Ask the Climate Startup is an interactive series we run at CLIMAFIX that derives key insights from innovative climate startup founders on many different aspects of their startup journey. (See all posts at Ask the Climate Startup)
In this post, we have Shashi Kumar of Akshayakalpa Organic sharing his perspectives.
CLIMAFIX thanks Shashi Kumar for his valuable inputs.
1.Are you a first, second or later generation entrepreneur?
I am a first-generation entrepreneur. I hold the role of the co-founder and CEO at Akshayakalpa Organic, which is India’s first organic dairy brand. In my journey, I emerged from a non-entrepreneurial background and brought no previous dairy industry expertise. My venture, Akshayakalpa Organic, has been shaped by the aspiration for a healthier and more sustainable food ecosystem through farmer entrepreneur initiatives. Everything we do is a collaboration to that goal.
2.What has been your previous work or professional experience?
My journey into the world of organised dairy defies conventional expectations and norms. Growing up in a farming family in South Karnataka, I witnessed firsthand the challenges of rural poverty, which compelled me to pursue my primary and college education while living with relatives, away from my own home. I pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science, which eventually led to a job at Wipro Technologies. Subsequently, I sought further education, completing my master’s degree in telecommunication engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Prior to venturing into the dairy industry, I accumulated 17 years of experience within the technology sector.
3. Were there any special or specific reasons for you becoming an entrepreneur?
Being from the farming background, I knew the toil faced by farmers on a daily basis. Though I was working away from the country, I always wanted to do something for the farmers back in India. With a mission to recreate my country’s farming sector that will improve the economic conditions of millions of small and marginal farmers, I started on an organic journey where I launched Akshayakalpa Organic along with Dr G.N.S Reddy. In simple words, Akshayakalpa tied me back to my roots.
4.Where or how did you meet your co founder/s?
The co-founders of Akshayakalpa primarily consisted of my former colleagues from WIPRO, individuals who were equally impassioned by the vision and objectives of our organization. Additionally, I am profoundly grateful to my family, who provided unwavering support and stood by me throughout this journey.
Together, we wholeheartedly embraced the idea of farmer empowerment and entrepreneurship that formed the bedrock of our organization’s mission and goals.
5.Was there anything noteworthy you wish to talk about from your first year or the first couple of years of your startup?
Certainly, reflecting on our initial years, what truly stands out is our unwavering commitment to sustainability and empowering farmers. From the outset, we envisioned a holistic approach that not only revolutionized dairy but also nurtured our environment and farming communities. We took bold steps to collaborate with self-sustainable farms, fostering biodiversity and implementing closed-loop soil management. This dual focus on quality organic produce and uplifting farmers’ livelihoods has been the cornerstone of Akshayakalpa’s success. The voyage, from delivering our first packets of raw milk in 2010 to our current status, is a tribute to the relentless spirit of our 700-plus team and our unending pursuit of ‘Infinite Possibilities’.
6.Was there an Aha moment/s during your startup journey that made a dramatic difference ( positive or negative difference)
Yes, there were definitely some transformative “Aha” moments during our startup journey that brought about significant positive change for Akshayakalpa Organic. One pivotal “Aha” moment was when we realized the immense power of aligning our vision with the values of conscious Indian dairy consumers. It was truly enlightening to witness their willingness to pay the correct market price for quality organic produce that they truly valued. This realization reshaped our approach, enabling us to create a free market system for agriculture where consumers’ choices directly impact the livelihoods of farmers.
Additionally, another game-changing moment occurred when we established a centralized model for veterinary, mechanical, and agronomy services delivered at the doorstep of our farmers. This strategic move significantly enhanced our farming practices and facilitated streamlined operations, ensuring consistent high-quality production. This realization not only optimized our processes but also brought about a substantial positive impact on our farmers’ daily lives and their financial growth.
As we reflect on our journey, these “Aha” moments stand out as catalysts for our success. They empowered us to reshape the landscape of Indian agriculture, pioneering sustainable farm practices and creating a flourishing ecosystem for both farmers and consumers. These moments reinforced our commitment to delivering the best quality organic products and solidified our position as India’s largest organic milk brand.
7.Is there a question you would like startup founders to ask before they
Absolutely, one question I believe all startup founders should ask themselves before embarking on their entrepreneurial journey is: “Am I truly passionate about solving this problem?” Starting a startup is a roller-coaster ride filled with challenges, uncertainties, and long hours. Having a deep passion for the problem you’re addressing will be your driving force during tough times. It’s this passion that will keep you motivated, help you persevere, and inspire your team to give their best.
Passion is the foundation upon which Akshayakalpa Organic was built. When we started, we were fueled by a genuine desire to empower small farmers and transform India’s agriculture landscape. This unwavering commitment to our mission has been instrumental in overcoming obstacles and driving our success.
8.What keeps you awake at night?
What keeps me awake at night is the profound responsibility I hold towards our environment and our farmers. The urgency to ensure sustainable practices that safeguard our planet while uplifting those who toil tirelessly on the land is a constant source of motivation. Each day, I strive to bridge the gap between technology and tradition, fostering a harmony that secures both our natural resources and the livelihoods of our farmers.
In short, the urge and need to provide pure, natural, unadulterated food quality to the consumers, and to conserve the whatever little natural resources that are left for the next generation keeps me going.
9.Was there some support or help you received in your startup journey that proved critical? Who would you like to thank?
I am deeply grateful to a diverse and remarkable circle of individuals who have played crucial roles in my journey. From our dedicated investors who believed in our vision and provided the resources needed for growth, to the hardworking farmers who have tirelessly supplied us with quality ingredients, and my esteemed colleagues who have been invaluable partners in this venture.
Moreover, I am indebted to our loyal consumers who have not only embraced our products but have also motivated and supported me personally. Together, this collective support and dedication have been the cornerstone of our achievements, and I look forward to continuing this journey of growth and success with all of you by my side. Thank you for being such an essential part of my life and our shared successes.