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Kabilai Farm: Milking sustainable habits

Gopinath Baskaran’s Kabilai Farm supplies organic milk to conscious consumers in the city

Published: 06th July 2020 04:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2020 04:16 AM   |  A+A-

Stills from the farm

Stills from the farm

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Organic or conventional? Consumers across the world have been divided over this choice. But with an increase in focus on a healthy lifestyle, the switch to sustainable and organic choices seems to be the way ahead. A quick Google search tells us that besides organic vegetables and fruits, organic dairy products are slowly finding a fanbase too, especially in India.

Consumers now prefer milk that guarantees no added hormones, assuring them of a healthier option. Bringing one such farm-fresh milk produce to our homes is Kabilai Farm. From assuring chemical-free milk, to finding a loyal customer base in Chennai, Gopinath Baskaran, the sole proprietor of the brand talks to us about the challenges and scope of entering the organic dairy market.

When did you decide to start an organic dairy plant?
My brothers and I graduated in 2016, and started working for an organisation after that. To have an additional income, we decided to start a business. I wanted to do something in the agriculture industry because I saw immense scope. I was living in Chennai at the time, and many people had talked to me about the poor quality of milk that was in supply then. I called my brothers and suggested that we start a dairy farm; soon, we began our research on the dairy market.

There are two types of milk available that are procured from different types of cattle. We chose to stick to native cattle because its milk is in demand in Chennai. We were initially considering setting up our plant near my home close to Puducherry where we have around an acre of land on which we grow fodder and also house cattle. But we chose a farm in Rettanai Village, Tindivanam. Our first batch of cattle was shipped in from north India because the cattle prices here were high in the south. We started with 20 cows — eight from north India and the rest from Tamil Nadu — in February 2018. Ever since, we have also begun manufacturing dairy products like paneer, ghee and butter.

What is the scope of organic milk in India?
While doing market research, we found that villages and small towns have easy access to fresh and organic milk. People in cities don’t. Most dairy products in cities are circulated by big brands. Once we began operating in Chennai we realised that consumers are becoming mindful about the source. The only major obstacle is pricing. Because farm-fresh organic milk is hard to come by, it sells at a slightly higher rate. Most customers generally reach for a known brand or the lowest-priced one, especially if it is a dairy product. Once the trend picks up, the market will improve too.

How long does it take for a land to be cleaned of previously used pesticides?
Although it takes very long for the land to be completely cleared of pesticides, by using organic fertilisers and indigenous crops, we can achieve some improvement in the quality of the land. We grow green fodder on our family-owned land near Puducherry. We use the cattle dung as manure for fodder. By observing the farmers around our property, we got to know that they use dung along with chemical fertilisers to nourish their land. I just use twice the amount of dung and the crops are healthier

What are the benefits of organic dairy products?
Many customers have given me feedback that their grandparents found our milk to be similar to what they used to consume as a child. Even though we haven’t had our milk classified by a nutritionist, our customers have noticed a reduction in chronic ailments after continuous consumption. One of my first customers (also a friend) suffered from impaired vision. After a year of consuming fresh milk, he told me that his vision had improved considerably, and he owed it to the milk he purchased from us. That gave me a sense of fulfilment. We don’t tamper with the milk. Once extracted, we cool it down and immediately pack and distribute.

Who are you clients? Do you supply pan India?
We are a small unit. We are building a network in Chennai. With big brands like Aavin, we initially found it difficult to get our product on the shelf. We started our own subscription model to combat that issue. We also began supplying to more local supermarkets to increase the reach. We started with a handful of customers and in a year, subscriptions began flowing in. Before COVID-19, we had around 400 subscriptions annually. We tied up with dealers and have around four to five of them distributing milk daily. In the last five months, I’ve had approximately 200 new customers and five dealers.

Have you seen a rise in demand for organic milk?
Are consumption habits changing? Organic milk is seeing a steady increase in market share. People have begun sourcing their products from local farmers and brands, to ensure good quality produce. Even though some of the products are highly priced as compared to their non-organic counterparts, people are more cautious about buying adulterated stuff. Abroad, the demand for organic products is very high, in India, however, we are still grasping with the authenticity and benefits of eating organic and fresh products. In the last two years, I have seen many people opt to pay that extra seven to ten rupees for better quality organic products.

What are you planning for your brand in the year ahead?
We will be launching our app and website by the first week of August. People can directly subscribe to our products online. I have a delivery team of around six to eight boys who will make the deliveries at the customers’ doorstep. Going digital will expand our reach and improve our network in the city.

To subscribe
Kabilai Farm accepts subscriptions via WhatsApp messages to 9962411211. Subscribers will receive an automated response almost immediately. You can also write to kabilaifarm@gmail.com



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