Shafat Shah, Managing Director – Zum Zum Milk Products in conversation with Ziraat Times’.
Here are the excerpts:
ZT: Thank you for taking the time to talk to Ziraat Times. At the outset, tell us how did you venture into the dairy sector and how did you make such a successful venture?
My family was into textile business and I wanted to do something of my own.
I started with a survey and I was very interested in getting into the industrial sector. The time I started, we had two milk products here. We had 1-2 milk plants only and that it was clear from our analysis that those plants won’t be able to cater to the overall demand. This is how I started the Zum Zum brand.
It was the year 2007 and initially, it was tough, but we took it as a challenge and we achieved the breakeven in just 3 months, which is very difficult in an industry but we did it.
ZT: What are the challenges that you faced initially to put your ideas into practice?
When we started our milk plant at Lassipora, we wouldn’t even get milk. Pulwama is known to be the Anand of Kashmir, but people weren’t ready to sell us the milk. On the first day, we got around 200-250 litres of milk and then on the second day, we didn’t receive any milk at all. From the 3rd day, I myself started going from village to village to collect milk. I remember I used to leave around 5’O clock in the morning. For dairy business, you need milk only. We cannot use any other ingredients for it and now we have a production of 22000 litres a day including all products. Even though there is a large scope of milk business in Kashmir. Packaged milk represents only 5% of the total milk consumption in Kashmir today.
ZT: And how do you the situation now. There has been huge progress since then.
Kashmir has around 10-12 milk plants now, out of which 3-4 are doing good and the rest are just struggling. Basically, people don’t trust packaged milk, though it has more accountability than loose milk. Whenever our samples are collected for testing, we always pass that. Loose milk, marketed through the unorganized sector, has almost 95% of the market. A lot more is yet to be done to create that trust among people for packaged milk. We need to do awareness programmes among the masses.
Since this is a lean period for milk, we have reports that even local milk vendors in the unorganized sector purchase our pouches and then add water and sell it to the people.
ZT: And how do you see the efforts of the organized milk plants like yours have contributed in developing the dairy sector in Kashmir?
When we started collecting milk from the villages, we realized that milk producers in the villages were being paid less. Some people even said that in summers we don’t find customers for milk. During the peak season, in certain instances, people used to throw away the milk because of the unavailability of customers.
Then we started procuring the milk from Pulwama, Shopian, some villages of Anantnag. With time, there is a tremendous increase in production. People in the villages are showing interest in dairy farming as they get good returns from us.
We are planning to identify some villages from where we can procure 1000-2000 litres of milk and we will set up our Bulk Milk Coolers. It will further enhance the quality of the milk as it will be fresher.
Starting from the November till April end, we procure milk from Punjab.
ZT: You have diversified your business, as you are a part of the hospitality sector too. Any further plans to venture into other sectors?
We have started the hotel business in May last year. I have almost 30-32 people working here in the hospitality sector. At our milk plant, we have around 35 people working and if I talk about indirect employment, that is in hundreds and even more.
Apart from this, I have my bread plant too and around 10-12 people are working there. Moreover, I am coming up with a budget hotel at Rajbagh. I am also planning to expand my dairy business. A lot of people approach me for jobs and it really makes me sad. So I want to create more avenues for employability in Kashmir.
ZT: What are your suggestions and recommendations to the young generation who want to venture in this sector?
For youngsters, I would recommend not to run after government jobs, as there are no jobs left. There is no scope left in dairy business unless the thought process for pouch milk changes. There is a huge scope in dairy farming and the government has really some good schemes as well.
ZT: Thank you.
(This interview appeared in Ziraat Times’ print edition of 10-16 December)