Man Of Failures
Today when I look at myself, I see myself as a “man of failures”. These failures have helped me develop an attitude, that is ready to fail but wants to try. Calculate not in money but degree of change it opts for, in a positive direction.
Budhni in District Sehore of Madhya Pradesh, India is a small place with a population of 17,000, where my mother started a school just to teach me and others like me well. Only a mother could do this.
So in real sense my mother is the first entrepreneur in my family. She couldn't grow this school beyond class 5. So I had to go to a government school after class 5.
Battle Hardening Begins At Early Stage
Opportunity to join Sainik School through a state wide entrance exam was the only gateway for me to get out of Budhni. Thankfully, I was able to crack this state level exam which is for young boys of 11 years of age. I was selected into the prestigious Sainik School located in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. Sainik School is a boarding school, run by Indian Ministry of Defence since 1963, with the aim of preparing the children to join the Indian Armed Forces.
As a young boy of 11 years studying in class 6 of Sainik School, the army like khaki school uniform was a life’s charm. It gave me the dream of joining the Indian Armed Forces. I chased this dream consistently for about 11 years by giving entrance exams for National Defence Academy, Combined Defence Services Examination, CPO and even Indian Police Services (the glamour-less stepbrother of armed forces), but without success. I still believe I was capable but was just not meant to perform that way.
Then for several years I tried getting into Indian Administrative Services with no success. After the repeated UPSC failures too, the biggest question of my life was “What shall I do now?”. While I could not clear the entrance exam for the Indian Administrative Services, there was abundant knowledge that I gained while preparing for all these entrance exams over the years. Geography & Psychology were my favored subjects and I wanted to use that knowledge in the work I did or the career I chose. Well, as it was to happen, one led me to the field of education and the other to agriculture in the later years.
Opening a New School
Bharti Vidya Mandir was the name of the school that my mother had started and handled originally. I decided to expand this school by implementing modern facilities and also build a new one with the name Bharti Vidya Mandir International School in Nasrullaganj, another small town in Madhya Pradesh, India with a population of 26,000.
My mother's vision and venture: Bharti Vidya Mandir in Budhni, Madhya Pradesh
The school at Nasrullaganj as it is now: An extension of my mother's vision and my grit and determination
Support from my family, proper guidance in the field, my hunger to perform by hard work and a lot of luck by God’s grace helped me start & complete the project of building the school within a short period of time. I used to stand with the contractors and laborers during the construction process. The excitement and fervour was akin to that of building your first house.
Bharti Vidya Mandir International School started with 424 students in 2009 has now reached a strength of 1040 and is a well known name in Nasrullaganj for quality education in the region.
Young Performers of Bhartiya Vidya Mandir International School at Nasrullaganj
From A School to Chain of Schools
Bharti Vidya Mandir has its third branch now in Rehti, Madhya Pradesh. Rehti is a City Municipality in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh with population of less than 12,000. The three schools are now run with a centralized system with local operative authorities. Fee structure varies depending upon the socio-economic status of the locals, but quality in imparting education to the young minds is same in all the three schools.
The little sunshines of Bhartiya Vidya Mandir at Rehti, Madhya Pradesh
These schools are a huge medium for 'positive social change' in these rural areas today where people at times have money but no facilities. I believe these schools have a much greater social impact through education for girls especially in educationally backward castes of rural Madhya Pradesh. I have plans to reach out to 4 new places in the next 5 years with same objective - Change.
Schools provide me with my bread & butter. But it’s the agriculture venture that has made me a social entrepreneur that I am today.
My journey with Narmada Samagra under the able guidance of late Shri Anil Dave, began with cleaning of banks of river Narmada. I soon realized that incessant use of pesticides & fertilizers in agriculture is a real harm to the riverine ecosystem. This appeared as an opportunity for me to work in the field of agriculture sector with twin objective of 'Save Agriculture, Save Environment'.
Working with Farmers
A group of 13 young farmers was formed and trained and they resolved to work under the name of Varda Farmers Club, later converted into a Farmer Producer Organisation. The resolution was to provide alternative means to the existing high cost, poisonous & burdensome agricultural practices, with best possible solutions right from farms till the produce goes to market. Environment was the focus here. Awareness is an issue with farmers. They have very less knowledge about “why they are doing what they are doing”. This has created a problem of high input costs.
We work with the farmers on various fronts, such as
- Reducing the cost of production: We do almost zero budget farming using Cow Urine, dung & few cultures. This resulted in lowering the cost of production
- Training: We increase awareness of farmers by training them
- Collection & Marketing: We take back their produce & directly provide them market access by bypassing middlemen, helping them to get good returns for their produce
- Healthy & Reasonable food: We sell organic vegetables & grains at a reasonable cost (15% upwards of regular non-organic produce)
Our model is A to Z solution for farmers from inputs, training, collection and marketing. Post 3 months, we try to ensure an income of Rs 250- Rs 400 per day to our farmers. A farmer requires 2 acres of land, 0.25 decimal shade-net (a lightweight knitted polyethylene fabric that provides plants and people with protection from the sun, used to create agro greenhouses) and one traditional indigenous breed of Indian cow. We even help these farmers put together the shadenet.
Secondly, our entire produce is organic and we sell it ourselves. This makes our model unique.
Currently, there is a huge market for our produce, so much so that demand for the produce is higher than the supply we can meet. Production and supply are the bottlenecks in our model. We deliver vegetables to around 180-190 families, twice a week. This amounts to a sale of around Rs 20,000 per week. We supply grains as well. Very soon milk will be added to the basket. This model has enough space for expansion. Currently, we serve only in Bhopal. But there already are requests and demands we receive from Indore.
This complete model has two parts
Farmer Producer Organisation or FPO - Production-to-Collection. A group of 13 farmers started with Rs. 560,000 as paid capital. Operation cost is Rs 15,000 per month as salaries and rent. It earns 10% from input supply and training and 10% from sales to market.
A Marketing Company - Two farmers from the group maintain it. It started with Rs 15,000 as seed capital. This saves 30% margin from sale. Almost Rs 20,000 is operational expense as salary & conveyance.
The future - The way I see It
I am steadily increasing the number of students I admit to my schools each year, by increasing the capacity and infrastructure of the schools and by opening up new schools. I am also increasing my involvement with farmers. I am finding out and bringing new and modern farming techniques that are cost effective and at the same time organic and hygienic. And hereby, my journey continues!