How this housewife set up a Rs 1.5 crore dairy business in Odisha

In 1997, Namita Patjoshi mortgaged her jewellery to buy a cow to provide milk to her large family, including her three children. What began as the sale of surplus milk at Rs10 per litre is now a Rs 1.5 crore dairy business in Koraput

Niroj Ranjan Misra
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Namita Patjoshi at her dairy farm in Koraput, Odisha

Namita Patjoshi at her dairy farm in Koraput, Odisha

After her marriage in 1987, Namita Patjoshi found it difficult to run a family of seven members with Rs 800 – the monthly salary of her husband who worked as a clerk in the revenue department in Odisha’s Koraput district. The 18-year-old would spend Rs 20 daily to buy two litres of milk for her large family.  

“The birth of two daughters and a son made life tougher for me. To make ends meet, I took up a teacher’s job in Sri Aurobindo Purnaga Sikhsya Kendra in Koraput town with a monthly salary of about Rs 300 in 1992,” says Namita.

In 1995, her father, a lineman in the Jeypore town of Koraput, gifted her with a Jersey cow that gave four litres of milk daily. She understood the importance of rearing a cow to cut household expenses and provide healthy nutrition to her children. But a year later, the cow went missing. 

Namita mortgaged her gold chain to buy a cross-bred Jersey at Rs 5,400 in 1997. The cow yielded six litres of milk every day. 

The business of milk

She would keep two litres for domestic consumption and sell the rest at Rs 10 per litre. “I realised that selling milk was a good option to improve my family’s financial condition,” she says.

Namita dairy
Namita outside her farm and with the cows (right). Pic: Kanchan Dairy Farm

Today, Namita has 200 cows of Jersey, Sindhi and Holstein breeds and employs 25 workers including 18 tribal women.

Her Kanchan Dairy Farm in Koraput has a daily output of 600 litres of milk, which is sold at Rs 65 per litre (Rs 39,000 per day). She also sells cheese, curd and ghee, when there is surplus milk, taking her annual revenues to Rs 1.5 crore.

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“I took a bank loan to increase the number of cows to five. I quit my job in 2013 to devote my time to the dairy business. Initially, I did not have any help and would do everything myself – from feeding and cleaning to milking the cows,” says Namita, who named it Kanchan Dairy after her mother-in-law. 

Expanding the dairy

With the rise in revenues, she gradually added more cows. Around 2015-16, she availed loans with a 50 percent subsidy. “The loans were provided by Bhubaneswar-based Agricultural Promotion and Investment of Odisha Limited under the scheme of Commercial Agri Enterprises. Banks readily provided loans to her as she would always clear them before time,” says Dr Sarangadhar Satpathy, the retired Chief District Veterinary Officer of Koraput. 

Gradually her credibility as an honest milk trader shot up and every morning customers began to make a beeline to procure the milk. 

So she adopted the coupon system in 2004, selling milk from her 20 cows at Rs 30 per litre. Today, out of 200 cattle at Kanchan Dairy, around 50 are calves. About 25 cows do not yield milk. The others cumulatively yield over 600 litres of milk daily. Sometimes Namita makes cheese, curd and ghee from the surplus milk.

STAFF of kanchan dairy
Namita (sitting with a child in her lap) and her staff members. Pic: Kanchan Dairy Farm

“I sell cheese, curd and ghee at Rs 350, Rs 80 and Rs 1400 per kg respectively. However, they are prepared occasionally, as most of the time no milk is left over. So I do not count earnings from these items as my regular income,” says Namita. 

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The milk is measured at the farm and given in the customers’ utensils or plastic pouches.

“We buy fresh milk as the cows are milked before the customers,” says the revenue department’s retired section officer Santosh Nanda who has been her regular customer for the last 23 years.   

Namita’s dairy farming business faced many challenges in its growth journey. In 2017, the small dispensary adjacent to her farm was converted into the Shaheed Laxman Nayak Medical College and Hospital. She decided to dismantle the farm due to the inconvenience caused to the cattle. 

Tribal women empowerment

At that time, 13 people, including nine tribal women were working on the farm with 55 cows. Even her husband asked her to shut down the business.

“It was the women workers who urged me not to shut down the business and disengage them,” the woman entrepreneur says. 

“We took nearly 15 cents of area (0.15 acre) on lease at a monthly payment of Rs 5000. This area is close to our plot and is on the other side of my house. We set up the farm there with some quarters to accommodate families of five tribal women workers,” says Namita’s husband Niranjan Padhy, who retired as the manager of Koraput Circuit House.  

Currently, she spends Rs 7 lakh every month on cows’ feed and about Rs 30,000 on their medical treatment. The monthly salary of women workers is Rs 5000 and ranges between Rs4000 and Rs 9000 for male workers. 

Also Read: How all-women dairy Shreeja has created one lakh milk entrepreneurs in Andhra Pradesh

She also earns income by selling the calves. “I sell most of my calves when they are 1.5 years old. The selling price varies between Rs 1500 and Rs 2000,” the dairy farmer adds. 

dairy members
The women workers urged Namita not to shut down the business in 2017. Pic: Kanchan Dairy Farm

Namita has bagged around 20 awards for entrepreneurship including the Parab Samman on two occasions from the district administration during Koraput’s Parab Festival.

She also provides finance for the schooling of her workers’ children and teaches them during her free time. 

“Every year she provides nearly Rs 20,000 for the schooling of my son who is now in class ten at Sri Ramakrishna Vidya Mandir in Koraput,” says Kalpana Jani, one of her women workers and a Paraja tribal. 

Namita aims to engage 100 destitute tribal women in her dairy farm and fund their children’s schooling. “I do not know when I will be able to do it, but I will do it one day,” she said.

(Niroj Ranjan Misra a Cuttack-based freelance writer. He writes on rural and tribal life, social issues, art and culture, and sports)

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