Vegan Dairy Entrepreneurship in India

After becoming hugely popular in the west, Veganism has caught up in India and steadily growing by day. Thanks to the vegan movement and the entrepreneurs who are staunch believers in Veganism Vegan products have made big entry into the Indian consumer market. Vegan businesses now deal with non-leather, non-silk and every other product which was not derived from animals directly or indirectly.

Among the vegan entrepreneurs that have set up shops in the Indian consumer space and are slated to make impact are those dealing primarily with dairy products. Driven by the response to vegan movement and discovering a huge market potential for vegan dairy products, young entrepreneurs have ventured into plant based dairy products in a big way. 22 year old Abhay Rangan is one such entrepreneur from Bangalore city who along with his mother started out Veganarke, a home- based venture to supply plant-based Milk, Curd, Butter to their neighbours and friends and which has now turned into a start-up Goodmylk with distribution centres in four major cities across India.

What is Veganism

Unlike in the western countries where consumer’s diet largely comprises of meat and other products from animals and sea creatures other than dairy products, a majority Indian population since times immemorial has been dependent upon milk for its nutritional needs of calcium, vitamins and proteins. Cow and cow’s milk have been quintessential part of our culture. Who would hesitate a reverential bow to the name Kamdhenu a perennial milk giver, or deny having heard stories of Lord Krishna as a child stealing butter from clay-pots?  Cow’s milk has been considered essential for growing children, to strengthen their bones, and build their stamina for future. Remember the movie Bhag Milka Bhag where the need for milk to strengthen the ace -runner’s stamina was so well portrayed? 

Here is the crux of the matter- a question to ponder about. Why now the need to go for plant- based milk and its derivatives to replace something that was so much part of Indian Culture and dietary requirement.

Among many reasons, apparently the primary reason is the scepticism about the quality of bovine’s milk attributed to the growing awareness of the cruelty and exploitation of milk yielding animals and the increasing number of activists fighting to stop the cruelty. Milk industry related environmental concerns is also a major factor for many to advocate alternative dairy products.

Bovine Milk production in India

Since independence in 1947, Indian milk production has grown from producing 17 million tons of milk in 1951 to producing 176.4 million tonnes in 2017- 18 recording a growth of 6.65 %. India ranks first among the world’s milk producing nations since 1998 and has the largest bovine population in the World. This transformation is attributed to the advent of dairy cooperatives in the 70s also known as White Revolution.

The per capita availability of milk in the country which was 130 gram per day during 1950-51 has increased to 374 gram per day in 2017-18 as against the world estimated average consumption of 294 grams per day in that year.

Dairying – an important source of rural income

For millions of rural families, dairying has provided employment and income generating opportunities particularly for marginal, landless labours and women farmers. For more than one-fifth of agricultural households with very small parcels of land (less than 0.01 hectare) and an average farm size of between 1-3 cows per farm, the milk production is on an average about 1,000 Kg/cow/year.

Of the total milk production in the country, about 48% milk is either consumed at the producer level or sold to non-producers in the rural area. The balance 52 % of the milk is marketable surplus available for sale to consumers in urban areas, 40% of which is estimated as handled by the organized sector (i.e. 20% each by C-operative & Private Dairies) and the remaining 60 % by the unorganized sector.

Up to March 2018, National Dairy Development, government of India brought about 16.6 million farmers under the ambit of about 1,85,903 village level Dairy Cooperative Societies (DCS), with procurement of daily average of milk about 475.6 Lakh Kg per day (LKgPD) during 2017-18 and the sale of the liquid milk  to 349.6 Lakh Liter per day (LLPD).

FIGURE 1: INDIAN MILK SUPPLY CHAIN

Source: DeLaval India (Milkproduction.Com/Library/Editorial-articles/Milk quality in India

TABLE 2: CONSUMPTION PATTERN

Source: DeLaval India (Milkproduction.Com/Library/Editorial-articles/Milk quality in India

 Risks and Challenges

The milk industry has thus proved an important driver of rural economy, economically empowering women farmers and encouraging them to assume leadership roles through the cooperatives. Transformation of the country to self-sufficiency and sustained growth in the availability of milk and milk products and its nutritional values to the growing population has been due to concerted efforts of government and the private sector with encouragement for use of high yielding cross breeds and optimal use of technology for processing of milk products.

Low pricing: Despite being the one of the largest milk- producing countries in the world, however, India accounts for a negligible share in the worldwide dairy trade. Since the pricing of milk is based on the fat content, buffalo milk offers higher profit margins as compared to cow milk as it contains higher fat.

NUMBER 3: GLOBAL MILK PRICE (FARM GATE) NOVEMBER 2013 – IN EURO

Source: DeLaval India (Milkproduction.Com/Library/Editorial-articles/Milk quality in India

Driven by the desire for better returns and due to lack of proper education and training and despite government measures in place, unfortunately, a section of cow farmers have been resorting to unethical practices for higher milk yields. Indiscriminate injection of Oxytocin in the bovine’s blood to enhance its milk yield, antibiotics injections as treatment for Metastasis a common problem in cow udders due to poor sanitary conditions of the cow sheds, and the fear and scepticism about these undesirable chemicals getting into consumers’ blood through the cow’s milk stream are the major reason for the activists to raise voice against it. Besides, every male calf of cross breed, after being born and considered worthless, ending up in a slaughterhouse are the reasons for their revolt.

