31,000 Indian Farmers Benefited by Two Brothers, Who Briefly left Lucrative Business in Europe to Support Them
They belong to a family of farmers, with successive generations involved in farming. They are hoteliers and restaurateurs too with a business base in Europe. We are delving about Pawiter Pal Singh, a software engineer and his cousin Harjap Singh. They are well settled in Europe, steering their family business. Before they were in the current vocation, Pawiter worked in a software firm while Harjap was involved in farming in his native village. Pawiter’s father Balkar Singh Sandhu was a Subedar Major in the Indian Army; he retired in 2008 after 32 years of dedicated service. Soon after his retirement, Balkar Singh Sandhu got actively involved in farming.
These two cousins left their lucrative business in Europe for some time only to come to India for the cause of farmers. After a thorough research and touring across India and spending time with farmers, they came up with a solution, creating a platform for them. And they founded Farmer Friend that bridges the gap between farmers and the society wherein farmers can contact the end-customers directly and vice-versa. Over 31,000 farmers have been benefited from this initiative. And the count is increasing by the day!
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Pawiter Pal Singh, taken by Manoshi Sinha, Editor of My India My Glory e-magazine.
“We are basically connecting producers with consumers, especially households, hotels, restaurants, corporate houses, etc. Daily food vendors in cafeteria are joining hands with farmers by directly purchasing commodities from them and paying better price in comparison to what they generally get from manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP),” says Pawiter Pal Singh, Co-Founder, Farmer Friend.
1. When and how did the idea about setting up Farmer Friend crop up?
My Father is actively fighting for the farmers’ upliftment in our area (Amritsar and Tarn Taran) in Punjab. He regularly participated and led protests for this cause. Changing the current system is an uphill task but he and his supporters continued fighting for it.
By God’s grace we have enough land and income to live a comfortable life. My father noticed that small farmers in the area were being cheated by middlemen. Many a farmer was unable to repay loans over three generations. Few even committed suicide. My father continuously campaigned for their rights.
An incident led me and my cousin Harjap to come to India, leaving our work in Europe for some time. It was the year 2014. As usual, I called up my mother from Europe, asking about our family’s well being. I came to know that my father had gone to attend a protest. As it was more often a regular activity for our father, I was least bothered. But after three days when I called up my mother and got to know that he had not yet returned from the protest site for the past 3 days, I was shocked. My mother also informed me that there was lathi charge on the protesters with few being put behind bars and 1 dead during the protest.
I discussed the situation with my cousin Harjap Singh. We both decided to come back to India and start working to find a sustainable solution to this problem. It took us 18 months of ground work with farmers across India, studying the depth and root cause of the problem. And then both of us decided to build a platform called ‘Farmer Friend’ for the farmers.
31,000 farmers from Anantnag (J&K), Dharmshala (H.P), Nagaland, Assam, Bikaner, and numerous regions of South India have connected with Farmer Friend and are deriving benefits.
Through this platform, farmers can directly contact the end users and vice versa. It took us some time to educate them about Farmer Friend. We started building trust and connect them with our project.
We registered Farmer Friend as a company and launched it as a website. This website is for a social cause with no profit motive. Both of us have been self sponsoring this project till now.
2. Are you single-handedly involved in this initiative for farmers? Please elaborate.
It is team effort. Harjap and I started this initiative and now we have a team of 30+ members and 100+ volunteers from different states/locations across India.
3. How many farmers have been benefited till date from this drive?
I do not have the exact number but positively 30-31,000 farmers are getting benefit from Farmer Friend. They derive benefits from their crop yields, milk produce, etc.
4. Please elaborate on how farmers get benefited through your initiative. What facilities do you provide them?
We are basically connecting producers with consumers, both household and bulk/commercial – households, hotels/restaurants, corporate houses. Daily food vendors in cafeteria are joining hands with farmers by directly purchasing commodities from them and paying better price in comparison to what they generally get from manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).
We empower farmers by providing better opportunity to connect and sell their crops.
“Improving their financial situation is our main focus and they get cash on delivery so its win-win situation for the hardworking farmer. We want to join hands with 1 lakh farmers of India by the end of 2017,” says Pawiter Pal Singh.
5. Farmers of which state are benefiting from Farmer Friend.
We started from Punjab and Haryana but now we are replicating the model in whole country and our team is joining hands with them across India. Now we have farmers connected with us from Anantnag ( J&K), Dharmshala (H.P), Nagaland, Assam, Bikaner, and numerous regions of South India.
6. Farmers committing suicide is common in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and other states across the country. Can farmers associated with Farmer Friend be relieved from loan burdens, low crop yields, and other problems they face?
Yes, their financial situation will definitely improve. This is visible from the response we are getting from every village we are going. More and more farmers are joining hands with us.
Improving their financial situation is our main focus and they get cash on delivery so its win-win situation for the hardworking farmer.
7. Do you have any initiatives for farmers to face drought like situations?
We are in the process of discussion with NGO/CSR, who are working in drought affected regions of our country and we are developing a model to help those farmers as well.
8. Your future plans.
By the end of the year 2017, we wish to join hands with 1 lakh farmers of India and empower their lives via Farmer Friend.
Help the farming community connect with Farmer Friend. Click here for more info. Connect with them directly via this website.