How this farm-to-table startup is using tech to milk demand for good, old-fashioned organic dairy products
In India, milk is synonymous with good health. But every Indian knows that dairy is India is often tainted. Around 68.7 percent of milk and milk products sold in the country do not meet standards laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). So what happens to your health, wondered one father-daughter duo. Not long after, in December 2017, Vivek and Mehal Kejriwal decided to take the bull by the horns. They set up Bengaluru-based Happy Milk, which delivers organic milk and dairy products to your doorstep.
Vivek and his daughter Mehal, 22, both had other thriving businesses before they decided to launch their farm-to-table milk production startup. Vivek has been a steel manufacturer of repute for the last 22 years, while Mehal was running an ecommerce company, DuaVivo, since 2016. But the dining table discussion often turned to milk and how it was adulterated with detergent, glucose, white paint, caustic soda, and refined oil.
The two decided they were in a position to tackle this problem at their 30-acre farm in Tumakuru, north of Bengaluru. They bootstrapped the company – investing Rs 10 crore – and converted the farm land into a milk farm and production unit where the consumer could trace the cow, the feed, and the quality of milk. Says Co-founder Mehal,
“Our company is addressing and trying to solve the serious issue of adulterated milk in the market. People are aware of contamination and adulteration, but have limited options. Very few brands promise farm-fresh, certified, organic milk and milk products.”
Happy Milk now offers a range of organic dairy products, including ready-to-drink farm-fresh milk, ghee, and paneer in glass bottles, and curd in clay pots (matkas). The startup strongly believes that packaging affects the product composition and has chosen to package its products in glass bottles and clay pots that are recyclable and/or environment friendly. It took a good six months to set up the business and get the farm up to speed.
Milk is now sourced from 400+ unconfined home-bred cows that are fed an organic diet. They are provided with home-grown silage, a mix of 10 components (corn being a major one) that ensure a balanced diet for the animals.
Happy Milk uses IoT devices to track the health of the cows and check the consistency and quality of milk produced. The company ensures zero human interference; it has brought in experts from Israel and industrial equipment from Germany to maintain the quality of its products. “Right from where the milking parlour should be to the location of the calves, the packaging process, pasteurising, and homogenising expertise, every little detail is captured to make the quality rich,” Mehal says.
The production capacity of their plant is 4,000 litres per day with eight more stock keeping units. Keen to utilise every resource, the founders have also installed a bio-gas plant. And the cow dung is put back into the soil as manure.
The business model
The company’s business model is purely retail sales. Happy Milk uses the Daily Ninja App to support its subscription model for home delivery. They have around 3,000 customers and their products are available in around 80+ stores in Bengaluru, including Nature’s Basket, Food Hall, and Happy Healthy Me. The brand is also available online on apps like Big Basket Daily (BB Daily), Amazon.in, and Doodhwala.
India is the world's largest producer and consumer of dairy; it has been the largest milk producing country globally since 1997. According to the Economic Survey of India, the country produces 160 million tonnes of milk per year. A study by Research and Markets pegged India’s dairy industry at Rs 5 lakh crore in 2016. Co-operatives and private dairies have access to only 20 percent of the milk produced; 34 percent of milk is sold in the unorganised market while 46 percent is consumed locally. Compare this to most developed nations where almost 90 percent of surplus milk goes through the organised sector.
India’s milk sector has seen a flurry of activity in recent times. Numerous startups are riding the demand for fresh milk. The organic milk sector has companies like the Good Cow Company, Shudh Farms, Akshayakalpa, and Satvik that are scaling up across India.
But Mehal believes their USP sets them apart. “We track the entire journey of milk. We monitor and have quality control over all aspects of production. We ensure that our products are packed in a way that reminds you of the good old days, and are extremely healthy and environment-friendly. Our USP will always be about freshness,” she says.
Happy Milk aims to end the current financial year with Rs 5 crore in revenue. What’s in the future for this dairy startup? Mehal says they plan to go pan-India with a brick-and-mortar strategy next year.
“We will launch new products, including organic butter, cheese, and Mishti Doi. We are hoping to hit production of 10,000 litres per day by mid-2019,” she says.
Entrepreneurship works best when experience is matched with the energy of youth. Happy Milk is hoping to build a brand that’s the most reputable when it comes to farm-to-fork products.