Kappad, 12 kilometers from Kozhikode a quiet place that witnessed the historical event that changed the histroy of India forever – the place Vasco Da Gama landed in 1498. It was a mixed feeling visiting there on the way back from Areacode (yes, it’s how Ariakode is pronounced) an hour from Kozhikode with entrepreneur Shamil.
It was very sad to hear during my last visit to Kannur that the tender coconut is coming from Karnataka, since harvesting coconut is not economically viable as the daily wages have gone up. Around `800 /day daily wages in Kerala is reaching developed state status! This provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring technology to address this, as farmers are giving up on coconut. Shamil Salam, a mechanical engineer, the founder of Kenzon from Areacode, has done exactly that. With his brother, they have designed a simple coconut tree climbing machine, which improves productivity as well as enables anyone to climb and harvest coconut.
He has sold over 300 units so far. The design is very simple and affordable at `2800 a piece, and is easy to carry. The brothers are also designing similar machine for climbing arecanut trees.
The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) organized Startup Kozhikode on 6th July. It’s good to see the focus on more impactful ventures.
On 10th June, the Greater Malabar Initiative (GMI) also launched its startup initiative.
GMI focuses on bringing Malabar region into the tourism map with homestay, and other facilities.
We visited Rubber plantations near Kozhikode in the backdrop of beautiful Wayanad foothills. Rubber plantations also provide plenty of opportunities for automating the cutting and collection processes. It is always good to move up in the value chain, as it protects the farmers from price volatility. There are value-addition opportunities in rubber as well. It’s important to create a local investor community that would support these entrepreneurs as they can connect with the problems better. We had a good discussion with a few high networth Indians in Kozhikode around this.
At Irinjalakuda, the train arrived at 6:30 am welcomed by the Monsoon. Hailing from a rain shadow region of Tamil Nadu, never seen this much rain. I was joking with entrepreneurs in Kerala about bottling the Monsoon rain and selling it. With this much natural resources, I was told Kerala gets vegetables from outside.
After visiting Kodakara, we proceeded to see this young farmer, Renjith Ravindran in Ashtamichira, Mala, Kerala. He leases the farmland and grows vegetables using safe-to- eat practices. Last summer he made a profit of `3 lakhs growing cucumber.
Great to see a few more younger farmers like Sreejith, Vijith. Joseph Pallan, an ex-military man, seems to be the inspiration for some of them growing vegetables profitably since 1998. Joseph says, “he never hesitates to share his wealth by paying his laborers/farmers. They earn around `800 /day and have been with me for more than 8 years. Whereas others use the migrant employees from states like Orissa and West Bengal.”
Alex, who is from Orissa says, he earns `9000/month and gets `7000 after food deduction. He is looking forward to go home during Christmas. For just `7000 he is migrating. Economics is the main reason of migration in India, which is sad – one prosperous state is getting people at cheaper wages from another low-income state, while Kerala is loosing its people to the Gulf. Interesting cycle – How long this
Young entrepreneur, Pradeep Punarka at FarmersFZ, who stays in his village in Kadambode, procures these vegetables as per his customer needs in Cochin without any middle men. Since he gives them better price, he is encouraging the younger generation to farming!
Entrepreneurs like these are the ones the country needs today.
By Naga Prakasam
Naga Prakasam is an avid angel investor in social ventures. He is a mentor at IIMB’s NSRCEL.