Meet an IT couple in Chennai running a dairy farm from their garage

Preetha and Manikandan say even their vacations were about visiting different gaushalas around the country.

Engineer couple Preetha and Manikandan, who work in top IT firms in Chennai, developed an interest in preserving native breeds of cattle during the Jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu in 2017.

“We had no plan (to raise cows) ever, it just happened. Both of us share a common interest in agriculture though we only have basic knowledge about it. During the Jallikattu protests, we became curious about the native cattle breeds. We travelled all the way to Erode to see ‘Kangeyam Kaalai’, a native cattle breed. Without a second thought, we bought a cow there. Owing to lack of space at our residence in Adambakkam, we tied it in our garage, which is around 500 square feet in area.”

With no knowledge about milking cattle, their food or medicines, what followed was multiple visits to various cattle sheds — gaushalas — to understand the entire process of maintaining cows.

Preetha says: “It was a fun learning experience, taking some time off from work, visiting gaushalas, and getting involved in something we had never done. We realised it wasn’t really that difficult to keep cows. It’s just like maintaining any other pet, like a dog or a cat.”

The next step was buying more cows, hiring hands, and learning to make various products from cow milk, dung and urine for sale. In short, a dairy farm was all set up at no other place but their garage.

“We employed some people so that they could do the everyday chores, like feeding the cows, cleaning the space, which I was doing before leaving for work. We also wanted to focus on research and development,” says Preetha.

The couple says their life soon started revolving around the cows and reached a point where even their vacations were about visiting different gaushalas around the country. “We visited gaushalas in various parts of the country, it became like a weekend getaway. My husband underwent training in Pune, I did in Karnataka. We learned how to make products from cow dung. As of now, we sell nearly 25 products, like milk, ghee, panchagavya, jeevamirtham, vibuthi, insect repellent, incense sticks, organic floor cleaner, soaps, etc. ”

As of now, the couple has ten cows and calves at their residence in Adambakkam, and have also rented another place to keep more of them. “There are five cows and five calves in my car garage at my Adambakkam residence. In another house, which we have rented to accommodate more cows, there are nine of them. All of them are western breeds like Gir, Hariana, Sahiwal, Rathi, Kankrej, etc, which produce large quantities of milk. During the gestation period, the cows are sent to my farm in Accharapakkam. I have around 30 cows and calves there. We have south Indians breeds as well there.”

In the beginning, says Preetha, they were apprehensive about setting up a dairy farm in the middle of a suburban household. “But the neighbours were supportive and that has helped us to sustain for more than three and a half years now.”

The couple don’t have a brand name yet, no signboard outside their house, or a website. They don’t deliver to shops or agencies but have customers from among their neighbours and various parts of the city. They all reached them through word-of-mouth.

“Our customers are all happy with our products. . Most of my customers say kids in their house do not milk from shops. We don’t deliver to any shops or other agencies; we have direct contact with the customers. They are asking us to expand our business in areas like Nungambakkam and Arumbakkam.”

On an average, they supply around 80 litres of milk every day. “We charge Rs 100 rupees for 1 litre of milk. The extra charge is because of the quality. Some of the local milk vendors had also helped me initially in milking and other things,” she added.

Significantly, Preetha says Covid-19 didn’t affect their business but helped them to grow further. “Thankfully, our business isn’t affected much by Covid-19. That is because people have become more aware of organic products for leading a healthy lifestyle.”

Preetha says if people are passionate and willing to work hard, they can succeed in this untapped market. “Our monthly turnover is around Rs 2.5 lakh. The profit will be 15 per cent of the turnover. We have received requests from other states and even from countries like the USA and Singapore. This is a good business for anyone, if you are passionate and work hard, you can succeed in this.”

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