August 2017 By Jamuna Rangachari Inspired by his grandfather’s vision of resuscitating his farm, Sachin Kale left his high-paying corporate job, to help the farmers reap the benefits of contract farming and new technologies, says Jamuna Rangachari We either ignore or make fun of the advice given to us by our seniors, especially grandparents. We feel that they know nothing about the modern era and the aspirations of the younger generation. Some like Sachin Kale, however, not only listen to them but also make it their life purpose to walk on the path shown by them. And the result is beyond describable. He says, “My late grandfather is my greatest inspiration, He would often tell me how one could survive without money but not food, and if one knew the art of growing one’s own food, one could survive in any condition.” He would take Sachin to their 25-acre ancestral land and talk about his dream of turning it into a fertile farm someday. Sachin's grandfather also taught him the important lesson of ensuring that the labourers earned more than their previous wages to avoid the loss of manpower. Degrees galore In the meantime, Sachin completed his mechanical engineering from REC, Nagpur (now called VRCE) in 2000. This was followed by an MBA in finance and a degree in law. He started his career by working for a power plant and rapidly rose to the top in a few years. In 2007, he started his PhD in developmental economics. As he delved deeply into the subject he began to think about the path he had chosen. Thoughts like why he was working for someone else and not fulfilling his grandfather’s dream began to haunt his mind. Baby steps in agriculture Sachin started thinking about helping the farmers in making farming a financially profitable venture, but he realised that for that to happen, he would have to first learn farming and set an example by drawing profits. In 2013, he left his luxurious life in Gurgaon, where he worked as a manager for Punj Lloyd, drawing a hefty salary of 24 lakh per annum, and shifted to Medhpar, Chattisgarh, to become a farmer. Talking about challenges, he says, “Everything was a challenge, since I was totally clueless about farming. I had to learn everything from tilling the land to sowing the seeds.” Sachin invested his entire provident fund of 15 years in his project but decided to go back to the corporate life in case his plan did not work out, since he had a family to look after. Finally his hard work, determination and skills paid off — he set up a model where his farm was useful all through the year, giving maximum profits. His next target was to empower the farmers with whatever he had learnt. He started researching about contract farming. His research convinced him about its efficacy in helping farmers earn a steady source of income. A win-win enterprise In 2014, Sachin launched his own company, Innovative Agrilife Solutions Pvt. Ltd., which aided farmers through the contract farming model. He also hired consultants from the agriculture college at Bilaspur to teach farmers about the new technologies and the right way of farming. The fundamentals of contract farming are very simple and profitable. Contract farming involves agricultural production being carried out on the basis of an agreement between the buyer and farm producers. The buyer helps the farmers with funds and all the means required for farming. The farmer in turn has to produce the crop suggested by the buyer and according to the buyer’s method. The minimum selling price is predefined and the buyer buys the entire crop on that price even if the market price is low. The farmer gets a share of the profit in case the prices are high in the market. This is then a win-win situation for both the buyers and the farmers. “It was difficult in the initial two years as no one trusted a young urban man telling a 70-year-old farmer about farming. But when I discussed the financials on papers, they started taking interest,” says the 36-year-old. Sachin also continued to grow paddy and seasonal vegetables in his own 24-acre land. In time, he found that the farmers there grew only paddy, which was a matter of three to four months and the land remained idle for the next eight months. He then introduced them to a farming model where after harvesting paddy, seasonal vegetables are grown all the year round. The farmers were impressed by Sachin’s farming techniques and started partnering with him. Sanjay Kale: Left a high-flying, glamorous life to aid farmers Today, Sachin’s company is helping 137 happy farmers working on 200 acres of land and drawing a turnover of approximately rupees two crore. “I don’t buy their land as that way they lose the ownership. I just buy their produce and directly sell it to the retailers. This gives a very good margin. I also share a part of the profit with them,” says Sachin. Sachin’s wife Kalyani, who has a Master’s degree in communication, takes care of the financial part of the company. Though she had to change her entire life path, she has absolutely no regrets. She says, “Yes, we do miss the mall and the metro ride sometimes but more than that we enjoy the time we spend together. When Sachin was in a corporate job he would travel for 20 days a month which thankfully isn’t the case anymore. Moreover, we love the fresh air here and know that we are eating absolutely healthy food unlike in the city.” Sachin dreams of seeing his company on the Mumbai stock exchange some day and making farming and farmers a major part of the economy. I, for one, hope and pray that Sachin’s story inspires many to take the road less travelled. Jamuna Rangachari is a writer who has authored two books for children, and compiled and interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive.
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