Corporate life is a secure one, it has its benefits, financial security and consistent hours. This is generally the picture one gets looking in from the outside. For many of us, despite this fairly desirable prospect, there is a hesitancy attached to it, the daily drag, the monotonous routine and the robotic lifestyle tend to sort of suck the joy out of work or at the very least, leave something to be desired. Kishore Kumar, Founder of Sid’s Farm found himself at a similar crossroads in the year 2012.
The Man Behind Sid’s Farm: Early Years
Hailing from the West Godavari district, Kishore paints himself as a small-town farm boy who grew up in the city as a result of his father’s work. Having witnessed his father study and work as an Engineer, Kishore followed in those footsteps and went on to acquire a degree in B.S. Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and after completing that, along with an integrated Master’s programme he earned a full scholarship to go and study at the University of Massachusetts in the United States.
Now, upon asking him why he chose engineering, he gives a very clear answer. A part of the reason he became an engineer was to follow in his father’s footsteps but the main reason was a drive in him that he felt was best met in the engineering field, a drive that makes him a problem solver. “I wanted to do research. That’s how far I really thought it through when I was aiming to do my masters and PhD…so, when you are studying or working in the corporate sector, it is essentially problem-solving. The problem could be technical or it could be something else.”
This perspective of solving problems led him to look inwards at his own life, where he found something was missing. This was the planting of the metaphorical seed that led Kishore to the realisation that there was something to be done back in India. “I was always attracted to agriculture. We had a farm in India, so one fine day, I just said ‘ok’ and moved back. I thought I would do something in agriculture.” With that, the journey of what would become the foundation stones of Sid’s Farm was laid.
I like the idea of that kind of peaceful living, hopefully, that’s what I’ll do at some point and not keep running around. That’s how it all started, little did I know what I was in for.
New Beginnings, Old Roots: The Birth of Sid’s Farm
Kishore made it very clear when speaking to Dutch Uncles, that he had no semblance of a plan when he left the corporate sector to follow his agricultural endeavours. He went a step further and shared that more than an entrepreneur, he was seen as crazy for leaving a secure job to pursue agricultural entrepreneurship without a plan or any prior business background. It is quite a leap for anyone to go from a 9-to-5 corporate job to the uncertain world of being a business owner and a self-starter, but then again, that is the leap of faith that one needs to take when following one’s dreams. “My boss said I was crazy because I didn’t really come back with a plan. In my mind, I thought I would be able to pull it off so I came, but little did I know what awaited me. When I came here it was very different. I mean, it is what is expected, but I was a little naïve back then,” explains Kishore.
Though he came back guns blazing into the agriculture game, Sid’s Farm was still a far cry from being realised.
The Pain Points of the Entrepreneurial Life
He knew he had found the right path in agriculture, but things were not so clear as of yet. He still felt something was lacking. “I felt I was not adding enough value. I mean we were paying the farmers well but, this was early 2012 and I felt there was not enough room. When I started, the idea of dairy farming started coming because of the Kollegal area where I was working, in between Bangalore and Mysore.”
With this inspiration creeping in, he made yet another calculated decision to move to Hyderabad to initiate his very own dairy venture which would come to be known as Sid’s Farm. With that, the city boy once more, became a countryman by going back to the roots he knew and loved. However, this was not without its fair share of trials and tribulations. As Kishore tells Dutch Uncles, one thing that no one actively speaks about as one of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is the money pit that it is. “I barely had Rs. 10,000 in my pocket with the family in tow…but then we slowly started pulling back as we started laying the foundation. We were always very careful with the money because we didn’t have any. In hindsight, dairy farming is a business where you can spend not just lakhs but crores of money.”
Another issue that the founder of Sid’s Farm faced was getting a structure into place. Given that he had no prior business background, all he had were his wits and his problem-solving drive to get the business through the day. The thing about the dairy industry and being a start-up is that you have limited manpower to meet the demand of a very large industry. On top of this, Sid’s Farm’s main aim, as a business, was to deliver to its customers, pure unadulterated milk and milk by-products. The combination of these limitations had Kishore and his team faced their hardest challenge yet, which was keeping up with demand.
