Vasant Rao Kale from Medhpar village of Bilaspur district, Chattisgarh, was a government employee all his life. When he retired from his job, he wanted to pursue his long-loved passion, which was farming. However the usual challenges faced by a farmer were quite enough to make him apprehensive.
Vasant’s grandson, Sachin, would often visit him at the village and was fascinated by the stories of farming told by his grandfather. However, like many middle class families in India, Sachin’s parents also wanted him to become an engineer or a doctor. Sachin loved studying too, so he fulfilled his parents’ wishes by completing his mechanical engineering course from REC, Nagpur (now called as VRCE) in2000. A profound learner, Sachin also finished his MBA (finance) course just after his engineering and he is also a law graduate.
Sachin started his career by working with a power plant and rapidly grew to the top of his career over the years.
In 2007, Sachin also started his PhD in developmental economics. This was when the spark of entrepreneurship ignited in his mind. Thoughts like why he was working for someone else and not for himself kept disturbing him while he was still climbing the ladder of success in his corporate life.
“While thinking about options for entrepreneurship, I came to the conclusion that the food industry is the most important yet the most ignored one by us. That is when I recalled the lessons given by my grandfather about farming,” says Sachin, while speaking to TBI from his farm.
Sachin’s grandfather would often tell him how one can survive without earning money at any given point but one cannot survive without food. So if you know the art of growing your own food, you can survive at any condition. He would also take Sachin to their 25-acre ancestral land and talk about how it was his dream to revive the entire land into a farm someday.
Among various lessons that his grandfather gave him, Sachin focused on this one issue: the availability of labor.
Photo Source – Wikimedia
“My grandfather would encourage me to take up farming but at the same time he would warn me that it was a risky business and the biggest problem was labor. ‘You won’t get labor unless you help them earn more than what they are already earning,’ he would say,” recalled Sachin, who lost his grandfather last month.
Sachin started thinking about how he could benefit the farmers, but he knew that to become an agripreneur, he would have to first learn farming and set an example by drawing more profit.
In 2013, Sachin left his luxurious life in Gurgaon, where he was working as a manager for Punj Lloyd, getting a hefty salary of 24 lakh per annum, and shifted to Medhpar to become a farmer.
Sachin started tilling his land alone.
Talking about challenges, Sachin says: “Everything was a challenge, as I had absolutely no clue about farming. I had to learn everything from tilling the land to sowing the seeds.”
Sachin invested his entire provident fund of 15 years and decided that he would go back to the corporate life if he’s unsuccessful as he had a family that was dependent on him.
But his hard work, determination and skills paid off — he set up a model where his farm was useful all year round and gave maximum profit. Now the next target was to benefit the farmers from whatever he had learnt. He started researching about contract farming and was convinced that it could benefit the farmers with a sustainable source of earning.
Thus in 2014, Sachin launched his own company, Innovative Agrilife Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which helped farmers with the contract farming model of farming.
Sachin also hired consultants from the Agriculture College at Bilaspur to teach the farmers new technology and the right way of farming. The basic fundamentals of contract farming is very simple and profitable.
Contract farming involves agricultural production being carried out on the basis of an agreement between the buyer and farm producers. The buyer helps the farmers with funds and all means required for farming. The farmer in turn has to produce the crop suggested by the buyer and according to the buyer’s method. The minimum selling price is predefined and the buyer buys the entire crop on that price even if the market price is low. The farmer gets a share of the profit in case the prices are high in the market — a win-win situation for both the buyers and the farmers.
“It was difficult in the initial two years as no one trusted a young urban man telling a 70-year-old farmer about farming. But when I discussed the financials on papers, they started taking interest,” says the 36-year-old.
Sachin also continued to grow paddy and seasonal vegetables in his own 24-acre land. In time, he found that the farmers there grew only paddy, which was a matter of three to four months and the land remained idle for the next eight months. He then introduced to them a farming model where after harvesting paddy, they grow seasonal vegetables all year round. The farmers were impressed by Sachin’s farming techniques and started partnering with him.
Today, Sachin’s company is helping 137 happy farmers working on 200 acres of land and drawing a turnover of approximately Rs. 2 crore.
Sachin works with the latest technologies at his farms.
“I don’t buy their land, that way they lose the ownership. I just buy their produce and directly sell it to the retailers, which gives a very good margin. I also share a part of the profit with them,” informs Sachin.
Sachin’s wife Kalyani, who has a Master’s degree in communication, takes care of the financial part of the company.
When asked if she misses the city life, she says, “Yes we do miss going to the mall and the metro ride sometimes but more than that we enjoy the time we spend together. When Sachin was in a corporate job he would travel for 20 days a month. Moreover, we love the fresh air here and know that we are eating absolutely healthy food unlike in the city.”
Sachin dreams of seeing his company at the Mumbai stock exchange some day and making farming and farmers a major part of the economy.
Sachin and Kalyani Kale.
If you wish to know more about Sachin’s venture you can call him at 9425530260 or mail him at email@example.com