The farming life has a back-to-the-land appeal to many. But, like any other business, it can be very demanding and expensive.
Farmers are often seeking financial assistance through grants and low-cost loans. They can be used for land, growing food, value-added processing and annual operating costs.
He is currently working with 2,000 farmers in India to help them earn up to 180% more revenue than they did before through organic produce
When he was sent away to boarding school as a child, Satyajit Hange was only advised one thing by his parents – never become a farmer. But as a successful banker earning a 7-figure salary, he still felt unhappy.
That’s when decided to quit his job and return to the farmland he grew up on along with his brother, Ajinkya. Today, the brothers guide over 2,000 farmers in India to practise responsible and sustainable farming, and have the backing of some of the country’s top celebrities.
Now, the banker-turned-farmer is in Dubai to bring products from the small farms of India to this country. “Our products are made by over 2,000 farmers across 16 states in India and vary from organic ghee to flour and natural sweeteners,” said Satyajit, speaking to Khaleej Times. “We have a huge customer base in the UAE and US. One of our customers in Dubai, who has been using our products for years and felt the difference in her health, approached us to bring the brand here.”
Despite all the progress he has made, Satyajit admits that his journey was far from easy. “Our parents were farmers but the only thing they wanted for us was to never follow in their footsteps,” he said. “They felt that farmers were not respected in society and could not be financially successful. So, they actively encouraged us to take up white collar jobs.”
However, the brothers felt like there was something amiss in their corporate jobs and decided to call it quits within a few years. “First, Ajinkya left his job and then I followed suit a year later,” said Satyajit. “Our wives struggled to understand why we would give up our well-paying jobs and return to the farms, but they supported us, nevertheless. Our parents were very much against it because they had experienced a not so good life in the farming landscape, but we went ahead with it.”
He said when making the decision, passion was the only thing on their mind. “We went into farming because that is what we enjoyed it and the last thing on our mind was to create a brand,” he said. “It was something that gave us joy and continues to make us happy.”
Satyajit said that he felt like he was a new person after the career change. “Physically, I am better than I ever was,” he said. “Mentally, I am happy. Intellectually, I am learning so many new things. Spiritually, I feel like I emote better. It looks and feels like I am living a second life.”
Making a difference
Once they switched, it was a steep learning curve for the brothers. “Initially there were ups and downs,” he said. “We faced difficulties making it an economic success and getting the social recognition.”
For the brothers, teaching other farmers was never part of the plan. “When after a drought and flood, our farm and organic methods continued to give good yields, farmers started approaching us for tips.”
Satyajit with a farmer
In a very organic manner, helped by word of mouth, the brothers started working with over 2,000 farmers. Satyajit gave the example of a farmer who had planted date palm on his field of 6 acres. “He was struggling to sell the drink he made from it,” he said. “So, he was planning to remove the whole thing. That is when a customer of mine asked for Nolen Gur — a jaggery made from date palm sap.”
Satyajit was unaware of jaggery made from date palms but suggested it as an alternative to the farmer. He further supported the farmer by recruiting workers from Bengal. “This year, he made 9,000kg of date palm jaggery,” he said. “Today, the farmer, who was making just Rs250,000 (approx Dh12,500) from that field is earning more than Rs4.5 million (approx Dh225,000) from the same field.”