Everyone around Rakesh Chowdhary (40) thought he had lost his mind when he told them that he wanted to farm instead of doing a job.
Born in a farming family from Rajpura village in the Nagaur district of Rajasthan, the lifestyle came naturally to him. However, his family had different plans for him.
They wanted him to complete his education, get a job and never look back at farming.
“If you leave home and get educated, most people expect you to get a job and not do farming. I find this a problem with the youth, who would prefer a Rs 7,000 job instead of taking up agriculture. However, for me, it was always clear that I’d end up on the farm,” he says.
It was when he found out about the government’s scheme of contractual farming that he was convinced to turn his traditional farm into a medicinal one.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’ The officers that I met in the medicinal plant department guided me towards highly profitable medicinal plants,” he says.
While his heart was set on medicinal farming, what he lacked was resources. His wife took out a loan by mortgaging her jewellery.
In 2004, he used a portion of his family farms and sowed his first crop — mulethi (liquorice) and flame lily. The decision turned out to be a disaster.
“Rajasthan is dry and 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.
Knee-deep in debt and losses, he decided to give it another try. This time, he put his only tractor at stake and borrowed money from a private lender.
By 2005, Rakesh had cracked the code of farming. He started farming aloe vera and selling it to customers at Rs 1.5 per kg.Today, Rakesh earns Rs 10 crore annually by planting herbal and medicinal plants with his company, Vinayak Herbal.
He has farms all over the country, spanning states such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Gujarat. In these regions, he engages over 50,000 farmers in organic medicinal farming.