Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)

An IIT Mach. Engineer turned to Farmer


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I got this very interesting email from one of my friend which I would like to share it here.

This is an inspiring story. It helps you dare to think beyond the usual. It shows how single minded dedication and focused work can help one beget the dreams.

Off-beat is in. The oft beaten track, not so. One of the most interesting themes at this year’s Pan-IIT event was the session on rural transformation. IITians who have chosen an offbeat career hogged the limelight at the event. In this series, we feature some of the IITians who preferred to be different, rather than get into a corporate rat race.*The star at the event was R Madhavan, an alumnus of IIT-Madras.

This is Madhavan’s success story as a farmer

Passion for agriculture : I had a passion for agriculture even when I was young. I don’t know how my love for agriculture started. I only know that I have always been a nature lover. I used to have a garden even when I was a teenager. So, from a home garden, a kitchen garden, I gradually became a farmer! My mother used to be very happy with the vegetables I grew.

Studying at IIT Madras :My family was against my ambition of becoming an agriculturist. So, I had to find a livelihood for myself.*I wrote IIT-JEE and got selected to study at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras . I enjoyed studying mechanical engineering.*My intention was to transform what I study into what I love; mechanisation of farming. I felt the drudgery in farming is much more than in any other industry, and no one had looked into it.

Working for ONGC after IIT :I started my career at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). My father refused to give me any money to start farming. So I asked the officials to let me work at the offshore sites, on the rigs.*The advantage was that I could work on rigs for 14 days and then take 14 days off. I chose to work on the rigs for nine years, uninterrupted.

Madhavan’s farm : After 4 years, I saved enough money to buy six acres of land. I bought land at Chengelpet near Chennai.*I chose that land because the plot had access to road and water. Back in 1989, a man in a pair of trousers aroused curiosity among the farming community. That was not the image of a farmer!*Tough beginning as a farmer.I became a full fledged farmer in 1993. It was tough in the beginning. Nobody taught me how to farm. There was no guidance from the gram sevaks or the University of Agriculture .*I ran from pillar to post but couldn’t find a single scientist who could help me. I burnt my fingers. My first crop was paddy and I produced 2 tonnes from the six acres of land, it was pathetic.*When I lost all my money, my father said I was stupid. I told him, it didn’t matter as I was learning. It was trial and error for me for three years. Until 1997, I was only experimenting by mingling various systems.

A Visit to Israel :In 1996, I visited Israel because I had heard that they are the best in water technology. Take the case of corn: they harvest 7 tonnes per acre whereas we produce less than a tonne.*They harvest up to 200 tonnes of tomatoes, whereas here it is 6 tonnes, in similar area of land. I stayed in one of the kibbutz, which is a co-operative farm for 15 days.*I understood what we do is quite primitive. It was an eye opener for me. They treat each plant as an industry. A plant producing one kilo of capsicum is an industry that has 1 kilo output.*I learnt from them that we abuse water. Drip irrigation is not only for saving water but it enhances your plant productivity. We commonly practice flood irrigation where they just pump water. As per the 2005 statistics, instead of 1 litre, we use 750 litres of water.

Guru :I met Dr Lakshmanan, a California-based NRI, who has been farming for the last 35 years on 50-60,000 acres of land.*He taught me farming over the last one decade. Whatever little I have learnt, it is thanks to him.*I knew a farm would give me much better returns in terms of money as well as happiness. Working for money and working for happiness are different. I work and get happiness. What more do you need?
No guidance in India.I said at one platform that we have to change the curriculum of the agricultural universities. What they teach the students is not how to farm, but how to draw loans from a bank!*What they learn cannot be transformed to reality or to the villages. The problem in the villages is not mentioned in the university. There is a wide gap and it is getting worse.
After burning my fingers for four years, from 1997 onwards, I started making profits.*Even though it took me four years, I did not lose hope. I knew this was my path*even though I didn’t have any guidance from anyone.*In those days, communication was slow. Today, I can get guidance from Dr Lakshmanan on Skype or Google Talk, or through e-mail.*I send him the picture of my problem and ask his guidance. In those days, it took time to communicate. There was no Internet or connectivity.*That was why it took me four years to learn farming. Today, I would not have taken more than six months or even less to learn the trick!I started crop rotation after 1997. In August, I start with paddy and it is harvested in December.

