By Anubhav Das:
India is truly a land of miracles. In a country where a degree worth of 7-figure salary is utilized otherwise and probably for the better, I truly feel an overwhelming sense of pride in writing this story of 30-year-old Kaushalendra Kumar.
A graduate from the ‘Mecca of Management’, IIM Ahmedabad, has decided to sell vegetables, only with a difference. Introducing a totally new concept of vegetable selling, Kaushal has adopted farm fresh produce (FFP) Retail and supply chain model in which farmers and street sellers are directly partnered. He has also established a brand under the name ‘Samriddhi’ through his own organization ‘Kaushalya Foundation’. According to him, because of this new venture, more than 3000 farmers and 550 vendors have benefitted in their respective professions. “Since our intervention in 2007 the farmers’ income has increased from 25-50 percent and those of vendors by as much as 60-100 percent”, says Kaushlendra.
He adds, “90 percent of them do not have access to Government schemes or credit from banks. Neither do most farmers own the land, but cultivate in patches of land on rent, lease or other harvest/ profit sharing basis. The Kaushalya Foundation organized such vegetable farmers into small groups. As for vegetable vendors, they lead a hard life as most of them are migrants from villages. About 60 percent of them are women. They endure harassment from police and municipal bodies. The activities of procurement, transportation, cleaning/washing, sorting, arranging, handling the customers and wastage due to lack of storage also take their toll. They were also brought under the banner of Samriddhi.”
“Kaushlendra has built a strong social capital and this shows how hardworking and honest he is to this social enterprise”, said P K Sinha, Professor of Marketing and Chairperson of Retailing at IIM-Ahmedabad and Kaushlendra’s mentor. Because of this innovative model, farmers and vendors can now earn higher incomes up to Rs. 7000 and their working hours have also been significantly reduced. The vegetables are transported at a very low cost to the centre where they are packaged and processed. These centres are located at Lucknow and Patna. After this, the vegetables are labelled with bar-codes and price tags and then distributed to the designated sales points in the city.
Kaushalendra himself works with the farmers in Patna, Arra, Jahanabad, Navada and Gaya in Bihar and in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. When asked he says that he himself has grown in the streets of Bihar and has seen the plight of farmers in these areas very closely. The mass migration and poverty of vegetable growers in 1987 when a devastating flood ravaged the only railway track connecting their village to Patna’s wholesale vegetable market was something that moved him deeply. While he was in Gujarat he observed the agricultural patterns and practices followed there and it was then that the thought triggered in his mind as to if an arid region as Gujarat can flourish in agro-industrial sector, why can’t Bihar which is situated in the most fertile lands in the country-The Ganges Plains. In spite of the huge change in the profit of all the stakeholders in this venture when asked Kaushalendra bluntly says that he doesn’t calculate profit.