Milk and honey is a metaphor for prosperity and purity in most cultures. There was a time when milk and honey were only available in the purest and richest forms, but not anymore! Commercialisation and mass production with poor implementation of quality standards has resulted in poor tasting food items. Also, adulteration with synthetic additives aimed at reducing costs and increasing shelf life has further deteriorated the quality of these food essentials. Twenty-eight-year-old Aalekh Agarwal assumed that he was lactose intolerant as he was unable to digest milk. During his stay in London – where he pursed his Master’s degree – he consumed the milk there and realised that his inability to digest milk was due to the poor quality of milk supplied by most of the brands in India.
After some research, I found that the milk that we get in packets is a mix of buffalo milk, cow milk and goat milk – all mixed to maintain the minimum fat standard. This is an extremely unhealthy way of consuming milk. Similar is the story of most vegetables and fruits in our markets that are grown with copious amounts of fertilizers and pesticides. That’s when I decided to bring about a change by stepping into the farmer’s shoes.
Cowboys.desi, the brand offering from Aalekh’s company Trunks and Roots, is dedicated to hygienic and superior dairy and agriculture practices. Aalekh explains, “The cows in our farms are vaccinated, live in well-ventilated sheds and graze in open green fields on natural fodder. Not only is this a more humane treatment of the animals, but also leads to better quality of the milk. Also, milking is carried out in automatic parlours without any contamination from human hands.”
From pure, undiluted milk untouched by human hands, chemical-free fruits and vegetables to organic honey, ghee, cooking oil and spices, the Cowboys product range has grown from the single product – milk – that Aalekh started with.
The short route from IT to dairy farming
Aalekh’s family is into an IT-related product business and hence he had pursued his high education in Information Business Systems. When he returned to Delhi in 2013, he bought a farm in Jaipur for his personal use and decided to try his hand at dairy farming. It was just a small farm with eight cows, and a small patch of land to grow vegetables. Aalekh’s lack of experience in agricultural science and operations was a handicap, but realising that automation was the way to go, he got almost every possible process automated. Soon his team developed expertise and the output from the farm grew beyond his family’s needs and so Aalekh decided to turn it into a full-fledged organic foods business.
Once the operations were standardised, a cold chain (temperature-controlled supply chain) was developed for transporting milk to Delhi and retailing of untouched milk was initiated under the brand name ‘Cowboys.desi’ in January 2015.
Today, the farm houses around 450 cows and has increased to 160 acres in size. The farm activities include dairy farming, floriculture, horticulture and vermicomposting. With modern greenhouses, fruit orchards and an apiary, the farm is a perfect marriage of nature and technology.
Cowboys takes the phrase ‘fresh from the farm’ very seriously
Aalekh commutes constantly between his office in Delhi and the farm at Jaipur. At Jaipur, the 85-member team comprise dairy managers and farm workers. The five-member team in Delhi focusses on marketing and the distribution logistics.
Currently bootstrapped, the brand has already touched the Rs 2 crore revenue mark in the last financial year.
Cowboys products are being stocked in many retail outlets in South Delhi and Gurugram and delivered to the customers’ homes in the same geographical area. Customers can also subscribe to them directly with the milk getting delivered to their homes. Select products like honey, ghee and mustard oil are available on e-commerce portals like Amazon.
Cowboys is now looking to expand to other areas of Delhi NCR and to Tier II cities like Chandigarh and Jaipur. The pasteurised variant of the cow milk is currently undergoing market trials. Since this milk has an enhanced shelf life, Aalekh hopes it will help in rapid expansion of the brand.