Milk and milk products have been a part of our society for a long time now. Dairy activities also form an essential part of the rural Indian economy, providing employment and income to many people. India also ranks first in milk production, accounting for 20 percent of world production.
Milk is also an excellent source of nutrients for the body. India’ growing population, increasing vegetarian population, health consciousness, and increasing incomes among many other factors have contributed to the growth of the milk sector in the country.
According to a report by Research and Markets, the market for liquid milk in India is projected to reach Rs 8,657,00 crore by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 15.7 percent.
While milk forms a major part of the diet among Indians, the country is also plagued by the issue of milk adulteration. According to 2018 statistics revealed by the Animal Welfare Board of India, as much as 68.7 percent of milk and milk products sold across India is not as per the standards of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Media reports reveal that detergent, white paint, refined oil, caustic soda, and glucose are commonly used for adulteration, leading to deteriorating quality of milk.
For Adhiraj Agarwal, the declining quality of milk became a personal issue back in his hometown in Siliguri. Fed up with low quality milk, he traveled to Punjab to observe and research on milking at farms there and find a solution to this problem in his hometown. In 2018, Adhiraj founded Godhuli Milk along with his father Ajay Agarwal and his brother Sahil Agarwal in Siliguri. The startup is into cattle rearing, milking, and distribution of unprocessed cow milk directly to customers.
Apart from this, in a bid to maintain hygiene and keep the milk safe, the entire process, including feeding the cattle, milking the cows, packaging, etc., are done through automated machines to reduce human contact with the product.
Speaking with YourStory, Adhiraj, a business management graduate from Christ University, says, “Godhuli was formed with a simple mission to provide pure and hygienic milk to the residents of Siliguri. Having grown up in the small town of Siliguri, I realised people have been deprived of pure milk for a very long time. The milk supplied by the local milkmen was mostly adulterated, and not fit for consumption. After completing my higher studies in Bengaluru, I returned to Siliguri and started thinking about the solution to this common issue.”
“Initially, managing cows seemed extremely scary and difficult, but after doing some research and talking to consultants, I realised it just needs the right knowledge mechanism, scientific tools, and assistance to take care of a huge herd. After researching over the same, I established the farm with 228 cows, which is also equipped with hi-tech machines,” he adds.
From farm to doorstep
Adhiraj explains the startup’s name has a special meaning behind it. The phrase Godhuli [Gau- Cow, Dhuli: dust] Bela is an Assamese phrase, used to refer to the evening sky filled with orange hue from the dust in air spread by cows while returning home from the fields. The startup has been named Godhuli to represent this imagery and respect for the cattle.
“Godhuli is focussing on providing pure and unprocessed cow milk directly to its customers. We follow the “farm-to-doorstep” process, which eliminates all middle men and hence zeroes down the chances of contamination,” he says.
The startup has also deployed hi-tech equipment at its farm to ensure the milk remains untouched. “The cows are milked in an automatic milking parlor, which harvests milk from the cows without hurting the udder. The cows walk into the parlor through the alley on their own when it’s time for milking. The setup can milk 200 cows in around three hours. Each cow has its own cubicle with rubber mats laid below them to lie down and rest while they ruminate on their feed,” Adhiraj says.
Apart from this, big sized fans have been installed in the cow shed to ensure a cool environment for the cattle. Automatic swinging brushes have also been installed for massaging the cows. Also, a TMR Wagon is used to mix and deliver the feed to the cattles.
“People were skeptical initially as to the need for so much mechanisation and automation in a dairy farm. They said that the farm wouldn’t reach profits if we invested so much on machines. I still decided to go with full automation as I wanted hygiene and purity to be the core motto of our product,” Adhiraj says.
Not only automation, but Godhuli is also focusing on being environment-friendly. The startup is saying no to plastic and uses glass bottles to package milk as they can be recycled. It also distributes milk to its customers using a fleet of electric vehicles. Users can place, manage, and track their orders using the Godhuli Milk mobile app.
Godhuli’s office operations are handled by four team members and around 11 members work in the farm responsible for managing day to day operations. It also has around 10 part time delivery boys who deliver milk directly to the customers. Apart from this, the business also claims to indirectly work with several other people including farmers who grow the green fodder for the cows, etc.
Supporting society amid crisis
During the COVID-19 led lockdown, the dairy startup launched a campaign called “two rotis per day” for one month where it encouraged people to make two extra chapatis every day for dinner. These flatbreads were collected by the delivery personnel and were fed to the stray animals who were left unattended during the lockdown.
Adhiraj also adds that Godhuli provided around 1,500 litres of milk to the needy during the lockdown.
He claims that Godhuli works on the principle of co-existence, and thus respecting the cattle and ensuring their safety, security, and health is of great importance to the team. He says the animals are never injected with any artificial hormones or drugs to maximise yield. Male calves or animals who have passed their fertility period or are also reared and taken care of like other milk producing cows.
“At Godhuli farms , the cows are never tied and have free access to feed and water whenever they want,” Adhiraj says.
Business and more
Speaking about the business model, the founder says the bootstrapped startup works on a prepaid system where users need to recharge their virtual wallets using the app before the milk gets delivered. The milk is priced at Rs 65 per litre, but the company offers cashbacks depending on the number of charges done by the user. Currently, the startup caters to over 500 families across Siliguri.
“A dairy farm of this scale requires huge investment. We have a term loan of Rs 4 crore and have invested 30 percent additional as our own contribution,” Adhiraj says.
Godhuli milk faces competition from local milkmen and the gaushalas (cattle ranch). However, Adhiraj believes the company has an edge over them as it ensures the complete automation process of milking and packaging of the milk, thereby lowering the chances of contamination.
Within the next one year, the startup is looking to buy other machineries such as a biogas plant, cow dung processing unit, and milk processing setup.
“Currently, we are only producing and selling raw milk, but we intend to step into other value added products like ghee, paneer, etc. We are also aiming to process our cow dung into vermi-compost and sell it. We will be also trying to promote slurry water for agriculture purposes as it is very high in natural nitrogen content and has huge potential for extra turnover,” the founder adds.