After his father died in 2016, Shubham Kabdwal, a 16-year-old boy with dreams of working with Indian Army had no option but to do something to ensure the survival of the family of five and hit the ground running.
Initially, Shubham carried on with the delivering milk, running daily needs shop, and farming that his father was doing at his village in Satoli, Ramgarh block, Uttarakhand. During these tumultuous times, Ashish Arora, a resort-owner and family friend, played the role of mentor and encouraged him to think out of the box in the business his father was doing and not migrating to earn money. These conversations made Kabdwal realise the need to expand the milk business to focus on tourists as the rates being offered in the village was not good, and also to start the ghee business. “Arora not only gave me the idea but also generously bought the first few bottles and offered to market it,” recalls Kabdwal. Arora also introduced Kabdwal to Pankaj Wadhwa, a social entrepreneur and founder of Udhyam, who was working on a pilot project which involved providing rural entrepreneurs financial help and mentorship. Wadhwa, in turn, suggested him to apply for Udhyam’s first cohort on entrepreneurship. After various rounds of the selection process, he was granted a loan to expand dairy to cater to the locals and tourists and then to produce ghee which got sold immediately.
“Udhyam’s procedure for granting the loan is easy as they do not ask for too many documents. This also encouraged a youngster like me to apply. As a part of the mentorship, they also sent me to Delhi to get training on ghee making and introduced me to people, who would also sometimes buy ghee.”
The sale encouraged Kabdwal to focus on ghee. Last year, his monthly sale ranged from producing 26 kgs of ghee during the peak season and around 12 kgs during the offseason. He says, “Even this was not good enough for us as we required 40 litres of milk to produce one kg of ghee.” The response was also due to the use of milk from the local breeds Sahiwal and pahadi cow, which does not give more than 2-5 litres per day. Besides, they are locally known for their healthy ‘anti-cancerous’ milk. However, the amount of milk required to produce ghee meant that he was spending around a lakh rupees every month to procure milk. Additionally, the commission charged by the retailers and the taxes were considerably reducing the profits. As the cost of ghee was Rs 2600 per kg, the demand was stagnating. Kabdwal decided to focus back on milk so that he could purchase cows and also open a homestay and cottage. This strategy also enabled him to repay the loan on time.
He is grateful to Udhyam for honest feedback and encouragement which allowed a 21-year-old to shift his focus on things that were beneficial for his business and survival of a family of five. “Udhyam gave me invaluable lessons about how to do business and marketing,” he tells.
When asked about his plans, he reveals that in the next few years, he would focus on the farming to sell fruits and grains, grow herbs, expand his homestay and sell ghee. He adds, depending on the situation, he would also like to finish his BCom degree in the distance learning mode.