Munni Devi was resigned to a life of deprivation. As a farm labourer on the outskirts of Lucknow, the earnings were meagre. She also had to take care of two grandchildren. Three years back, she became a pashu sakhi (friend of livestock) after receiving training. Since then she has been earning an extra Rs 5,000 per month from goat-rearing and trading in goats – a princely sum for the 60-year-old and her family who were battling hunger and poverty.
Munni Devi is now respected in the village due to the valuable services she offers, which include introducing goat breeders to the best rearing practices.
Stories like hers abound in the drylands, desert, and hilly terrains where small livestock is a critical part of women’s lives and livelihood. Their escape from poverty was effected by an organisation called Nandi Nandan Breeds and Seeds India Private Limited, commonly known as Pashu Bajaar. Founded and helmed by social entrepreneur Sanjeev Kumar in 2014, the for-profit firm, headquartered in Lucknow, has presence in 16 states through a network of breeders, pashu sakhis and registered traders.
Through technological interventions, Sanjeev was able to create new market access and improve the breed quality, health, hygiene and rearing practices that proved to be sustainable for these women.
“It begins with earning the trust of villagers,” says Sanjeev, an Ashoka fellow. “We build a cadre comprising mostly women at the village level and train them to be pashusakhis. They carry out vaccination and de-worming as well as supply nutritious animal feed to the buck owners,” he says.
Early on, Pashu Bajaar declares the farmgate price of the animal, based on its breed and live on-site weight measurement, and issues receipts to owners.
This system of objective pricing has several implications. “Armed with that receipt, breeders can bargain for a 5-10% higher price with traders,” he says. “It also reduces strife in the families of breeders where women are perceived to be too naïve and gullible to get the right price. Lastly, it democratises the trade by removing the entry barriers. Anybody can be a trader since a transparent system ends the monopoly of traditional traders who had been influencing the pricing for generations.”
The next level in Pashu Bajaar’s business model is the cluster livestock trade centre (LTC) – an aggregation centre maintained by an entrepreneur who caters to 10-15 villages. He procures bucks from pashu sakhis by paying them an extra Rs 100 per animal. The animals are kept in isolation for 21 days to check for diseases. Meanwhile, they are fattened up and massaged with oil for soft, shiny fur.
Around the same time, prospective buyers are informed through Whatsapp, emails, and the Pashu Bajaar website about the latest arrivals. The descriptions of the goats are accompanied by actual photographs to help clients make an informed choice. The Pashu Sakhi app enables pashu sakhis to upload information about the bucks in real-time.
Pashu Bajaar thrives on three kinds of clients – commercial goat farmers, corporates and NGOs, and registered meat traders. “The first category buys the best breed of goats. The medium quality goes to corporates and NGOs engaged in philanthropy, and the remaining is purchased by meat sellers,” says Sanjeev adding that it takes “45 days to honour the order so that we can maintain the backend of the supply chain”.
The trust factor, a key in forging successful relationships, is further highlighted in the firm’s deep engagement with its most valued consumers – the commercial goat farmers. “We educate and train them on how to identify and maintain the best breeds and why it is important to adhere to the best management practices. We believe that one day they can also become our suppliers,” says Sanjeev.
The company is now looking at other sources of revenue, which includes exporting to Dubai, Bangladesh and Nepal as well as capitalising on the surge in domestic demand during festivals like Bakri Eid.
“Nearly 1.2 crore goats are exported to Mecca for Bakri Eid where the Indian breeds are hugely popular. Given that nearly 2 lakh Indians fly to the city for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, we plan to tap into this clientele,” says Sanjeev.
Pashu Bajaar is also eyeing a larger share of the pie in the domestic market around the same festival. “It’s a well-defined market, estimated to be Rs 50 crore, where 6 crore bucks are sold in just 40 days. We plan to deliver the goats to the homes of buyers to help them save on transportation costs.”
Through its e-commerce site, Pashu Bajaar is also promoting round-the-year booking for goats. A buyer pays just 10% of the cost to book and receives regular updates on the animal. The company has also launched a pilot project to cater to the demand for meat in Lucknow city. “Each day around 1200 goats are slaughtered in the capital of UP; so even 5% of that business would be a great start,” says Sanjeev.
Launching Pashu Bajaar has been an eyeopener for Sanjeev who set up the successful Goat Trust in 2008 to train poor Rajasthani women earn a livelihood through goat breeding and providing goat support services. “I was under the impression that it’s very easy to sell goats. But once you enter the business you realise how difficult it is to change entrenched archaic practices.”
While doing field studies, he came to know that the cattle fair is a breeding ground for diseases, leading to high rates of morbidity and mortality. He also felt that the nature of the business was such there was hardly any financial incentive for breeders to invest in good breeds and input costs. The buyers didn’t trust the traders and the goat farmers felt cheated by the existing trade practices. It was the introduction of information technology that brought about clarity and restored faith among the stakeholders. But Sanjeev believes its ‘objective pricing’ that has had the most telling effect on the ground. “Live body weight pricing has become a tool now against malpractices. In 2019, Rs 16 crore business was transacted in Maharashtra based on live weight,” says Sanjeev.
Across India, around 4.28 lakh goat farmers are registered with the firm, which is credited with training 11,000 pashu sakhis. The firm is working in the districts of Maharashtra, Tripura, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh.
Pashu Bajaar has also imparted respectability to the trade, which was being shunned by the next generation of traders. Its inclusive model has empowered poor women socially and economically and brought tribals into this ecosystem as active stakeholders.
Why Social Alpha is investing in Pashu Bajaar
Social Alpha engages with agritech organisations which can positively and irreversibly impact the small and marginal farming communities. The innovations in the allied agri sector, comprising dairy, poultry, goat-rearing and fisheries, among others, have bolstered livelihood opportunities, which serve to supplement farm income.
Pashu Bajaar’s technological interventions fit Social Alpha’s larger agricultural thesis on creating income opportunities. The firm has disrupted traditional supply chains for better price realisation. The sector is still steeped in age-old practices and desperately needs modernisation. Pashu Bajaar will empower people seeking initial working capital loans to look beyond local moneylenders who charge steep interest. Thanks to the Pashu Sakhi app, which records the history of goat-trade transactions, banks and NBFC will now find it easy to assess the credit-worthiness of goat-rearers.