Starting poultry farming at the age of 16, today, Ravindra Metkar (55) owns 1.8 lakh hens on his farm spread across 50 acres in Amravati, Maharashtra, earning Rs 60,000 per day. The poultry farmer was invited to share his success story with 189 IAS trainees.
As bright lights shone on Ravindra Metkar while he stood on the podium at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), memories of his life’s challenges flooded his mind.
Ravindra, who grew up in a small village in the Amravati district of Maharashtra with his father working as a peon and three siblings, had a challenging childhood. At 16, he began poultry farming, and now, at 55 years old, he found himself standing before young Indian Administrative trainees at LBSNAA in Mussoorie, sharing his inspiring success story!
Every year, LBSNAA hosts guest lectures from distinguished civil servants to advise young IAS trainees on the workings of the administration. On 7 March, 2023, Ravindra was invited to address 189 trainees.
“I was the first farmer from Maharashtra invited to LBSNAA. It was a proud moment for my family and me. I had the opportunity to interact with future IAS officers who will serve as mukhiyas (district magistrates) across the country, and the citizens in those districts will become like their families,” he tells The Better India.
“Farmers make a significant contribution to the district’s productivity. So IAS officers should be aware of their real-life challenges and understand what farmers expect from them when they are posted in the districts. I got an opportunity to help the trainees understand this,” he adds.
Starting with just 100 poultry hens, Ravindra now owns 1.8 lakh hens on his 50-acre farm in Amravati. We sat down with him to understand his experiences as a poultry farmer and how he managed to achieve this feat.
Setting up business at 16
To overcome financial constraints, Ravindra worked at a chemist’s store that would earn him Rs 5 per day. “We did not own any ancestral land. Our financial condition was very poor. I remember going to college on foot as I did not have a bicycle. I used to repair old torn clothes to wear to college,” he shares.
Alongside his job at a chemist’s store, he ventured into poultry farming after seeing his neighbour’s success, who owned a 400-hen poultry farm. So in 1984, when Ravindra was just 16, he started poultry farming. And to help him kickstart this, his father gave him Rs 3,000 from his provident fund.
After getting a 15-day training from the government department, he set up a poultry farm with 100 hens on a kachha (mud) slab in his house. Having no prior experience, he had to sell eggs and broilers at a low cost compared to the market.
Gradually, Ravindra was able to expand his small business. He went from having 100 to 400 hens within 10 years.
In this period, Ravindra completed his master’s in commerce in 1992, and four years later, got married. “Since we came from an impoverished family and I was a farmer, many families rejected me for their daughters. Only after a lot of assurances from others was I able to get married,” he recalls.
Meanwhile, Ravindra bought an acre of land in Amravati. With a bank loan of Rs 5 lakh, he expanded the farm with 4,000 hens. “By then, I started earning well from the business and got my kachaa house renovated. Soon after, I expanded the farm to 12,000 hens,” he says.
But his happiness was short-lived. In 2006, India witnessed an outbreak of bird flu that took a toll on the poultry business. “It was the first bird flu in the country. People were scared to consume broilers and eggs. They even forced poultry farmers to kill their birds. I sold 16,000 broilers for Rs 2–3 per kg, which were earlier sold at Rs 50–60 per kg,” he says.
“But thankfully, I already had bought 15-acre land to practise farming. So for those two years, I continued to earn by growing fruits and vegetables like oranges, soybean, and tuar dal (pigeon pea),” he adds.
In 2008, he took a loan of Rs 25 lakh from a bank and restarted the business with 20,000 egg-laying hens. “With profits, I kept on increasing the birds at my farm. Today, I have 1.8 lakh hens,” says Ravindra, who has been doing poultry farming for the past four decades.
He shares that he now earns up to Rs 60,000 per day through this business.
Sharing learnings with new IAS officers
Over the years, Ravindra advanced his farm with improved technologies like indoor vertical farming, greenhouse farming, automatic watering, drip systems, remote sensing irrigation systems, and organic farming.
“I have employed only 50 workers to manage my poultry farm spread across 50 acres. Most of the work is automated. For example, from collecting eggs from broilers and giving feed to poultry birds, to collecting their excreta, everything is ensured using machines,” he informs.
Interestingly, in 2013, he was selected by the state government as one of the 80 progressive farmers to be sent to Europe for a 10-day trip to understand the nitty-gritty of expanding the farming business with machinery.
The next year, he was conferred with the Vasantrao Naik Award by the Maharashtra Government. Later in 2021, he received the Innovative Farmer Award from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).
In 2022, Ravindra was also conferred with the prestigious Jagjivan Ram Abhinav Kisan Puraskar by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
It was because of these awards that Ravindra says that he was able to establish an identity and free himself from corrupt officers at the grassroots. “Many local officers used to come to me to get hens and eggs for free on a regular basis. If denied, they would provoke neighbours to complain against me for bad odour coming from my poultry farm,” he says.
Other than this, he adds, “Usually, the Government announces compensation when farmers experience crop losses. For this, patwari (village registrar) is appointed to survey the damage. In the process, they seek a share in the compensation amount. If somebody refuses to give the amount, they remove their names from the list.”
Ravindra says he was able to highlight these challenges in front of IAS trainees at LBSNAA. He also advised them to not rely on junior officers only, and to visit farmers’ sites on their own to understand the challenges at the grassroots independently.
“Farmers will not be able to progress with farming alone. After sowing, it takes five months to generate income from the crop. During this period, they are left without any means to earn. So, officers should encourage farmers to adopt parallel businesses like poultry farming, mushroom farming, silk and cattle rearing, and vermicompost business to boost their income.”
Ravindra shares that it was crucial for him to put forward the farmers’ expectations to these future officers, and to be able to have received this opportunity felt like a great achievement. “At LBSNAA, reputed officers lecture the IAS trainees. And that day, a farmer was able to take the stage. I hope with my work, younger generations do not feel hesitant to seek a career in farming,” he says.
Edited by Pranita Bhat; All photos: Ravindra Metkar.