For Veer Shetty Biradar, his first brush with hunger and starvation came in 2006 when he travelled to Beed in Maharashtra.

He realised that residents of this district faced this very often, and the Telangana resident decided to find a way to help them.

“I wanted to produce food for the future generations after coming back from Maharashtra,” says 52-year-old Veer, referred to as the Millet Man of Telangana.

He started growing different millets as these crops require less water and grow in adverse weather conditions. They also have a high nutritional value.

Hailing from a farming background, he hails from Gangapur village in Sangareddy district. However, he had to discontinue his education after Class 9 due to financial constraints.

He worked as an assistant to Dr C H Ravindra Reddy, former principal scientist, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) till 2016, gaining an insight into farming.

He also attended distance learning classes at Dr B R Ambedkar Open University to complete his graduation.

Veer grows sugarcane, chickpea, red gram, jowar, bajra, foxtail millet and finger millet in his 18 acres of land, 13 of which are dry and 5 are irrigated.

In 2009, he started a value-added centre for millets in Chandanagar, Hyderabad, called the S S Bhavani Foods Pvt Ltd. His company has developed 60 value-added millet products.

“Millets are the superfoods for the future generation. They are also at low risk of pest attack and can be grown under any weather condition,” he adds.

He opened his first shop with Rs 25,000 and his venture today has an annual turnover of over Rs 1 crore.

He also runs an industrial-scale kitchen and a restaurant that serves millet-based food, over 3,000 rotis per day and exports thousands of rotis to Australia.

Veer also set up the Swayam Shakthi Agri Foundation (NGO) in Hyderabad in 2016 to help farmers augment their income and have easy access to seeds.

Veer has received many awards for his work, including the ‘Best Farmer Award’ from M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), the ‘Dr M V Rao Memorial Award’, among others.

His most cherished recognition though is of the title ‘Millet Man’ given to him.

He says, “This is a title that the people I have been working with over the last two decades have bestowed on me. It is my most cherished recognition till date.”