Hailing from a farming family from Rajpura village in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan, Rakesh Chowdhary (40) was sure he wanted to take up farming as a full-time career.

So, after completing his BSc from Jaipur, he moved back to his village to start his herbal farm.

“If you leave home and get educated, most people expect you to get a job and not do farming. I find this problem with youth, who would prefer a Rs 7,000 job instead of taking up agriculture. However, for me, it was always clear that I’ll end up on the farm,” he says.

In 2003, while looking for different farming businesses, he came across the State Medicinal Plant Board’s scheme of contractual farming.

In the scheme, the government was offering subsidies to farmers who would do contractual farming of medicinal plants.

While Rakesh faced a lot of resistance from other farmers and his family, he decided to take the leap and used a portion of his family farms and sowed his first crop — mulethi (liquorice) and flame lily.

“It was a disaster. Rajasthan is dry, hot in the summers and extremely cold in winter. I did not look deep enough into the climate of the place and the requirements of the plant. I lost a lot of money. I was beyond consolation at that point,” he recalls.

Although knee-deep in losses he did not give up and sowed his second crop — aloe vera. By 2005, Rakesh had cracked the code of farming. All that remained was to procure customers. 

“Reaching out to farmers became a task for me as I had never been out of Rajasthan, and I was a little nervous too. It was an internal struggle that I had, but I kept pushing myself,” he says.

He reached out to farmers, spoke to them about the benefits of medicinal farming and collaborated with them.

After nearly a decade, in 2017, he launched his firm Vinayak Herbal.

He grows and sells over 120 varieties of medicinal herbs including aloe vera, ashwagandha (withania somnifera), chamomile, stevia, chia, akarkara (anacyclus pyrethrum), methi (fenugreek), and saunf (fennel).

Presently, Rakesh earns Rs 10 crore annually. He has farms all over the country in states including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Gujarat, engaging over 50,000 farmers to do organic medicinal farming.