Akash Jyoti Gogoi is an unusual entrepreneur. In 2001, straight out of Bengaluru University with a computer science degree, he embarked on a journey into techno-entrepreneurship. He got back home and started a technology services company in Jorhat, Assam.
A trip to Europe in 2014 made Akash realise the potential of the dairy, meat and egg production business. Understanding the gap in the production and supply of fresh eggs in Assam, Akash decided to venture into layer poultry farming for egg production in 2017.
Layer poultry farming involves raising poultry birds for commercial egg production. Layer chickens are a species of hens that need to be raised from when they are one day old and start laying eggs from 18 to 19 weeks of age.
Bridging Assam’s egg deficit
"I noticed a significant gap in the Assam market where eggs were primarily sourced from other states, taking nearly seven days to reach consumers. Fresh eggs were not easily available in the state, where local production can meet less than 10 percent of the demand,” he says.
According to the Assam Government’s Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department, against the annual requirement of 560 crore eggs, the state produces around 47.50 crore eggs. As a result, there is an annual shortfall of 512.5 crore eggs, which have to be sourced from other states.
Akash spent the next 6 to 7 months studying the possibility of an egg production business. “I visited several places in Tamil Nadu, especially Namakkal, known as the 'egg city', Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana to understand the functioning of layer egg farms,” he recollects.
Having learnt about layer poultry farming, he set up his company, North East Agro Products and Services, in Jorhat to sell eggs under the Bahuboli brand. “The production began in 2018," the entrepreneur says.
Akash invested some of his savings and took an initial bank loan of Rs 3 crore, investing around Rs 10 crore on a single farm. This amount excludes the cost of the land, which he already owned. In 2021, he invested another Rs10 crore to start his second farm.
Initially, the production was around 20,000 eggs per day. Presently, two farms spread across two acres each house 1.2 lakh hens and produce around one lakh eggs daily.
The USP of Bahuboli eggs
"When I started, people were surprised at the branding of eggs because they believed ‘an egg is an egg’. Our eggs, unlike those sourced from outside the state, reach consumers' kitchens the day after production,” he says.
Fresh eggs are more nutritious than older eggs as nutrients degrade over time. “As people became acquainted with the quality, their perception changed, and now at marts, rather than asking for eggs, people specifically ask for Bahuboli eggs. That's a substantial growth for us," Akash say, beaming with pride.
According to him, Bahuboli eggs are of high quality, and their weight is more than that of the usual eggs. Since the Baahubali is also a symbol of strength, they opted for this brand name.
"A regular egg would be around 52-53 gm while a Bahuboli egg is around 58-62 gm.”
In the early days, a few retailers took advantage by falsely selling regular eggs as Bahuboli eggs. “This compelled me to prioritize branding; I decided to imprint our brand name and logo on each egg,” he adds.
Sales and revenues
Bahuboli eggs are sold to wholesalers and distributors in Assam and some parts of Nagaland. Each egg is priced at around Rs6 which varies according to wholesale market conditions.
On the retail front, while regular eggs are sold at around Rs8 per piece, Bahuboli eggs are priced at Rs 9. “With around a lakh eggs produced daily, we make around Rs 20 crore to Rs 22 crore annually. However, the revenue fluctuates based on the market,” he says.
Akash has also set up an organic bio-fertiliser business, named Thon Dhora, which uses the hen's waste. “The annual income is around Rs 40-50 lakh per year from bio-fertilisers," Akash adds.
Layer egg farm
For layer egg farming, Akash procures BV300 breed chickens from Venky's, a well-known name in the poultry hatcheries segment. The price is around Rs 40 to Rs 50 per chick.
Since layer farming involves raising chickens from the time they are one day old, they have to be fed well and taken care of.
"The quality of an egg is influenced by the nutritious feed consumed by the hen, its health condition, and the clean environment in which it grows. So we exclusively produce the best quality feed in-house for our hens,” he says.
Bahuboli has a team of around 100 members who continuously oversee the hens, provide vaccines, feed, and water and ensure the farm's hygiene, Akash says.
Poultry farming challenges in Assam
Akash highlights the difficulties of the egg business in Assam, primarily due to the prevailing weather conditions. The humidity poses a significant challenge, as it's not conducive for raising layer hens.
High humidity in Assam makes the hens susceptible to diseases, demanding round-the-clock care and attention to mitigate risks.
"Unlike other production firms, our farm cannot afford even a single day of closure. Continuous operation demands a reliable workforce and labour scarcity poses another challenge in this region,” he says.
Additionally, the farm operations, from establishment to eco-friendly waste disposal, necessitate significant land resources. “Assam's scarcity of vacant land also creates a pressing concern," Akash notes.
Prioritising hygiene and sustainability
Akash’s organic bio-fertiliser venture Thon Dhora started with the aim to address the issue of waste disposal. Around 2,000 metric tonnes of bio-fertilisers are now sold annually. It can be used for paddy fields, tea estates and gardens.
"In recent years, I've observed that eight egg farms, which started after us, ceased operations due to their inability to mitigate air pollution, sparking concerns among neighbouring villages,” he says.
“Therefore, it's imperative to devise viable solutions to address this issue. I can assert that our farm stands among the cleanest ones. There is no odour, and we maintain strict cleanliness, and ventilation standards," he adds.
Plans for expansion
Akash is now planning to launch a retail outlet named Bahuboli 7-9 in Assam. Apart from eggs, it will offer milk, chicken, and other items. “Additionally, I'm seeking collaborations to establish another layer farm since our existing farms are operating at full capacity. This expansion aims to increase production and serve a broader market," says Akash.
"As a first-generation entrepreneur without the aid of government subsidies and facing considerable risks, the journey of establishing this business has been far from easy,” he says.
“Yet, it is the commitment and the determination to succeed in this field that keeps me going. To anyone considering starting an egg production farm, brace up for round-the-clock dedication and attention," Akash signs off.
(Chandhini R is a Kerala-based journalist specialising in human interest, entertainment, and art and culture stories)