In believing that agriculture, is a wise pusuit, as it contributes most to attaining ‘real’ wealth, good morals and happiness, PRIYA PANDEY, rolled out her venture, Agrifeeder Agricultral Services Pvt. Ltd. While in conversation with POONAM SINHA, she gives us a glimpse of her entrepreneurial journey, dotted with ups and downs and finally exuberates over her victory in all humility.
Q. How did you decide on venturing out into becoming an entrepreneur and what was the infrastructure available?
A. There are a host of reasons why I chose to become an entrepreneur over the more traditional choice of becoming an employee. My creativity was perhaps not cut out for the limitations of corporate life. I wanted a lifestyle that isn’t bound nine to five. Yes indeed, entrepreneurship gives me the freedom and flexibility I need, in order to work constructively. I sometimes need to work way beyond ‘nine to five’ in order to achieve what I want. So it is not about wanting a shortcut, it is just the wish and will to work as and when needed. It is hard work but with that effort comes the ability to shape your life how you wish to see it. Furthermore, I always thought unconventionally. This said, in tandem with Albert Einstein’s statement,” Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere,” encouraged me to bring my unconventional ideas to a consequence – therefore entrepreneurship it was!
Again, being passionate about learning, propelled my desire to be an entrepreneur as I feel that entrepreneurs are never satiated with the knowledge they have — they are always seeking more. Many people equate age, status or certain achievements with the end of their education, but according to me, to learn is to be alive; and so, the best reason to start an organization was to learn and do practical, meaningful work — to create a product or service to make the world a better place. I want to change the world and in doing so I knew, I had to sail away from the safe harbor, dream and discover.
Q. Could you tell us about the challenges faced by you and how did you handle competition?
A. The first challenge was to convince my parents about the aptness of my decision of coming back from Bangalore, to start a business in Bihar. The safety factor, the risk of loss, every aspect was explained to them in details in order to win over their support. I also told them about the success stories of other women entrepreneurs from Bihar, like, Usha Jha ma’am, Himani Mishra, Anukriti and many more. This done, the second challenge was handling the societal pressure; people had begun to question my parents. They were bombarded with a series of ‘why’s.. why did I leave my job, why after completing MBA, I had opted for an entrepreneurial journey in the agriculture sector, why did I want to sell tea!! However, when your family is supportive, society takes a back seat.
The third challenge was navigating through the environment here, which is totally different in comparison to the metro cities. People are complacent; they are happy in their comfort zone and no one is ready to adopt technology, and progress. Everyone wants to follow the same tradition which was there 20years back.
I handled these challenges with patience, each time my actions were questioned, they were replied to with my success and achievements.
Q. What business types do you think have scope for growth in rural areas and how optimally are local resources used in rural entrepreneurial ventures?
A. In rural areas small scale business have good scope of growth in a country like ours. Agri based business like food processing units for the production of ready to eat products, vegetables, poultry, fisheries, dairy farms and so on have much scope for growth in rural areas as these products are in demand in the urban markets. You can take Agrifeeder’s Lemongrass Herbal Tea as an example. We started from a very small village (Dubouli) in Bhagalpur District of Bihar, and adopting social media as a marketing platform, we have supplied the product from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and the feedback is amazing.
Q. Are you being supported by any government initiative designed to promote rural entrepreneurship? What kind of support would you want from the local panchaayat body/ government to further boost rural entrepreneurship?
A. When I started out in 2017, the State Government had launched the Bihar Startup Policy-2017 and we were fortunate to have gotten selected as a potential startup. We got incubation and were also selected to get seed fund from Department of Industry, Govt of Bihar. However, what I have realized over these few years is that an incubation centre should be setup at every panchayat level in Bihar. This will help home based ‘she’preneurs by providing them with the guidance they need to take their businesses to the next level. I wish to request that government officials should not be involved in this.
Q. Any tips for women in rural areas who wish to become entrepreneurs?
A. Yes I have few tips which I have learnt. I think women entrepreneurs should not be afraid of failures as they march ahead. They must strive to keep learning, create a strong network of people who may aid them in their endeavours and surely keep away from all and any negativities in any form!