Layman Agro’s efforts at empowering rural youth

LN Revathy | Updated on February 20, 2020

His quest to get fresh milk for his child became a turning point in his life. While most youngsters in their early 30s would just have ignored such a pursuit, Selvakumar Varadharajan appears to have taken this seriously by giving up his job and life in a cosmopolitan city to relocate to Coimbatore.

“I realised that people in urban India were not happy with agro products. Further, both my wife and I studied in a college here and were familiar with the city,” he said, providing rationale for his return.

This was almost eight years back. Today, he is running his own venture – Layman Agro Ventures, which predominantly sells fresh milk under the ‘VilFresh’ brand

Recalling his foray, he said, “I initially wanted to solve the problem on my home front. And then, in the best interest of my grandfather, who is a farmer, decided to help the farming community on the one hand and empower the rural youth on the other.”

“Farmers procure agricultural inputs at retail rates and sell the farm produce at wholesale or throwaway prices. I wanted to rectify this,” he said, pointing out that Layman Agro procures agricultural inputs in bulk, sells them to the farmers at rates cheaper than the retail prices, procures milk from them at better rates than what they would get from wholesalers and sells the same in the retail market.

“We have engaged under-employed and unemployed rural youth for collecting the milk from the farmers’ gate and delivering the same at our factory, where the consistency is checked before they are packeted and sent for distribution,” he said.

These rural youth are paid a lumpsum for collecting the milk. They return to the village with agricultural inputs including feed, seed, pesticide, weedicide, and implements, among others, as per the indent placed by the farmer. “We have tied-up with 42 farmers across eight villages in and around Kovilpalayam near Coimbatore,” said Varadharajan .

Earlier, such youngsters would leave their homes in search of greener pastures to eke out a living. “Our engagement has helped empower and retain them in a terrain they are familiar with and grew up in,” he said.

The procurement hovers at around 1,480 litres of milk a day.

“Urban youth deliver the milk packets at the customer’s doorstep. Close to 1,500 households have contracted to buy from us. Ours is the only brand that has the stamp of the time of packing. The packets are delivered at the customers’ doorstep within three hours of milking the cow,” he said.

While the farmers’ dues are settled via online remittance every Thursday, the delivery boys are paid between ₹4,000 and ₹7,000 a month (excluding petrol allowance).

Layman Agro’s revenue is expected to double to ₹3 crore this fiscal compared to ₹1.5 crore in FY19.

To ensure that the packets reach the customers on time, the company has developed a mobile tracking app. It is now gearing up to source vegetables from 20-odd farmers, sort, packet and market these under the ‘Vilfresh’ brand.

On investment, he said, Upaya Social Ventures, some high networth individuals and Native Angel Network, Coimbatore, have infused ₹1.60 crore in the venture.

Published on February 20, 2020

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