“Initially when we first started, we would start at 4 a.m. by milking our animals, 5 to 5.30 a.m. we would packet the milk with a hand-packaging machine and we would sell it directly as in, take it directly to the customer’s house which is about 40 kilometres away from our farm.
So, as soon as we load our vehicle, within an hour the auto used to reach the place (customer’s house) and by 7 o’clock we used to be done with deliveries. As our volume increased, the slots were rescheduled to meet the demand. At one point we were even waking up at 1.30 in the morning. We did that for almost a year and a half. Then, I realised, if we go through this lifestyle then neither our people nor our animals would survive.”
I didn’t know anything about running a business. My father was an engineer all his life so I never experienced the business world. I had to learn pretty much everything from scratch.
Overcoming the Odds
When Dutch Uncles asked Kishore the question of how he and Sid’s Farm as a business overcame the odds, the answer was a very surprising and endearing one, to say the least. “In the last five or six years, there were tremendous amounts of hardship but I just put my head down and kept moving ahead. If you ask me, I never quit. There were many instances where we could have given up, but we just kept going. We keep a target and our entire team executes it; we all work together. We take good care of each other. What I’m proud of is all the people that we are able to impact – our own employees and the farmers that we work with. We want to touch everybody and we want to make a difference in their lives. I think that is the biggest satisfaction of this all. We work hard, keep going and learn new things along the way.”
Sid’s Farm is a unique creature for this reason. Where most businesses are focused on the bottom line, Sid’s Farm and Kishore maintained a philosophy of treating the team as a family, and when you are with your family nothing can shake your foundations. Kishore stands out amongst the crowd as an entrepreneur because he cares about his people and their mental health just as much as he does about the business. This is definitely a factor which has influenced the growth that the business has seen and the way it was able to overcome so many challenges over the years.
Sid’s Farm: Facing the Business Front
At the end of the day, running a business means you have to consider the bottom line as well as all the factors and obstacles that might pop-up and interfere with that. When Dutch Uncles asked Kishore how he identifies these issues given that he had no prior entrepreneurial experience, he said, “If you’re focused and if you don’t run away from problems that come to you, you’ll figure it out.”
Again, showcasing his penchant for being a problem solver, he went on to give an example of how the pandemic had pulled down business and the ways in which they overcame that. “When Corona hit, it was really hard. Luckily, we could still sell milk. The government allowed us to sell milk but making sure all our delivery boys were able to deliver milk safely was the main concern. There was a lot of chaos and the curfew was imposed, but we did not miss a single delivery, we did not miss any day…there were a lot of issues but we helped our people the best we could.”
Kishore’s solution to this was to plant his foot down and drive deeper into taking care of his employees so they could do their jobs in a safe and secure manner. He reached out to his community, his customers and got his delivery personnel donations so that they would feel recognised for their efforts, and on top of that Sid’s Farm also gave them free vegetables so they don’t have to worry about standing in line at the grocery store after a long day of deliveries. “You know they’re doing a great job, risking their own health and lives,” adds Kishore.
He understands that a business is no more than the people who fill its ranks, so his move was to take care of the people, who in turn took care of the business.
Giving Back Value
In terms of creating value and standing in such a heavily saturated market amongst industry giants, Kishore reveals that he recognises their existence, but he does not necessarily see them as competition. Sid’s Farm is unique as it is one of the few brands in India that does not adulterate its milk, considering that, there are only a handful of brands that give it a direct competition. Since this is the case, he sees them as simply expanding the market. The more it grows, the more the demand for his kind of product increases. So in a way, they are helping him. Clearly, regardless of lacking a business background, Kishore was built for this entrepreneurial world.
“What I’m looking for is creating that one product right and making it work. That is what drives me; create one product that we can all relate to,” elaborates Kishore, as he stresses the need to not worry about the competition but to stay focused on what you are doing and doing it the best way possible.
His advice to young and aspiring entrepreneurs was something that followed his philosophy and practices, “I would say having a small ego always helps. In life and in business especially. I think working with everybody and making sure there is no friction with all the people you work with, I think that helps…work on solving the problem, keep making shifts and you’ll figure it out.” If one can take away anything from Kishore’s journey it is the understanding that people and business can never truly be separated. Treat them with equal importance.
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