I plant vegetables in December itself and get the crops in February. After that, it is oil seeds like sesame and groundnut, which are drought-resistant, till May.*During May, I go on trips to learn more about the craft. I come back in June-July and start preparations on the land to get ready for August. In 1999, I bought another four acres. My target is a net income of Rs 100,000 per annum per acre. I have achieved up to Rs 50,000.I sell my produce on my own. I have a jeep and bring what I produce to my house and sell from there. People know that I sell at home. I don’t go through any middle man.*I take paddy to the mill, hull it and sell it on my own. In the future, I have plans to have a mill too. These days, people tell me in advance that they need rice from me. I have no problem selling my produce.

Engineering helps in farming :More than any other education, engineering helps in farming because toiling in the soil is only 20 per cent of the work. About 80 per cent of farming needs engineering skills.Science is a must for any farming. I have developed a number of simple, farmer-friendly tools for farming areas like seeding, weeding, etc. as we don’t have any tools for small farmers.*If I have 200 acres of land, I can go for food processing, etc. My next project is to lease land from the small farmers for agriculture. The village will prosper with food processing industries coming there. My yield will also be more with more land.

Abdul Kalam visits the farm : Dr Abdul Kalam visited my farm when he was the President, after hearing about what I was doing. He spent around two hours on my farm.*During his visit, he said: “We need not one, but one million Madhavans!”.If I am able to inspire or create even one entrepreneur, I will be very happy, because that is what Dr Kalam wished me to do.

Experimental farming :Every acre of my land has ten cents of experimental farming. I have done this for the last 15 years.*This is a part of my research and development. Some of it may fail, but even if I succeed at one thing, that is enough for me.

Entrepreneurship in the village : I feel that the number of people engaged only in farming should come down. Instead of ten people, there should only be two people. I am not saying the eight should go jobless.*What we should do is, create employment in the villages based on other agro activities like value addition, processing, etc.*We can go for mechanisation in large areas so that the cost per acre goes down. In India , the cost per every meal is very high. So, my next concern is, how do you make it cheap.In America , the unskilled working for one hour can earn three meals a day. Here, in the rural areas, even if they work for one day, they can’t get one meal* a day. How do you bring down the cost? By producing more food. So, my intention is to make more food.

Food insecurity in India :The United Nations says 65 per cent of the world population suffers from food deficiency, and India ranks first in the list.About 49 per cent of our children are undernourished. This means our future generation will be affected.If we are not going to give attention to this area, we are in for real trouble. Food insecurity is more threatening than an atom bomb!

We would look at some impressive personalities who came out with flying colours inspite of their contrasting careers

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)


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I dare, therefore I am ( Times of India_10/10/10)

Do you have the courage to follow your dreams Take a cue from these entrepreneurs who've quit dream jobs never to look back.

Humble beginnings seldom pay. But E Sarath Babu will not buy that. This 28-yearold,who sold idlis with his mother in the slum they lived, is living proof that if you have the conviction, the sky's the limit. From a slum in Chennai to the chemical engineering at BITS Pilani and then IIM-A, life taught Babu that nothing beats the practicality of a simple, uncomplicated business idea. Babu turned his alma mater into his marketplace, in the form of an eatery in IIM-A, soon followed by BITS, Pilani.

Money was hard to come by. Yet, he put in his hard earned Rs 2,000 to set up the base for what is today Food King Catering business, with a daily turnover of around Rs 1.1 lakh. "You don't need money, but the will to succeed. A positive attitude, focussed and creative approach and the right aptitude helped me achieve my lifes goals," he says.

Like Babu, almost all of us nurture a businessman within us, brimming with ideas, awaiting the right time to become our own masters. But where the majority fails, there are those who give up all they have, cushy jobs and life's savings, to nurture that germ of an idea.

From organic food to gay bookstores, risk-taking entrepreneurs are tapping into nascent markets and expanding into existing ones like never before. Technology is surely helping gogetters with smart ideas to hit the marketplace quickly. Even young folks barely out of college are running serious enterprises they started with a modicum of capital.

According to the Forbes India Rich List, there are 69 billionaires this year. RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani has topped the magazines list of the 100 richest Indians. Enough inspiration for those wanting to play with fire!

Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who founded Biocon India in a garage, with a capital of Rs 10,000 in 1978 had said, "Everyone looks at me today as a successful entrepreneur, but I also know what it has taken me to get here. People don't see the failures I've gone through, they only see my success. Failure is inherent to life's process and in reaching success." Saurabh Mishra is familiar with the glitches that come in the path of entrepreneurship. Funding was the biggest problem he faced when he quit his job in a software company in 2003 to set up fresh fruit kiosks in Delhi. "I invested all my savings." Saurabh was also the first person from his family of professionals to break the mould and start his own business. During decision-making, I had no one to seek advice from within the family. He started with Rs 15 lakh and today Saurabhs health food chain Lemonz, with four outlets, has a turnover of Rs 50 lakh per annum. "There are risks, but its better than being a salaried person!" he says.

