• Erika Desmond

This agri-based startup is helping farmers earn ~20% premium over regular market prices

Updated: Jun 14

Barosi won the title of "Sustainability Focused Start-up" at Amazon Sambhav, 2021. In this post, we unravel how Durlabh Kumar Rawat came from a rural farming village and left a corporate engineering role to build Barosi, a dairy company providing fresh, quality-assured milk all while creating job opportunities for local communities.

Barosi is a dairy company providing fresh, quality-assured milk with strong roots in the rural villages like the one founder Durlabh Kumar Rawat comes from. The name Barosi stems from the small clay pots prevalent in such villages, heated by wood and dung, which would slowly cook milk throughout the day. Every day when Durlabh came home from school, he would have a pot of milk from this Barosi waiting. When, many years later, Durlabh founded his company, it seemed fitting to give it this name.

It wasn’t always clear that Durlabh would build a dairy company. He grew up in a small, rural village in India with a family from a farming background, and eventually came to Delhi to complete a diploma in engineering. From there, he held a corporate role for 12 years at an automobile manufacturer before finally striking out as an entrepreneur. Durlabh realizes that his background in rural India and his 12 years in Delhi had allowed him to see “both worlds of India,” and was a key aspect in building a business that both caters to well-off citizens looking for high-quality food and to farmers looking for additional economic opportunities. His goal was to create something that would have impact – if he had wanted to make money, he acknowledged, he would have stayed in the corporate world.

When Durlabh started, his aim was to start a farm and supply milk to a cooperative. Cooperatives and unorganized dairy farms hold more than 90% of the milk business in India, but adulteration of the product, with detergent, urea and other substances, is prevalent. The idea was to improve it – and so Durlabh set up a farm, bought 50 cattle, and started producing milk.

“I am a first-generation entrepreneur, so I didn’t have any ecosystem to guide me.”

The initial two years were challenging, in terms of general viability as well as growing the business. At some points, the price they got from milk was not even enough to cover all the company’s costs. “Entrepreneurship is both a passion and a skill set. I didn’t have the skill set,” Durlabh added. However, he and his team met people who started to mentor them. “They told us, if you want to survive, you have to build your own brand, where you can control your own price.” And so, Barosi was born.

Soon, with demand increasing, the company’s herd began growing as well. On average, it takes one cow to produce 10-15 liters of milk. Managing a farm of that scale becomes an increasingly complicated and risky proposition. In addition, Durlabh realized that he was running a successful company, but success was limited to the company, rather than creating social impact around the farm. The team shifted to finding young people locally who shared Barosi’s vision. If those young people managed to arrange money for 2 cows, Barosi would support them with an additional cow. In exchange for high-quality milk, Barosi would pay a premium.

These days, the farmers that work with Barosi earn an approximately 20% premium over other prices in the market. Most have grown their own dairy herd to 7 - 8 cows, and the company has 60 such farmers in its fold, all located within a 10 km radius from Barosi’s own farm. This process of growing the numbers of farmers that Barosi worked with was not without new challenges, however. The key was finding a way to continue to ensure the quality of the end product, which had been Barosi’s brand from the beginning.

Barosi began partnering with another startup in India which brings the Internet of Things to farming. All of the milk procured from farmers goes through this machine, which determines nutritional quality, bacteria, checks adulteration, temperature, and other metrics. Along the way, the milk gets packed by Barosi, and then delivered directly to customers through a subscription model, employing additional delivery personnel along the way. At the end of the supply chain, customers receive bottles of milk with a QR code printed on the milk bottle, which they can scan to learn more about where and when their milk was procured, tested and delivered. The quality process is managed entirely by the third party.

For Durlabh, managing the entire spectrum of the supply chain is one of the most important parts of the dairy business.

“I have a personality where I can understand the customers and stakeholders. Our stakeholders are the rural farmers, but for the customers on the other end, we have to be very customer-centric. Customers are very demanding. They want quality, technology, everything. I understand it. On the other hand, I understand what kind of comfort the farmer has with the technology and how to build those relationships. If I couldn’t speak with the farmers, there might not be that bond where they would feel comfortable selling with us.”

Although these aspects of running a business come naturally to Durlabh, there were many others that proved more challenging. “I am not from a business background. I don’t know how this entrepreneurial skill set works. I was a farmer – I went and bought some cows and started selling milk. I didn