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Why this IIM-A graduate sells vegetables

July 02, 2008 17:11 IST

Unlike most management graduates for whom the sky is the limit in corporate matters, Kaushalendra with a management degree from IIM Ahmedabad chose to sell vegetables on city streets and still dreamt of making it big.

But how can someone make it big by selling vegetables? Meet 27-year-old Kaushalendra, son of a college demonstrator in the nondescript block town of Ekangarsarai in Nalanda district.

"I have a dream to build Bihar into the vegetable hub of the country. I want vegetables grown in Bihar on dining tables all over India-- from Srinagar to Salem and from Shillong to Surat," he says.

Perhaps the most highly-educated green grocer India has ever produced, the young man from Nalanda has founded a farmers' cooperative, Samriddhi, which sells vegetables in ice-cooled pushcarts.

The private-public partnership venture, launched about a couple of months ago with assistance from Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) with just one pushcart, has now placed an order for 50 more carts, thanks to a collateral-free loan of Rs 50 lakh.

Nearly 300 farmers have associated themselves with 'Samriddhi'. ATMA, a government undertaking, is training these farmers in matters relating to high-yield seeds and crop protection.

''Our aim is to propagate organic farming and use our expertise in marketing to reach the markets not only in India but also abroad so that the farmers of Bihar fetch good returns for their produce. In five years, we target to penetrate the vegetable markets in the US, Europe and Japan,'' Kaushalendra says.

The ice-cooled pushcart vegetables are a hit with customers in parts of southern Patna. ''The vegetables taste garden fresh, are priced reasonably and, to add to that, they are weighed accurately with electronic weighing machines....we are just delighted to have it at a time when we have to make do with shoestring budget thanks to record inflation,'' says Bharti, a housewife in Kankarbagh area.

Moreover, the pushcart vendor gives the buyers a cash-memo which no other vegetable seller does, as further authentication of the quality and quantity of the vegetables.

''I am not only selling vegetables, but also the name of the farmer and the village where it has been grown. The farmer should not remain an unsung hero any more,'' he says pointing at the tag on the vegetables which has the mention of the name of the farmer and his village.

''One day'', he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "We will be able to build Bihar into a brand....the largest selling brand in horticulture''.

Asked about the initial reaction of his family to the idea of their highly qualified son foregoing a lucrative career in  the corporate world and opting for an uncertain future in the calling of his forefathers, Kaushalendra said,  ''They were shocked but later they seem happy that I am trying to do something that would benefit hundreds of thousands of farmers of Bihar.''

Asked to comment on the job offers he had, the self-effacing IIM graduate said, ''I did not opt for the placement process. So, in that sense, I had none.''

''I saw the farmers of my village eke out a living by the sweat of their brow and then watch with abject resignation the fruits of their toil rot during the floods. I always dreamt of doing something for them and I am just chasing that dream,'' he says.

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