Poor maintenance of records:  A recent Livestock census reveals that records of some 88 million In-Milk animals showing important information of those in breeding stage, their productivity, treatment and vaccination are unavailable on an annual basis attributed to lack of system for recording, with no proper animal identification and traceability with their sanitary and phyto- sanitary conditions.

Environmental challenges: Deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; the tap water not being potable throughout the country and the ever-growing population is overstraining natural resources.

***

Notwithstanding the challenges, the changing lifestyles due to rapid urbanization accompanied by changing milk consumption pattern are putting further pressure on the need for milk and milk- based value-added products. Hence, the need of providing ample feed to the bovine in the past too has shifted, in recent years, to providing optimal nutrients to promote reproductive health matching to genetic profile of the bovine.

Action Plan:  It is heartening that the recent national dairy development policy has encompassed vast areas of action, under which the focus is on increasing the number of few select indigenous breeds of the 43 indigenous cattle breeds and 13 Buffalo breeds which are known to be of better adaptability, disease-resistance and feed efficiency ratio. By enhancing the average productivity of milk of select breeds like Gir, with use of cutting- edge technologies as below it is hoped to bring long- term sustainable solutions.

  • Making easy availability of exotic germplasms for high-yielding cross breed, along with its identification and traceability, connecting breeders, State agencies and stake holders, through the e-market portal “E- PashuHaat”.
  • Setting up of Artificial insemination centres at different levels of rural areas and help with tools and techniques made easily available to farmers. 
Text Box: 1.What was the inspiration to start Goodmylk?
I was a born vegetarian, became a vegan at 13. My parents and sister are vegans. I was an activist and as a teenager I was fighting against cruelty towards animals along with society for animal protection.
2. How does veganism help environment?
To give one litre of cow milk, about 1200 litres of water is used, forests are denuded to make way for grazing land and providing fodder. By way of veganism we are using much less resources. That said there can be no business where you don’t leave carbon footprint.
3. what is your view about latest practices in dairy industry? Isn’t the new breed of dairy entrepreneurs taking care of cows and its exploitation?
Extracting milk in any form or method from cows is like going against nature and harming a living being. It is against our values and I have subscribed to the value of ahimsa(non-violence).
4. Do you think plant based vegan milk can be a hundred percent substitute to cow’s milk in terms of its nutritional value? How do you ensure quality of raw materials for Goodmylk?
Our Plant based Goodmylk is highly nutritious with all important proteins required for sustenance and growth. There are many supplements available or other foods for any missing nutrition. I wish I could vet every batch of raw materials, but I do ensure control over the quality of the ingredients.
5. Please tell about your journey as an entrepreneur?
Doing business and setting up a successful business is never easy. I had my ups and downs in the field where there are already many players. The main challenge was to navigate the entire spectrum of technology, vendor management, warehouse management, logistics, getting cool investors who believed in me and my vision. It was how I retrofitted my vision into the vegan space by finding the right market with the right products and the right partners who already had the manufacturing know how.
6.  Any expansion plans? Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years? 
I want to expand the distribution of Goodmylk as widely as possible and sell Goodmylk dairy products in every part of India. It should be seen and sold from every shop, from every shelf, from where the dairy milk is being sold. If I’m making our world little more loving and human, I’m happy.
  • Development and standardization of technologies like sexing of semen, for indigenous breeds like Sahiwal, Hariana, Red Sindhi, Rathi and Gir to produce greater number of high genetic merit females keeping in mind profitability of dairy farming.

1.What was the inspiration to start Goodmylk?

I was a born vegetarian, became a vegan at 13. My parents and sister are vegans. I was an activist and as a teenager I was fighting against cruelty towards animals along with society for animal protection.

2. How does veganism help environment?

To give one litre of cow milk, about 1200 litres of water is used, forests are denuded to make way for grazing land and providing fodder. By way of veganism we are using much less resources. That said there can be no business where you don’t leave carbon footprint.

3. what is your view about latest practices in dairy industry? Isn’t the new breed of dairy entrepreneurs taking care of cows and its exploitation?

Extracting milk in any form or method from cows is like going against nature and harming a living being. It is against our values and I have subscribed to the value of ahimsa(non-violence).

4. Do you think plant based vegan milk can be a hundred percent substitute to cow’s milk in terms of its nutritional value? How do you ensure quality of raw materials for Goodmylk?

Our Plant based Goodmylk is highly nutritious with all important proteins required for sustenance and growth. There are many supplements available or other foods for any missing nutrition. I wish I could vet every batch of raw materials, but I do ensure control over the quality of the ingredients.

5. Please tell about your journey as an entrepreneur?

Doing business and setting up a successful business is never easy. I had my ups and downs in the field where there are already many players. The main challenge was to navigate the entire spectrum of technology, vendor management, warehouse management, logistics, getting cool investors who believed in me and my vision. It was how I retrofitted my vision into the vegan space by finding the right market with the right products and the right partners who already had the manufacturing know how.

6.  Any expansion plans? Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years?

I want to expand the distribution of Goodmylk as widely as possible and sell Goodmylk dairy products in every part of India. It should be seen and sold from every shop, from every shelf, from where the dairy milk is being sold. If I’m making our world little more loving and human, I’m happy.

       Interview with Abhay Rangan

Acknowledgements

1. Inputs from Dr. JS Ashwath kumar, Chief Veterinary officer, Department of Animal husbandry and Veterinary Sciences, Government of Karnataka

2. National Action Plan for Dairy Development-vision2022, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare, Government of India, January 2018

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