Kuppam, the dairy village that turned entrepreneurial

Hyderabad: Kuppam, a small village in Andhra Pradesh located 120 kilometers of Bengaluru, has the unique distinction of nurturing more than 100 young dairy entrepreneurs in just two years. Thanks to the initiatives taken by MilkLane and the State governments, and increased awareness among farmers about the importance of food safety.

It all began two years ago when MilkLane, a Bangalore based dairy start-up, decided to launch a pilot project in the village. The objective was to procure high-quality milk that is safe from ‘antibiotics and toxins’ while improving the socio-economic status and livelihood opportunities for the people in the region. Since then, Kuppam, has attracted attention and could become the hub of healthy and safe milk procurement in Southern India.

The milk-preneurs are happy to associate with MilkLane and see their high-quality milk go to consumers. They understand that milk contamination, such as Aflatoxin in poor quality cattle feed and misuse of antibiotics in dairy farms, could end up in milk and have serious public health implications. The company supplies Ultra-high temperature (UHT) processed milk to consumers in Bangalore.

Speaking at a farmer’s event for felicitating young entrepreneurs, Gaurav Haran, CEO at MilkLane, said, “We are cultivating a culture of Rural Entrepreneurship, One Village at a Time. To inspire change and spark innovation in rural community companies need to build trust with farmers, else they will fail miserably to make a mark. We are on the ground, assisting farmers and youth during the complete life cycle process of milk procurement.”

Small and marginal farmers contribute nearly 80 percent of India’s milk production. However, the yield is still much lower than that in developed countries. MilkLane trains and educates the dairy farmers, which helps them improve animal health and increase milk production. The company contributed a lot to boost rural enterprises and village start-ups.

Additionally, the company has played a critical role in providing extension services, which include fodder services, veterinary supervision, preventive care, and enabling loans for cattle purchase and farm mechanization. More recently, MilkLane’s use of digital channels like WhatsApp and Interactive voice response (IVR) technology to send advisory content (audio, videos, and images), has been well appreciated by its partner farmers. Moreover, its integrated procurement system ensures transparency by cutting out the middle man, thereby providing better compensation for the dairy entrepreneurs.

To start with, MilkLane is nurturing entrepreneurship at two-level along the farm-to-table supply chain. One at producer/farmer level where MilkLane is strengthening is last-mile linkage, and second at BCO (Bulk Chilling Operators) level. BCOs are collection centers that help store milk in a strict temperature-controlled environment, thereby helping to increase the shelf life and quality of the milk.

To gauge the scale of MilkLane’s initiative, let’s take the example of Harish, Bulk Cooler Operator, 29, from Kuppam Village. He was assisted in taking a loan, which has helped him built a house in his farm, set up Bulk Milk Cooler, and a sizable cattle shed. He has managed to improve both quality and quantity of milk output from 20 Liters Per Day (LPD) to 80 LPD today on the advice and training by MilkLane.

Harish said, “My passion is to set up an integrated model dairy and organic farm. With the help of MilkLane, I see this happening by becoming a Small Industrial Production Unit (SIPU) farmer. I also aggregate 1,000 liters of milk from 23 farmers in my village and confident of pursuing my vision to build a model dairy farm to spread knowledge using practical examples”.

The farmers have realized the value of producing high-quality milk and successfully witnessed the road to entrepreneurship. G Srinivasulu, 26, a dairy farmer in S-Gollapalli Village – near Kuppam, follows ‘antibiotic & toxin’ safe farming. He has taken over the business from his father and increased numbers of herds from 3 to 12 in the past two years. He has realized that the practice has improved animal health and milk production, leading to enhanced income for him while driving corrective interventions for contamination-free milk for the consumers.

Srnivasulu said, “I have been able to pay half of my loan before time, and I only see things getting better. My cows are healthier, giving more milk per day, and I have a greater understanding of managing the milking cycle for my cows. With a higher quality of Artificial Insemination from MilkLane, the pregnancy rates have increased, ensuring regular and sustainable cash flow.”

With three-fourths of India’s population living in rural areas, village-level entrepreneurship not only solves the problem of youth unemployment but also is a crucial factor curbing rural to urban migration.

Farmers have failed due to the lack of direct access and broken supply chains. However, agriculture and dairy entrepreneurship are increasingly gaining ground to overcome these challenges and offering sustainable and viable opportunities in rural India. This reverse migration is going to boost the rural economy, thereby ensuring inclusive growth.