Steering clear of the beaten track, a graduate from IIM, Ahmedabad, once chose to sell vegetables on the streets of Patna to fulfil his career dream.
Meet 27-year-old Kaushalendra, son of a college demonstrator in the nondescript block town of Ekangarsarai in Nalanda district. "I have a dream to build Bihar into the vegetable hub of the country. I want vegetables grown in Bihar on dining tables everywhere -- from Srinagar to Salem and from Shillong to Surat," says Kaushalendra.
Perhaps the most highly educated green grocer India has ever produced, the young man from Nalanda has founded a farmers' cooperative, Samriddhi, which sells vegetables in ice-cooled pushcarts.
The private-public partnership venture, launched about a couple of months ago with assistance from Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) with just one pushcart, has now placed an order for 50 more carts, thanks to a collateral-free loan of Rs 50 lakh from Punjab National Bank.
Nearly 300 farmers have associated themselves with Samriddhi. ATMA, a government undertaking, is training these farmers in matters relating to high-yield seeds and crop protection.
"Our aim is to propagate organic farming and use our expertise in marketing to reach the markets not only in India but also abroad so that the farmers of Bihar fetch good return for their produce. In five years, we target to penetrate the vegetable markets in the US, Europe and Japan," Kaushalendra says.
The ice-cooled pushcart vegetables are a hit with customers in parts of southern Patna. "The vegetables taste garden fresh, are priced reasonably and, to add to that, they are weighed accurately with electronic weighing machines... we are just delighted to have it at a time when we have to make do with shoestring budget thanks to record inflation," says Bharti, a housewife in Kankarbagh area.
Moreover, the pushcart vendor gives the buyers a cash-memo which no other vegetable seller does, as further authentication of the quality and quantity of the vegetables.
"I am not only selling vegetables, but also the name of the farmer and the village where it has been grown. The farmer should not remain an unsung hero any more," he says pointing at the tag on the vegetables which has the mention of the name of the farmer and his village.
"One day," he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "we will be able to build Bihar into a brand... the largest selling brand in horticulture."
Asked about the initial reaction of