KeggFarms: how rural poultry is changing lives of a million households
Why do people start companies? Economics professors would say “To make profit”. Talking about social enterprises the answer should be “to make a social change”. But over time and after some interactions with social entrepreneurs, I have developed a much more artistic view on why people start companies. It’s not just about money and it’s not just about social change. One can imagine an entrepreneur starting a company as an artist in front of a blank canvas. When an artist starts to paint he does not just represent what he sees, but he puts his feelings, his thoughts, his view of life, his personality – everything in the painting. In that moment the painting is not just a landscape or a portrait, but is the extension of the artist’s personality. In the same way, a company is the extension of an entrepreneur’s personality. The vision of the company, is the vision of the entrepreneur. The mission becomes the mission of his life.Today we will talk about an entrepreneur who is an artist. When we asked him why did you become an entrepreneur, he answered, “When I started this business, my goal was not to become a rich man, it was just to find a way to express my personality. And I feel strongly about community and about India. I love my country. I’m very proud to be an Indian. I have a strong sense of social commitment and that comes from the cultural values of India. And all that I ever did in my company, followed this principle”. Today we are talking about Vinod Kapur, CEO & Founder of KeggFarms, a social enterprise making a contribution to poverty alleviation and income generation in deprived rural households in India through rural poultry development. Through KeggFarms, he impacted 1,000,000 households since 1967.
Everything started more than 40 years ago when Vinod, an engineer by education, was the Country Head of Swedish Match in India. He had a successful career, but he strongly wanted to start something on his own. He was searching for an opportunity in rural based activities to help farmers and he understood he could play an important role in poultry development in India, even if he didn’t know nothing about this sector. At that time breeding poultry was not performing very well and a lot of products were imported. He focused on creating high quality products with the objective of making India a self sufficient country. He choose that role as a his mission.
In 1973, Vinod borrowed some money from his family and left his job to dedicate himself completely to KeggFarms. He decided to focus on a main innovation, genetic breeding, that he pioneered in India. This process shows the benefits of acclimatizing imported stocks and genetic lines to Indian conditions. It brought outstanding results to KeggFarms.
“Everyone told me that I was a fool. But I had an idea, a vision and I strongly believed in it. And results show that I was right,” says Vinod with a sense of pride. In 1977, the government also recognised the benefits of breeding poultry and KeggFarms’ method.
From this moment on, KeggFarms started to scale up in a lot of other cities and states in India and in 1991 Vinod focused on scaling up the company where it was more needed: in rural India. “I felt the need of doing something for a large part of population that was excluded from the industry and that needed it,” tells Vinod. Poultry breeding in rural India is extremely important because it gives important incomes to poor farmers and it’s a means to eradicate poverty.
Today, KeggFarms is also expanding in different countries to help poor people have incomes through poultry breeding. They are successfully working in Ethiopia and in Uganda where they are also supported by governments and World Bank. “I like to define KeggFarms as a small company with a big vision,” affirms Vinod.
Vinod has an experience of more than 45 years in the poultry sector. He faced a lot of challenges and he was never scared by them at all. “My job is full of challenges, I see challenges everywhere. It’s extremely important to face the negative side of every problem with a positive state of mind: just in this way you can convert every challenge and find the way around it. When you are driven ideologically, you are driven by faith: and that’s the way I’m looking at my job,” tells Vinod.
A wise man like Vinod has also committed a lot of mistakes. “I’m 79 years old and I started working when I was 22. I have done thousands of mistakes in my life, but I see mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Each mistake has taught me something and if I’m a better person, it is thanks to them,” says Vinod.
Vinod has a clear view on entrepreneurs. He sees entrepreneurs as people who see opportunities where others don’t see it. People who are completely driven by their own motivation and their own thoughts. And the profound man as Vinod is, has a nice story to tell to everyone who is an aspiring entrepreneur – “Once, a brilliant student told me that he wanted to become an entrepreneur and he asked me which business he could start. I told him: If you don’t know what to do, don’t do it! Don’t become an entrepreneur just to make money or to have a company of your own. An entrepreneur needs to be driven by strong beliefs. And you need to do what you believe. If you strongly believe in something that you are doing, that’s the right thing to do.”
Vinod is a successful social entrepreneur who has achieved amazing results in his career, but when we asked him to thank the person who helped him the most in his career he answered without any doubts. “It’s my wife. She believed in me and she stood by me when I wanted to start everything from zero, when I was leaving a great job to start an adventure. Everyone else was telling me that I was crazy, but she never did. She never questioned. She said I’m with you, I believe in you. If you think is right, I’m with you. And we went through all this together.” A famous proverb says “Behind a great man there is always a great woman” and this story confirms it. Love is what empowers people and what empowers the world.
As in a great artistic job, Vinod took Keggfarms as a blank canvas and painted with every moment of his own life to make that painting his masterpiece. Probably the results will not be a Picasso or a Michelangelo, but his work shows us the great emotions hidden behind the most beautiful job in the world: being a social entrepreneur.