BHUBANESWAR: Starting with a small hatchery way back in 1983 in their native place in the remote Jaleswar area of Balasore district, Santosh Pradhan and his wife Tapati Ranihave come a long way. The family now owns a breeding and brooding firm spread across 25 acres in the Rasgovindpur area of Mayurbhanj district that produces more than 50,000 eggs and 30,000 chicks daily for backyard poultry. They have employed more than 100 people. Backyard poultry, an age-old practice in rural India, involves people raising birds at home.
“I did not want to do a job. I wanted to start something on my own. I thought a hatchery would work. Taking a loan from relatives, I started on a modest scale. My hatchery would then produce around 100 chicks a month. I would bring the eggs from a Hyderabad-based firm. We somehow managed to earn our livelihood,” said the 58-year-old, who studied to be a cost accountant. Things changed for the couple in 2007 when a team of the World Health Organization pointed out that children in Odisha were suffering from anaemia due to a shortage of protein, and urged the government to encourage backyard poultry.
“This encouraged us to start a breeding firm. We began producing eggs and chicks on a larger scale with the help of bank loans,” said Tapati Rani, a matriculate who is involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
Their firm now supplies chicks to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and the northeast. “Governments and NGOs encouraging backyard poultry take chicks from us. Keeping in mind the current demand, we produce an average of 30,000 chicks daily, though we have the capacity to produce more than double that number,” Santosh said. Surprisingly, the Odisha government does not buy from this home-grown entrepreneur. Santosh said, “The government has its own logic, which is surprising. It recognized me as an authorized supplier of hatching eggs and chicks and would earlier take chicks from me but stopped around a year ago.” A senior government officer said the fisheries and animal resources development department selected a chick supplying trader through an open tender process.
The Pradhan family firm has a turnover of more than Rs 25 crore annually. A day-old chick fetches around Rs 20 to Rs 25. “We also brood birds for 28 days and sell them, subject to orders,” he said.
The firm has 60,000 parent birds of the Rainbow Rooster variety, a popular coloured breed developed by a Hyderabad-based firm. “In fact, we are not able to use all the eggs and have been destroying some of them. Each egg, if sold for breeding, fetches Rs 18, but these eggs are not meant to be eaten,” he said. The firm maintains a high degree of cleanliness. Visitors are allowed in only after being disinfected. They have to wear masks and aprons. “We have become even more careful after hundreds of mother birds died in 2015 when both of us, my wife and I, met with an accident and could not give our project enough time,” Santosh said.
In future, he wants to develop a new breed of chicken by investing in research. “Improvement is a constant process. If we manage to develop a new breed that we can call our own, it would be extremely satisfying,” he said.