Variety

Beekeepers to the nation

Preeti Mehra | Updated on March 10, 2018

Honey, we’re ahead Vinit Singh (left), founder of Brij Health Care, with associate Ram Kumar Gupta. - Kamal Narang

How a honey collector from a Rajasthan village became a leading exporter



You would hardly believe that behind the nondescript board and lacklustre iron gates of an unremarkable structure on the main Agra-Bharatpur Road lies the factory of the country’s largest exporter of honey.

Yes, this is Brij Health Care and you would have heard of it only if you were a confectioner in the US or Europe, or perhaps if you lived in Bharatpur district, which the unassuming Vinit Singh has helped transform into a honey hub over the past 10 years.

Singh began as an ordinary beekeeper with 50 boxes after Lupin Foundation popularised the activity in this mustard-growing district in the late ’90s. Like many others in the region, the then 28-year-old textile industry worker swiftly latched on to the buzzing opportunity. He even trained at the National Bee Board to hone his skills. “I quickly realised there was demand for honey and saw the potential for growth,” he says. Today he is on the verge of clocking exports worth ₹100 crore, the largest in the country, from his plant situated just a stone’s throw from his village Tehra Lodha.

Singh initially sold honey to other exporters in the country, as was commonly done back then. In a few years, however, he turned into a trader himself, buying from other beekeepers and selling to exporters. Progressing further, he turned an exporter with the help of bank loans.

By 2003-04, he set up a processing plant close to his village, but bang on the main highway. What set him apart from other exporters was the supporting role he played towards other beekeepers. Even today, Brij Health is known for coming to their rescue during the hard off-season.

Nevertheless, it was not always smooth going for Singh and his partners. As he recalls, “We started with a ₹60-lakh bank loan. It took two years to establish the honey processing unit and we suffered a major setback when we started exporting. Unfamiliar with the documentation needed and other nitty-gritty of honey export, in 2007 our five consignments of 100 tonnes of honey were returned due to insufficient documentation.”

The blow was so severe that Singh almost gave up and was ready to close shop. But Lupin Foundation and others encouraged him to remain afloat and not lose heart. “After two years of silence and hard work, in 2009-10 we managed to reconsolidate and start all over again.” The Brij Health Care team has since made sure that nothing stalls their growth or the survival of associate beekeepers.

“In 2003-04, honey prices crashed dramatically and beekeepers were forced to sell at an all-time low of ₹18-19 per kg. Since then, there has been a great change. Today beekeepers receive, on average, ₹140 per kg,” says Singh, who actively promotes beekeepers around the country.

A recent Gazette notification stipulates high standards for honey sold within the country as well, but most experts in the business will tell you that condition is rarely fulfilled.

The company initially sent its honey to Germany for quality testing. Today, it owns a full-fledged testing unit for its exports. “We can test for antibiotics, pesticides and adulteration... the test is for part per billion, which means even one drop of adulterant in a swimming pool can be detected,” he emphasises.

Singh believes you don’t have to shift to a city to be successful. After working in Mumbai and Bhopal he opted to come back to his village. “When people say only cities grow businesses, I tell them that’s not true. Take my example. But there are no shortcuts… hard work is the only means to success.”

Published on March 13, 2015

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