Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Famine hit farmer makes it big thru Covid selling millets

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By Manohar Yadavatti

Bengaluru, 19 April (HS): Deelipkumar of Sira town in Tumakuru district, thanks to the famine conditions was reduced to penury in 2000. But his hard efforts, relentless struggle and endurance to withstand hurdles on the way, over a period of time he has evolved into a successful businessman!

Famine blocks education as well: He studied up to the 12th standard in Sira. He got admission to the Degree course but couldn’t fulfil his dream of becoming a graduate. The unprecedented famine that struck the state in 2000 during SM Krishna’s tenure as the Chief Minister had a drastic setback for all peasants of the state. Deelipkumar had two bore wells in their fields and both of them dried up. His father advised him to give up plans of continuing in agriculture and seek alternatives to make a living.

Rs 1,500 salary for working the whole night! : As he knew driving and owned a Maruti van, he took up the job of supplying liquor bottles (Seconds) s to the bars at night times and went to the college during the day. For working the whole night he was paid a monthly salary of Rs 1,500/-! If you happen to ponder him how come such a meagre salary, he laughs to recall: “That used to be the highest salary amount during those times!”

Tata Sumo’s earnings only to sustain: “I started working at home in 2001 and 2002 and did the job of a driver in 2003, 04 and 05. I bought a Tata Sumo car in 2005 at the cost of Rs 1, 84,000/- by paying a down payment of Rs 25,000/- while the remaining amount was on a loan. Till 2009, I moved across the state on a rental basis. There was no place left and no taluk or district place where I didn’t go. I got married in 2009. In spite of working with the Tata Sumo, the money earned was enough to sustain and no savings were possible”, recalled Deelipkumar.

Rs 100 bill for 10 rupees work! He is reminded of the hard days: “Before I got married, there were several well to do proposals for my fiancée. However, my father in law didn’t oblige on the condition of having given me a word to me already. But after marrying me she was going out to graze buffaloes of 4-5 people. I felt very sad at her plight and resolved to do something to change the situation. At that time M-NREGA scheme came to my rescue. It was doing the works of Panchayat and getting the bill cleared. I worked from 2010 to 2013. It was good earning as ten rupees works were billed at Rs 100!

Earning lakhs of rupees but not one in hand! “In a way, it was good as I reached a new comfortable condition. Then there was a Congress government. Out of the remaining Rs 90/-, 45 had to be shared with an Engineer and 20 with the PDO and 20 was left to us. In spite of earning lakhs on record what ultimately remained on hand were literally peanuts. Then I realized this is not a genuine way of making a living”, reminisces Deelipkumar.

The man disappears after getting DD: He felt like making an attempt to live a just and honest way. “Then someone suggested buying a paper cutting machine. On the basis of my transaction record, a bank loan of Rs 5.40 lakhs was released. A DD of the same amount was handed over to One Sanjay of Mysuru. Along with that another DD of Rs 2.10 lakhs was handed over to him to deliver the machine. But after collecting the DDs’, Sanjay disappeared in 2013 only to surface in 2016! I went searching for six months and a year in vain. In 2014, informed my plight to the Bank Manager. He retorted saying, nothing doing, either you have to trace him or repay the loan”, informed Deelipkumar.

17 lakhs investment goes into the drain! Then he thought of venturing into Pomegranate cultivation by borrowing 17 lakhs. Again to his bad luck, in 2014 the whole of March month witnessed heavy rainfall and cyclone climate. “As a result, the about to ripen fruits developed disease resulting into a huge loss while the loans shot up to Rs 19 lakhs. All those who had lent me started making rounds to the house demanding payment of interest. Then the only property I owned, including my father’s was a meagre four acres. But my own family disowned me although I had not incurred a loss due to gambling or womanizing for trying horticulture”, laments Deelipkumar.

New business without capital investment: He recollects “At this juncture, the only people who stood by me were my wife and in-laws’. I kept wandering for about three months in search of doing a business without capital investment. While on a visit to Mysuru in search of the person who duped me, went to a bathroom. There saw the person buying Phenol for Rs 10 and inquired the salesman about the business. He revealed a minimum of Rs 500-600 but nothing short than Rs 300-400”.

