Discarding a job that fetches a monthly income of more than a lakh of rupees a month and taking up a hobby as a full time profession needs some courage. That was what Mr. Rousseau Brito – a young man from Madurai did three years ago.
He resigned his job as a sailor and decided to take the plunge as an organic and honey bee farmer with his sister Mrs. Josephine and face the uncertainties that infest agriculture.
According to Dr. K. Ramasamy, Vice Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, “qualified people like Mr. Brito serve to inspire other young persons who are unemployed to taking up agriculture or related vocations. To abandon a well paying and secure job and take up something like farming proves his interest and conviction in this line.”
Both Mr. Brito and his sister are well known people at the Agriculture college in Madurai, TNAU and to several farmers and agriculture related entrepreneurs in the region.They have been conducting hundreds of training programmes in the last several years to interested people who desire to try their hands in this line.
Popularly referred to as then kaara amma (honey bee lady) in Tamil, Josephine’s tryst with honey bees started some years back when she attended a training programme. Today she maintains nearly 3,000 bee boxes and offers suggestions in persons or over phone from other keepers.
“I first started it out of interest and today it has become my business and passion,” she says.Ms. Josephine personally supervises and packages the 30 varieties of honey at her processing unit near her farm.The honey is marketed under the brand name of Vibis and has created quite a demand in different pockets of Tamil Nadu and in other states.
You name the flavour and she has it in her godown. Be it jamun, ginger, garlic, sunflower, citrus, figs or even drumstick flavour, Ms.Josephine sees to it that the needs of her customers are met.
“The demand for the product is so great that we find it difficult to meet orders today,” says her brother Mr. Brito.The product is packed in different containers of 100gms, 250 gms, 500gms and 1kg to suit the needs of the consumers.
Authored two books
Till date Ms.Josephine has trained over 30,000 people in Tamil Nadu and has penned two books on rearing bees. Being a woman entrepreneur and successfully carrying on her business has inspired many other village women to take up this line.
“Agriculture work has always been viewed as a male bastion and I am happy as a woman I am able to be a guiding force to other women,” says Mrs. Josephine.
Unlike farming, bee keeping is not labor intensive. “Actual beekeeping barely needs two people. Because the bees themselves work to produce the honey, and we don’t need to do much.”
They are able to produce more than nine tonnes of honey a month under their brand name.
Both the brother and sister have been able to convert several farmers and unemployed youth and housewives into entrepreneurs.
Regarding plans for business expansion Mr. Ruso says, “ we do have a desire to export to foreign countries but for that our honey production needs to be increased to more than 10-12 tonnes a year.
“This is quite difficult but I am positive to succeed in years to come. In Mumbai a private company is asking us to supply more than 10 tonnes of jamun honey, but sourcing the honey proves daunting because jamun flower only for some weeks in a year.”
They also have plans to introduce franchisees in different parts of the state for marketing their produce. Mrs. Josephine also supplies boxes and machineries to farmers in 11 districts, mostly for government schemes under the National Horticulture Mission.
She has been conferred with the best entrepreneur award from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore (2010), best women entrepreneur from Women Empowerment Forum and best organic bee keeper award from Lions Club of Erode district.