We get a lot of emails and calls from first-time farmers , professionals in mid life crisis about starting a farm and whether it would be remunerative career .Here is a ‘Dummies Guide to Being a Successful Farmer’ - a multi part series of email-articles , which will help even a novice farmer to taking the first plunge , and a existing practitioner to get more ‘market savvy’.
The term ‘dummies’ guide is not to be taken in offensive tone, but is inspired by a very well known series of books which address the basics of any new subject area - from introducing a new hi-tech concept to being successful in bed .
In the first part, lets clear off some doubts , lesser known facts and popular myths about agri business and the big Q - 'Is there MONEY in it ’ :
Doubt #1 : Why is agriculture lagging behind when all other industries are progressing ?
Simple - because all the educated, smart and healthy workforce from villages have moved to cities. Just like how all the urban bred graduates prefer to go abroad and settle down in foreign nations, so too is the young from rural India thronging cities in search of more ‘comfortable’ lifestyle. the brain drain and brawn drain is now extending to villages too. Result is that most villages you wont find ANY youth now.
Average age of any IT/Software company is approx 25 , whereas for agriculture is is 55 !! Do you expect your dads and grand parents to be ‘entrepreneurial and eager to learn new tricks ?’ Wake up - in a few years , there will be no more farmers !
Doubt #2 : I don’t know anything about farming . How will I be successful ?
Answer : Mr. Ratan TATA is not a car mechanic but built world’s most economical car ! Mr. Azim Premji is NOT a software programmer but that did not stop him from starting a software firm .Just like in a successful movie , you need actors , directors, camera men and thousands of people to make the drama come alive - in any business you need a variety of role players to work together . Unfortunately, in agriculture , the popular MYTH has persisted that farmer is like a Super HERO who should do everything . In any business , it involves multiple skills from various people to be successful - often people who may not even be related to the business !
The agri industry is over 1000s of years old. NO one can claim to know everything about it ! Secondly, we are dealing with a product of nature which NO HUMAN can ever fully fathom. It is a very humbling and exhilarating way to admit what little we know of something we all take for granted.
As long as you are open to learn , and hard working - you can choose any path of your will.
Doubt #3 : But there are so many risks in agriculture - Monsoon, Corruption, Middlemen , Thugs , Insects , Labour … how can i overcome them ?
Well risks and uncertainties are there is ANY industry . Banking collapse , scandals in investment banks , scams in telecom , real estate crash, airlines in mid-air debt , and entire European nations going down under … can you name ONE industry which is devoid of risk and is running very stable ? Strangely, ALL these professional industries had been run by the smartest brains on this planet … but agriculture , is typically run by high school drop outs ! Thank god - we still have food in our plates ! Just imagine if the IIT/IIM guys had been running our farms
Risks are meant to be planned for , Uncertainties with contingencies - in any business ,you always have a Plan B & a Plan C,D,E …
Doubt #4 : The govt. , scientists, NGOs have done so much . How come the crisis is only deepening ?
Firstly , government shouldn’t be running any business . Was the rise of the software industry due to the efforts of the IT ministry ? Do professors in aerospace department fly airlines ?
Agriculture industry has strangely not recognized importance of entrepreneurs (outside of agri departments and universities) as key drivers of changes. Innovation doesn’t often happen in a bureaucrats office or even in a college lab !
Doubt #5 :How can you say there is an opportunity when everything is on crisis ?
When everyone sees fire in a building and running out , don’t you see ‘fire-fighters’ running IN ? When people run away from war zones , don’t you see jawans and top-gun pilots rushing towards it ?
One man’s crisis , is another man’s Purpose in Life ! But this not a case of being ‘macho’ and being a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread … A conscious , planned activity is always rewarded with results.
Doubt #6 : Do i have to be at the farm all day / full time ?. Can i just find some farmer family and let them run it for me ?
Assuming you cannot goto an office meeting - Can you just have your car driver go and sit in the conference call for you ?
Assuming you own the largest restaurant in town , will you just ‘check on the sales and progress’ just once a year with the cook?
Remote control doesn’t help any business. Though farming doesn’t actually require day-to-day presence , it is important to keep close tabs and involvement . In case you are in-between careers, and need some time to switch over, do plan for a gradual transition .
Doubt #7 :But is there money in agriculture ?
Did you know that one of the key reasons why our farmers dont make money is THEIR OWN inadequacies and poor marketing skills ? I know this will raise a hornets nest and spams from every self respecting NGO and agri dept. official - but lets stop blaming government , rain gods & Monsanto to cover up our own dirty backs … now answer me this :
Most Indian farmers do not use a weighing machine to WEIGH their goods . They expect the middlemen to have so and do the weighing
Now ask yourself - if you run a shop, will you expect to have the ‘buyer’ to carry a weighing machine and tell you the weight ?
Most farmers never calculate their costs of production or operations and always go by 'middlemen or government ’ price ?
Ask yourself - If you apply for a job in a company, Will you let the commerce minister negotiate your salary package ?
Most farmers never grade their produce and use crude grades and measures making it difficult for end buyers to deal directly with them
Ask yourself - do you buy petrol by ‘hand fulls’, cafe latte in ‘gunny bags’ ?
Most farmers have no clue of end buyer needs or market demands and keep growing what they already know rather than what customer wants
Would you goto a computer shop today and buy a MAINFRAME , when everyone else is dabbling in Android and iPad ?
Other than money , you should also ask - do you ENJOY being at a farm ? Do you LOVE being around plants and animals ? Farming and related activities can not only be sustainable but if done smartly, can make MORE than what you are earning today .
Lets work towards a d ‘Happy Independence from Hunger and Food Crisis day’ …
(to be continued)
Yours Farmingly :
venky at efarm dot in