Pramod Gautam: Automobile Engineer Who Switched to Farming and Earning Handsomely
Discovery of agricultural implements in the Indus valley and other regions substantiates the history of agriculture in India dating back to thousands of years. 50 percent of India’s workforce belongs to the agricultural sector and the country globally ranks second in farm output. Though India ranks amongst the top 10 countries globally in exports with horticultural and agricultural products exported to over 120 countries, yet the very utterance of the term ‘farming’ transports one to negativity – of farmer suicides, farmers’ debt, drought, flood, and the list goes on.
Farming is the primary source of livelihood in India. Unfortunately, according to Census 2011 report, 2000 farmers give up farming everyday in India. The youth are hardly interested in farming. When choosing careers, today’s youth opt for engineering, banking, medical, marketing, and related professions. Reviving India’s agriculture is the need of the hour to carry forward this primary livelihood activity and maintain the legacy of the next generation farmer.
Going by the grim situations of farmers and the dismay associated with opting farming as a career, Pramod Gautam is a ray of hope. Like many others, he did dream of becoming an engineer and pursue it as a career. He studied automobile engineering at Yashwantrao Chavan College in Nagpur. He became a successful automobile engineer for some big firm, bringing home every month a hefty salary.
But Pramod Gautam was not satisfied with his job. He left his lucrative engineering job to become a farmer in 2006, using his 26-acre ancestral land in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Following innovative farming techniques, he is earning handsomely today. And he is satisfied with what he loves doing now – farming. He earns much more as a farmer than what he was earning as an engineer! He also helps local farmers by helping them sell their produce profitably.
47 year-old Pramod Gautam proudly boasts of his vocation as a farmer and entrepreneur. He runs the Sairam Dall Mill. Initially he did face challenges. He did become the butt of a joke in his area – an automobile engineer who left a good job to become a farmer. But he did not give up. Here is an excerpt of an interview of Pramod Gautam taken by Manoshi Sinha, editor of My India My Glory e-magazine.
Q. You are an inspiration for many, breaking stereotypes in career selection, especially when many choose to become doctors and engineers. Farming is often a neglected vocation from the professionally educated community. Your viewpoints on this.
Pramod Gautam: Personally, I think a person should do what he loves doing. It not only brings mental peace, happiness and satisfaction but also leads to the development of nation.
Farming is often a neglected profession but if educated people make farming a career, they can make it more profitable by doing it technically and economicaly.
Q. What led to switching your vocation from automobile engineering to farming?
Pramod Gautam: I was not satisfied with my career in automobile sector and I wanted to do something different. I spent a considerable amount of time in my ancestral village. As a child, I see many activities in farm and loved doing it. I grew up watching the fields.
I owned about 25 acres of ancestral farm near Nagpur. Ultimately, I ventured into farming.
Q. Please tell us about your farming activities.
Pramod Gautam: Initially, I faced a lot of challenges. I planted white groundnuts and turmeric all over the land but reaped no benefits. I realized that my method of farming was wrong. Availability of labour was another big issue as workers preferred to migrate to cities and work in factories.
I switched to other crops, which were not labour oriented. I decided to do Horticulture farming. Now I have oranges, sweet lime (mausambi), lemon, vegetable bananas, and guava plantations in my field. I also started cultivating tur.
In horticulture, one need not depend on labour except the initial process of planting. The plants and trees do not require as much care as the traditional crops. Moreover, the government has introduced a scheme wherein farmers who are doing horticulture are repaid the entire investment amount and even more once in every three years. That’s an added advantage. And that is an advantage that all farmers across India can reap benefits from.
Q. Any challenges while selling farming produce?
Pramod Gautam: I started a processing unit of tur dal after 2 years of farming. Initially people hesitated to purchase unpolished tur dal due to its appearance, but after telling them about its high nutritional value and good taste, they started buying my product.
Growing and selling pulses was tough. I noticed that the farmers in our area sold their pulses to mills for very low prices. The mill owners would process the pulses and sell the polished dal at double the original prices. Moreover, these mills were located far away from the farms adding to the transportation costs from the pockets of the farmers. These factors gave lentil-growing farmers a thin profit margin. It was then that I decided to start my own dal mill.
Setting up the mill involved an investment of Rs. 25 lakh. I took a loan and set up the unit. Farmers growing pulses in our area have benefitted from the mill. I charge a very low processing fee. Besides a free supply of dal for the entire year, they also get good returns by selling the processed dal to the consumers.
Selling my horticulture products is easy. They easily get sold in the local markets.
Q. Any brand name of your farm products? Is creating a brand identity in the market tough?
Pramod Gautam: Brand name of my farm product is ‘Vandana’.
No, creating a brand identity is not so tough, if your product fulfills the expectations of customers. Good quality and service also matters.
Q. Please tell us about safe storage of your farming produce until these are sold in the market.
Pramod Gautam: I store the products in tightly sealed bags. Keeping them in dry place and doing proper fumigation ensures that they remain fresh.
Q. In a scenario where farmer suicides and other problems faced by farmers is rampant, what is your suggestion to deal with such problems?
Pramod Gautam: My suggestion is that farmers should practice multicrop farming according to their soil and atmosphere. They should involve themselves regularly in at least in one agriculture-based business like poultry, dairy, beekeeping, vermicompost, etc. They should try selling products directly to consumers.
Q. Your message to readers.
Pramod Gautam: No career is superior and inferior. It depends on theperson’s skills, interest and situation. If a person loves his profession, he will be more happy, successful, satisfied and will also earn a better income.
Our education system should focus on skill development rather than on only theoretical teaching. I strongly believe that agriculture can be a great career option for the future generation.
My India My Glory salutes Pramod Gautam. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan! Jai Hind!