri-venture,” he says.
“Now we have around 40 labourers on the ground who help us with the farm work and there are over 30 who are involved in packaging, transportation, etc. Altogether there are close to 100 people who are working for us in the village,” he elaborates.
Kusum Devi, a 28-year-old from Chilbila village who has been working at the gerbera farm for the past year, says, “It was difficult to manage the expenses at home with the meagre salary of my husband who works as a tractor driver. But since I have started working here, I have been earning a regular income of Rs 6,000 per month. Now I can take care of all the household expenses.”
Talking about his plans, Abhinav says, “Going forward, I would like to expand my venture into organic vegetable farming as well. Also, my dream plan is to transform my farm into a village resort that promotes agri-tourism,” he says.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)