From a daily wager extracting sand to a successful entrepreneur who yearns to complete his studies, Farooq Ahmad Shah’s journey is inspiring. Safwat Zargar meets the youngster whose hard work helped him get out of poverty
A look at the Maawar stream passing through Shanoo Village of Batagund Handwara sends 27-year-old Farooq Ahmad Shah down the memory lanes. A memory, Shah says, that hurts him; but loves to share.
In 2011 Shah was just like any college student pursuing higher studies to become a government employee. After returning from the college, owing to his family’s tight financial condition, he would work as a labourer with sand-extractors on the banks of Maawar stream for an amount of 200-300 rupees, daily.
“It was really hard. What I earned would melt soon on the household expenses, same day,” Shah says, while recalling his “tough days”. A bachelor’s student of Arts at Government Degree College Handwara, Shah “wanted to have something of his own.” Digging sand under scorching sun with sweat dripping from Shah’s body would yield him two meals a day; but no savings.
“Savings are important,” he says, “they enable you to better your lives by investing in productive avenues.”
One day, a visit to a neighbour who served a high-position at the state government’s Self Employment department, advised Shah to visit Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) at Pampore. “When I visited EDI, I didn’t believe their schemes,” he says, chuckling. The visit proved a “blessing” for Shah, who after several interactions with the consultants and experts at EDI could sense that his callused hands can now turn his dream into a reality.
He opted for EDI’s seed capital scheme whereby a desiring entrepreneur on the basis of his educational qualification is given a capital amount to start a venture. Shah had many options, he chose poultry. For 28 days, he underwent a rigorous training about poultry farming; its techniques, methods, instructions and safety measures.
Shah had realized that this was his opportunity. He decided to rent a room in Srinagar for four weeks, so that he didn’t miss “even a single hour of the training.”
During training, with the help of EDI staff, Shah drafted a proposal of 8.5 lakh rupees for his own poultry farm. Twelve days after finishing the training, a phone call informed Shah that his proposal has been accepted.
“I was overwhelmed with joy. Even if I hadn’t built anything or earned anything, I thought myself as a success,” Shah recalls. EDI sanctioned three lakh rupees as seed capital in favour of Shah and acted as a guarantor for Shah at Jammu and Kashmir Bank for the remaining five lakh rupees at easy interest rates.
As soon as the money was credited to Shah’s bank account, he began searching for land where he could build his poultry farm. It was near the same Maawar stream where Shah had toiled hard few months back, he bought 1.5 kanals of dry land for 2,80,000 rupees.
A month later, in September 2011, Shah was on his way to Baramullah after the completion of construction of his 65×35 feet poultry farm, to buy his first hatch. It was 2000 chicks which he bought for 2,40,000 rupees.
“I was very nervous but I left it on Allah. Allah had given me an opportunity through EDI, I said Bismillah and left for a poultry dealer at Baramullah,” he says.
Thirty two days later, Shah’s poultry farm was crammed up with broilers. Their weight was 29 quintals. Nervous, he made a call to his dealer at Baramullah. The dealer asked Shah to bring all the chickens to his shop.
“All of it was sold on spot for 2,70,000 rupees,” Shah says, while heaving a sigh of relief. The initial profit was 30,000 rupees and thus began the journey of what would be known throughout Batagund village in Handwara as MS Farhan Poultry.
“It’s a risky business,” Shah says, “The chicks need a lot of care and proper nourishment. We have to maintain a constant temperature for them. They need proper diet, chickenfeed, capsules and vaccines,” he informs. “Usually there is a veterinary doctor who vaccinates chicks but at EDI they taught us how to do it on our own.”
Since his first batch of broilers left his poultry farm, Shah has become one of the major suppliers of broilers and white meat not only in Baramullah but in Handwara as well. However, he says fluctuating rates by government axe their profits. So far, he hasn’t suffered any loss but he says “we can’t predict the future.”
The farm has made him extremely happy, he says. Facts evidence it. According to him he has to pay back bank by 2019 but Shah has almost finished 60 per cent of his loan in 2014.
Few months back, he purchased a brand new Tata Automobile – a pickup truck – at 5,80,000 rupees for transporting chickens to dealers. This saved him 11,000 rupees he had to spend every month by hiring private carrier services. The vehicle also helped him to expand his market. Sometimes, he earns by transporting other goods on his vehicle. His total worth is now rupees 18 lakh.
“I just don’t want to stay,” says Shah, who is now planning to construct the second storey for his poultry farm. “After that I will increase my bird capacity.”
Shah’s poultry adventure has not brought smiles only on the faces of his father and mother but also made five other families happy. Currently, Shah employs three labours who take care of the chicks while hatching. He has made two small living rooms adjacent to the farm where his labours stay.
He also employs a driver and a conductor for his pickup truck. He has also rented a shop in his village which acts as a retail outlet of his farm. The shop is managed by his younger brother while Shah is busy in supplying. “I pay him a small amount as well,” he says, smiling.
“EDI changed my life. I never thought that I could do this well,” he says, while sitting in one of the rooms where his labourers stay.
Shah says if there are more institutions like EDI, it will help unemployed youth of the valley, but he is quick to add, “Hard work, honesty and dedication” are inseparable from success.
While voyaging from a student-cum-labourer to a stable and growing businessman, some of the desires of Shah are still unfulfilled. One such desire is to complete his graduation. “I am thinking of completing my graduation because I have an urge to see my final year certificate,” Shah informs.
“But that does not mean I will quit business. It is just a desire,” he says, “Poultry is my life.”