WATCH: How Varenyam Farms is saving Indian cattle breeds and making indigenous milk popular
Vapi, Gujarat, is ground zero for Brinda Shah, a Bangalorean until a few years back. This engineer, who worked with Texas Instruments, became a farmer in 2015 after being inspired by her in-laws, who owned a 65-acre farm.
Back in 2013, while still holding a job, she and her sister-in-law, Priyanka, teamed up with Brinda's father-in-law who created a platform where a farm’s output could be showcased to the public using social media. People could then travel to the farm and pick the fruit directly from the plants and trees, says Brinda Shah, Co-founder of the family venture Varenyam Farms:
“Every year, more than 100 people would travel with friends and families to pick fruit (mangoes and chikoo) at the farm. This was how my interest in farming and farm animals began.”
Watch Brinda in this video interview with YourStory Business Editor Vishal Krishna:
The beginning of milk research
Two years later, Brinda's father-in-law came across a local variety of cattle called 'Gir', and became fascinated with the history of cows in the Gujarat region. Based on what he uncovered, Varenyam Farms began a campaign to save indigenous cattle. They purchased eight cows and a couple of bulls, and began rearing the Gir breed.
That's when the organisation also began to research about the milk consumed by Indians to figure out the variety produced by Indian cattle. Brinda explains:
“To meet mass production (demands), Indians use European cows and hybrids to increase the quantity of milk. But we have sacrificed quality for quantity. This milk from European cows, called A1 milk, is not really a healthy variety when compared to A2 milk, which is good for the gut and produced by local cows.”
Over the last five years, Varenyam Farms has set up a farm with 130 cattle heads. The milk sold by the farm, under the brand HMS Milk, contains high-quality protein and only four grams of fat for every 100-gram serving.
“We are a family venture, and have spent a considerable amount of money to create a farm that uses organic material to grow fruits and also feed our cows. The milk itself is sold to local co-operatives,” says Brinda.
The firm did not want to disclose the funding it has raised, but says it completed its first full year of operations as Varenyam Farms in March 2019, finishing with Rs 50 lakh in revenue.
HMS Milk costs Rs 80 per litre and Varenyam Farms wants to make it a nationwide brand. To increase the production to commercial grade, they have to achieve production of more than 10,000 litres a day. The startup has carved out a plan to scale up her dairy farm, and is readying for a pan-India presence by 2022.
“The cost of the milk is high,” Brinda admits, but adds, “We are selling it to people who care about healthy living. We are also selling our brand of ghee across the country.”
The family-owned venture’s main aim is to preserve indigenous breeds of cattle and spread awareness among people about healthy ingredients from their farm.
The market and competition
According to data from the government, India produces 160 million tons of milk per year for a market that is worth around $30 billion.
Over the last two years, organic milk and other milk-related ventures have boomed. Happy Milk and Doodhwala are some of the startups that are going after the discerning Indian consumer. What was once locally available through indigenous cows is now expensive, and Varenyam Farms wants this milk to be available to every Indian and is hopeful we can go back to our old ways.
Maybe the white revolution, which began in Anand (Gujarat) will begin in Vapi for the ever-discerning millennial generation.