But, when does one take the plunge? Corporate training consultant Krishnan Chidambaram felt professional boundaries limiting his capabilities after almost two decades of service. He's recently quit Nokia to start his own corporate training consulting firm. I wanted to have my own canvas to paint. To minimise risk, often a professional chooses an area where he has core competencies. But there are examples of those who go and do something radically different. Take Leher Kala, a 34-year- old former journalist and now the proud owner of H u t k ay Films. "I saw my own wedding video, which was unwatchable," Leher says. And that is when she decided to create private movies for special occasions. Lehar raised her own money to cover initial costs and started with hired camera equipment.

Deep Kalra of Make My Trip is probably the poster boy of Indian B-school exes-turned-businessmen. He left behind a string of successful stints at reputed financial institutions, after a chance meeting with a friend at a Mumbai mall. The duo, after excitedly jotting down business plans on a napkin, zeroed in on travel for the NRIs. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, his company has become one of the largest travel companies in the country.

Entrepreneurs look for opportunity to fill the void in the market. But there are those who look beyond profit. IIM Ahmedabad faculty Brij Kothari hit upon the idea of spreading literacy through Bollywood songs, using Same Language Subtitling (SLS) on TV in India. Over the last 10 years, SLS has woven regular reading practice into the lives of 150 million early-literate people.

Dhirubhai Ambani, Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar... an entrepreneurs list of idols is endless. Like their idols, these entrepreneurs believe that its courage and not vast sums of money that is required to fuel ones passions.

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)


New Member
Very Inspiring

Dear Mr. Atul,

The story is very inspiring atleast for a person like me who is aspiring to be one the most successful farmers in India and want to set my farm as an example for others

Is there anyways i can get the contact of this farmer? Please help


Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)


New Member
Address R Madhavan

Dear Keerthi ,

Please try to connect with fallowing address.

S Viswanathan
Agriculture Consultancy Management Foundation
Economist House

Regards ...

Atul Yadav
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Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)


New Member
Turmeric turns gold, AP farmers_Times of India_02/06/10

Turmeric turns gold, AP farmers snap up cars

NIZAMABAD: It's raining cars in Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh. Flush with profits, farmers, especially turmeric growers, are placing orders for brand new cars and investing huge amounts on gold and land.

"My dream of owning a car was fulfilled recently. Now, I drive my way to the field," Machhendra of Siddapur village in Nandipet mandal said. The farmer, who sowed turmeric crop in two-and-a-half acres, decided to fulfil his long-cherished dream after he earned a profit of Rs 7 lakh from his produce. Machhendra owns 17 acres, but had to limit sowing of crops due to shortage of farm hands.

An official of the district road and transport authority (RTA) said a total of 669 new cars have been registered in the last three months alone. A majority of them who placed the orders were turmeric farmers from Armoor, Velpur and Balkonda mandals. Sources said ryots from Nandipet, Morthad and Jakranpalli mandals, where cultivation of turmeric is also high, have also joined the car queue.

But what were the reasons for this turnaround in the fortunes of turmeric growers? While a majority of ryots are facing hardships due to poor water supply and erratic power, turmeric growers have reaped it rich this time, thanks to high market price. With rising demand for turmeric from neighbouring states and West Bengal, the price has soared in the market yards. "It's like a golden harvest for turmeric farmers. They are getting the highest price of Rs 16,700 per quintal this season," Armoor market yard secretary M Bansilal told TOI.

M Gangadhar, a farmer of Pipri in Armoor mandal, said of the Rs 5 lakh profit he made, he spent Rs 2 lakh to purchase 10 tolas of gold.


Atul Yadav

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)

contact number & address for Mr.Mahavan

after i read the above story,really very impressive & use. I feel this is not story. this leason to learn every indian. thanks to wrote this kind of informations in this site....

If you provide contact number & address Of Mr.Madhavan (IIT, student became a former) will be very useful for me.

If possible pls send me private message or mail me.

Please contact..

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Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)


New Member
Hi Atul

Thanks for sharing this article about Mr.Madhavan, can i get his contact details please, i want to meet him in person....

Anantharaman V

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)



Can i get Mr.Madhavan contact details please, i want to meet him in-person.

Thanks in advance

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)

Business Opportunities in Agriculture: 150 Field Interviews (Book)