Sibananda Dash / Cuttack
Ordinary people inspired by the ideal to promote and demonstrate financially sustainable, ecologically compatible and small scale agribusiness models to farmers and motivated and supported by Industrialist brothers have led to a livelihood revolution with flower cultivation in Orissa.
Soumendra Behera, engaged in footwear business, partnered with his brother Saptendra and founded the Company Bhoomi to look for greener pastures in agribusiness. This idea of floriculture was conceived when the elder Behera brothers – Rabindra, Suvendra and Sailendra – the joint founders of RSB Transmissions, were scouting for novel activities that would be combination of business and corporate social responsibility and thus lead to a sustainable model.
The Behera brothers wanted to build a small yet modern agribusiness activity and demonstrate it to others to replicate the same and usher in a revolution in the horticulture and floriculture sectors in Orissa. Bhoomi, thus conceived, signifies return to nature and caring for our plant: Earth.
Blessed by socially conscious parents and encouraged by brothers, Soumendra and Saptendra took the risk of venturing into this novel business of floriculture – the first of its kind in Orissa. Neither of them had any professional agricultural qualification or experience, but the prospect of immense satisfaction of succeeding in a novel area and demonstrating it to the others, prodded them on.
In a 2.5 acre piece of land at Tangi, Cuttack they set up greenhouses for floriculture. Horticulture and vegetable farming was added to have product diversity and reduce the risks of dependence on a single product. They erected five greenhouses – three for roses and two for gerbera flowers. Drip irrigation technique ensured maximum use of the limited water available.
Soumendra beams with happiness as he says that in a short span of one and half years Bhoomi has done remarkably well and established itself as a viable business initiative. The entire harvest of gerberas and roses are easily sold in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack but remains far short of demands of the twin city. Bhoomi’s gerbera flowers are now preferred over the ones from Bangalore, which are reputed for their outstanding quality. It also grows fruits and vegetables like musk melon, cauliflower, bottle gourd etc. Musk melon is being sent to Kolkata and Ranchi.
Bhoomi is now planning to expand and set up more greenhouses and add more varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables to its basket of products. The company is very confident that very soon they would also be exporting their flowers, fruits and vegetables. Soumendra is upbeat that commercial floriculture is a niche business segment and Government of India has identified it as a sunrise industry and has accorded it 100 per cent export oriented status.
It has emerged as a hi-tech activity as it takes place under controlled climate conditions inside greenhouse. The new seed policy makes it feasible to import planting material of international varieties. In addition, the export demand is also quite high. This industry being in its infancy in India, the opportunities are abundant. In Orissa this industry is yet to take off and there are opportunities for many more players to enter into this type of farming in different parts of the state and match the level of achievement of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Bhoomi is more than eager to share the knowledge and experience that it has acquired with others who would be interested in venturing into such a floriculture and horticulture initiative. The Behera brothers are also immensely happy that their idea of combining a viable business with their commitment to CSR has indeed worked out to be as conceived by them. They have indeed seeded a flowery revolution in Orissa.
The myth of Orissa being unsuitable for floriculture owing to its climate has been shattered once for all by Bhoomi. The colourful and pretty gerbera and rose flowers are no longer the monopoly of only Bangalore and Pune, blessed with their salubrious climate. Orissa has now firmly planted itself in the floriculture map of India.