Phenol helps in repaying interest and loans: Deelipkumar was awestruck at the idea. A ray of confidence engrossed him. He went to the house of the Phenol seller and stayed back for the night to understand the making of Phenol. Then, he also thought that his product should be a branded one, unlike the usual local ones. “In this way, I branded it as NJ Gold, N meaning Nitin and J for Jeevitha, names of my children and launched two products Phenol and Toilet cleaner. I marketed these products for three years 2015-17 in the Tumakuru district. I was able to completely repay the interest of loans availed in these three years. I was earning Rs 50-60,000/- per month, I could pay Rs 30,000/- for interest alone while remaining Rs 15,000/- was for private chit fund and Rs 10,000/- for monthly household expenditure”, says Deelipkumar.

No count of toilets cleaned!: He also jovially recalls his hazardous task of selling his new brands-“As the shops refused to entertain the new products, I went from house to house. Even then people were not prepared to buy. So I started appealing, show me your toilet. I will clean it. If it gets cleaned pay me or else I will go back. When the toilets became speck clean, people began to buy. The toilet cleaner which was given to the shops at a price of Rs 35/- was now sold to the households for Rs 60/- I haven’t kept a count of the toilets cleaned and have enjoyed doing so without any regrets. In this way, I was able to establish the NJ Gold brand in the Tumakuru district market in the years 2015-17”.

A chance overhearing leads to entrepreneurship: As Deelipkumar was also meeting several doctors as part of his marketing exercise, he became close to many of them. Once, while he was interacting with one doctor in Tumakuru, he got a call from his mother-in-law. Listen to the developments later-“My wife’s pregnant sister had severe vomiting problems. She used to prepare gruel made out of several grains to address the issue. As there was a shortage of some varieties, she had called me to get the same from Tumakuru as they were not available in Sira. I borrowed a pen from the doctor and his prescription sheet and made a list of 24 varieties of millets! The surprised doctor inquired about the same. I told him how my mother-in-law cleaned the grains, dried them after soaking, crushed them to powder and prepared gruel tasting like gasagase payasam. Immediately, the doctor indented for one kg powder”.

From one kg to 10kgs…To Deelipkumar’s sudden shock, the doctor who had indented one kg earlier suddenly ordered 10 kgs and later paid Rs 5,000/- for 20 kgs! On the reasons for buying such a big quantity, the doctor exclaimed: “My mother in law’s blood sugar level was 400, but after beginning to consume the millets powder it has dipped to 150. My father-in-law was bedridden and unable to walk but has now become normal”. Deelipkumar was taken aback. He was also rightly advised by the doctor: “Please give up this Phenol business and concentrate on the production of millets powder by making it a brand. I knew the significance of the grains when you were making a list of the same some time back”.

Goodwill sample to a branded product: Inspired by the doctor’s suggestion Deelipkumar started distributing the powder to him who in turn was reaching the same to his friends and relatives for about two months. He also got the samples tested by the concerned agencies and explained the health benefits of consuming them regularly. He also helped Deelipkumar in multiple ways, including monetary assistance to launch the product.

Pamphlets to Parks: To market his product Deelipkumar started inserting pamphlets in the newspapers, early in the morning. After that, he started visiting various parks and distributing complimentary gruels explaining the health benefits. However, there were no takers. So, he had no other choice other than to be involved in the Phenol business. This situation continued for about a month. In between it slowly started picking up with one kg a month across the state. He heeded the well-wisher doctor’s advice of parting away with the Phenol business. Thanks to the struggle for about three years, the efforts ultimately paid off.

Jeeni brand clicks: Just like the NJ Gold brand he put forth the new brand Jeeni again with prefixes of his children’s names. The product began with a meagre one kg a day to 150 kgs each day! By 2016-18 he had repaid more than half of the loan amount. Thanks to Covid and a video highlighting the benefits of Jeeni, the sales went up to 600 kgs per day within a month. Within three years i.e. 2020- 22 the sales have reached 6,000 kg every day! When Deelipkumar started the strength was two including his wife. But now the number of people has gone up to 400! And all the 400 people are provided with free breakfast, lunch, coffee and Jeeni gruel. In all, about 1,000 people are working under Jeeni. The product is being sold in all the Southern states apart from being available on Amazon and Flip cart in Dubai and the United States. In fact, Jeeni is available in several countries.

Bio-data of around Two lakh people: When inquired about the feedback, Deelipkumar signed off, “We have the bio-data of around two lakh people, their blood sugar level before and improvement for better after using Jeeni.