He is a topper from IIM Ahmedabad. He’s shy. He loves Bihar. He speaks broken English. And he is a vegetable vendor! Meet Kaushalendra, a desi young man currently doing some pioneering work in the field of vegetable retail.
1) What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and start doing something on your own? Did you always want to do this?
Since childhood, I have been learning many ‘should be done in agriculture sector’ things in Bihar. I always found farmers had nobody to look up to who would come and take away their miseries. Being a farmer’s child, I thought I have been given an opportunity (of being well educated and knowledgeable) to do something for our society.
2) Is your work completely charitable or are you also making a livelihood out of this?
We are not doing any charity. We are making our livelihood out of this as well.
3) What’s the name of your company? What exactly do you do?
The name of my organisation is KNIDS Green Pvt. Ltd. We focus on mobilizing and organizing the informal and fragmented vegetable sector (resource poor vegetable growers, vegetable vendors, and farm labourers) of Bihar. The goal of the foundation is to create opportunities – gainful and dignified self-employment – for the families dependent on agriculture sector, especially disadvantaged sections (farmers, farm labourers, agriculture produce vendors and many others), ensuring sustainable livelihood, enriched environment, improved quality of life and good human values
4) Can you describe, step by step, the process of your work?
We have been working towards making the street vegetable vendors and marginal cultivators more professional. We also work towards empowering them to face future challenges in the new global economy, thus creating wealth and prosperity from farm-gate to food-plate through undertaking the holistic view of vegetable supply chain under our project Samriddhii. We have formed some attractive partnerships between the farmers and vendors with a focus on shared interests and mutual growth. To maintain product integrity from source to the customer, the organisation has established a totally integrated supply chain and services bundle which connects and maintains the flow of goods from the source (growers) to customer (road-side vendors, organized retailers, food services and hospitality industry). Key benefits of the model include waste reduction (quantity and time), shelf-life extension and cost reduction of agri-produce from hinterlands and upcountry sources to the markets.
We have public and private partnerships with Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Patna. We have been assisted financially through soft loan by Friends of Women World Banking (FWWB), Ahmedabad. Recently, Punjab National Bank (PNB) has sanctioned Rs. 50 Lakhs to our project. Approximately 1,000 farmers are associated with us. We have our procurement network in two districts of Bihar namely Patna and Nalanda.
5) How much of your MBA knowledge do you practically use in your work?
MBA knowledge has developed analytical skills and confidence in me. I have been using the concepts learnt at IIM Ahmedabad in designing training modules, expansion strategies and overall development strategies of the work we are involved in. You know, MBA taught me to have a holistic approach to problems. MBA knowledge has been of great help in persuading financial institutions and governments.
6) When and why did you decide to become a ‘vegetable vendor’?
Marketing has been the biggest bottleneck for Indian farmers. They have never considered it an integral part of their work. It would be impossible to think of their prosperity unless they have good marketing. To get first hand experience of vegetable selling and marketing, we decided to learn the menaces of vegetable marketing and subsequently lessons learnt are being transferred to farmer members.
7) What was the reaction from parents, friends, and teachers? Did you have to forgo a well-paying job to do this?
My family members were shocked to know that I am going to start my own organisation in Bihar. Nevertheless, they did not try to persuade me to go for a job because they are aware of my nature that if I decide something, I will do only that. They have never interfered with my decisions since childhood. They always encouraged independent decision making. My elder brother Shri Dhirendra Kumar has left his job and is working as programme coordinator in our organisation.
Many of my professors from IIMA are supporting us. Our mentor is Prof Piyush Kumar Sinha, Chairman, Centre of Retailing, IIMA. Under his continued guidance we have been able to take this so far. Many of my friends from IIMA like Om Prakash Singh, Abhishek Kumar, Vaibhav, Vineeta Singh (from IIRM) and many others are continuously supporting us. They always provide their strategic input and sometimes financial inputs too. Their encouragements help me move ahead always.
8) Do you have a mission in this direction?
Our mission is to make Bihar the vegetable hub of the nation and to develop brand Bihar in the vegetable sector.
9) Did you take any kind of training or special research to get into this kind of work?
No, I have not taken any special training. I am born and brought up in a village. My native district Nalanda is the largest producer of vegetables in Bihar. We have been continuously mentored by Prof Piyush Kumar Sinha. Without his guidance and help, journey so far would not have been possible.
10) Do you plan to do this all your life?
I am committed to the prosperity of Bihar.
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