[Guest article by Santosh Panda, founder of Explara. Santosh earlier shared “Of Comfortable Corporate Life, Failures And Being An Entrepreneur” on his startup journey so far.]
One loss gave birth to a cash cow
My father had a day job in a Bank yet he ventured with 2 more partners to start a transport business (a truck goods delivery services to start with) in 1984. With a severe loss & accident; we lost lakh of rupees (a lakh rupee was big deal even now). This had a deep impact on us.
During the same time, we used to keep a cow for our home need. My father then shifted his attention to turn this 1 cow shed to one of Odisha’s district finest small-scale dairy firm! I thought to share this journey.
Scaling Desi Cow
We had a small ‘desi cow’ (Indian cow) which are less costlier than other high breed of cows, need almost no maintenance and at the same time, they produce fairly less milk. They are popular in villages and semi-urban areas as preferred small investment startups!
Now the transport business had gone for a toss, my father thought how about ‘scaling’ this desi cow setup to a mid-sized dairy firm! Initially, he got 1 more cow and we started getting around 7 ltrs of milk in the morning. This got us 2 ltr for our own home needs and 5 ltrs were sold in neighborhood & to some of father’s bank colleagues.
Sell The Right Milk
We invested in these 2 cows with proper care, good and veterinary healthcare. This improved their heath but their overall contribution to milk production was still fairly less. As our customers tasted milk and shared word of mouth that “Bank Panda’s” dairy firm milk is pure milk, more customers approached us.
My father had an ethics policy number 1: Not to add water in the milk. Though the demand was pouring in, we ensured we follow the ethics. We couldn’t serve the demand and in fact we used to tell these additional customers to go to nearest competitor dairy firm to buy!
Predictable Milk Production vs. Exponential Milk Production : Devise your biz model
During this time, my father used to get good inputs from veterinary doctors & staffs that certain desi cow are fairly stable in their growth, lifespan and contribution to milk production. Hence, we should mix foreign cows like Holstein cows (cows from Holland) with our Indian cows and manage a balanced dairy firm and growth of it. FYI, Holstein cows are highest production dairy animals.
That was a good advice but what happened thereafter almost changed our destiny. We got a Holstein cow, increased the milk production along with our existing cows. But the Holstein cow was very aggressive in nature, also needed different setups. For instance, Holstein cows need much rich processed food, their shelter needs to be open aired and they also need much concrete & proper drainage system.
We had to invest & build another shelter for this Holstein cows. We got a Holstein cow and figured that the cost of this cow was much higher vs. what we planned as milk production. First loss hit us.
Spot The Cash Cows
My father was searching for a cow via various agencies, middleman in various nearby villages & cities. One fine day, he went out and got a Holstein cow. Usually our firm servants bring them by letting the cow walk for miles after miles crossing several villages to my place. But this time my father went with them and while bringing the cow, he realized that the cow is so thin & weak that she had to be brought in a truck with utmost care.
When she arrived in our home, we were amazed to see such a thin Holstein cow papa had got (usually Holstein cows are fat & beautiful). I remember watching this cow struggle to even eat her first lunch in our home. We were not sure but my father was damn sure that he spotted a great cow.
With 3 months of extreme care, food and love, this cow went on to become the best cow in my district (Ganjam, Odisha) for next several years! She won awards after award and every veterinary doctor gave example about her as how a cow should be taken care. She was producing so much milk that we almost ruled the major supply in our customer segment.
But beyond this, we were known for timely milk distribution, pure milk and extreme customer care.
Enjoy The Journey & Be Thankful to Cows
The cows were like a family! We now had achieved a fairly stable set with Indian cows and Holstein cow to manage our growth, mixed their balanced milk production so we can manage supply-demand and unpredictability scenarios. We made some losses too in wrong selections but overall we enjoyed the journey, hard work and the money.
Pay it Forward
This contributed to our overall living, funding my engineering study and also much needed fund for my career shift to computing.
I am sincerely carrying forward some of the philosophies, customer serving learning from my father’s dairy firm to my startup.