It takes a lot to dump a high-flying career — managing launches for Tata Tea and Tetley Group and handling mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in markets around the globe — to found a dairy. On that count, Srikumar Mishra is Odisha’s man of steel.
From being the Director of M&A at Tata Tea and Tetley Group, Mishra returned to his roots in rural Odisha, daring to turn the conventional on its head and “reap rewards for both farmers and consumers”. In just two years, his brand ‘Milky Moo’ has begun mooing all over Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, and spreading to other parts of Odisha. The Milk Mantra Dairy Pvt. Ltd., is on track to create a supply chain of over 50,000 litres a day, with a 75,000 litres-a-day state-of-the-art unit at Gop in Puri district, and an exciting product line.
“I wish I could say it was monotony or tiredness with corporate life, that I went this way. The reality is not so dramatic. It was a calling and I responded. Deep within, I knew I’d return some time. So I thought, why not now, and left,” said the MD of Milky Mantra (MM).
Why dairying? “Because this sector can be exploited to create exciting food and beverage brands. And because it’s still languishing in disorganised, ancient processes, out of sync with contemporary needs,” says the Harvard Business School-educated Mishra. There is a serious lack of innovations in dairying, he says. Less than 10 per cent of milk in Odisha is procured by the organised sector. The major chunk goes to the state cooperative, Omfed. While the national average of organised procurement is above 20 per cent, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, etc., have higher levels — upto 35 per cent. “I saw a huge opportunity in organising the supply chain and coming up with unique products,” he adds.
Goals set, the next challenge was to mobilise funds. The capital-intensive enterprise needed at least `20 crore to get off. And so, for the first one-and-a-half-years after Mishra left his lucrative job, were spent on scouring for funds. Help was at hand in shape of angel investors and venture capitalists. Seed money generated, Milk Mantra came into being. Fundraising was over by 2010-end and he bought a four-acre piece of land at Gop for the processing unit.
The follow-up poser — brand positioning. MM couldn’t be just another player. “We innovated on packaging to offer optimum value. Our three-layer packaging guarantees double the shelf life — upto four days,” Mishra says. The USP of Milky Moo is, there’s no need to boil the milk. Just pour and drink and save time and money on fuel, is their mantra. “We’ve built a stringent sourcing programme. Not only is the procurement subjected to rigorous checks, but farmers are also provided training in clean production. We also extend veterinary services and quality feed. Our procurement price is an added incentive,” he adds.
In just about a year, MM has created a network of 2,500 farmers, and is scaling up to 10,000 within this year. In the next five years the chain would be over 50,000, and production in the range of 3-5 lakh litres.
The company has also launched paneer in innovative packaging that ensures a 20-day shelf-life. It is also working on spreading wings to other parts of Odisha and even beyond, to Kolkata.
The major concern of the start-up is the leverage its competitor Omfed enjoys, thanks to subsidies and government aid. “The government harps on developing entrepreneurship in Orissa. To make this happen, it should ensure a level playing field. Only then will the shift from the unorganised to organized sector materialise,” Mishra sums up.