C.K. Udyog Food Private Limited is a supplier of raw natural honey and has successfully established the only honey processing and honey candy making plant in the North East region of India. The enterprise is located at Jorhat, Assam, India. Truvalu speaks to its founder Leela Charan Dutta on his journey of becoming an entrepreneur, working with Truvalu, future plans and what mechanisms are needed to strengthen the honey value chain in the North East region of India.
THE STARTING POINT
Leela says “In my village beekeeping was a big thing. My family was deeply involved in this activity. So, I understood the nuances well. This motivated me to pursue this as a career and leave a legacy behind”.
After starting this venture, I got in touch with the Assam Agricultural University as they are at the forefront of providing technology transfer and market linkage to apiculture farmers and entrepreneurs. To brush my skills further, I also underwent training in West Bengal and Bihar to gain necessary skills and competence to work in this sector.
We started our journey in 1994. Our first financial investment came from Assam Finance Corporation Bank. Then, State Bank of India helped us to scale up our honey manufacturing process.
Today I am very proud to say we use the best of technology and produce a range of varieties – from raw to Italian honey in Assam itself.
COLLABORATION WITH TRUVALU
Leela says he got introduced to Truvalu during an entrepreneur meet in Guwahati. With the help of Truvalu, C.K Udyog became a Private Limited Company. Truvalu has invested an amount of € 60,000 in the organization. The investment was made to upscale the business with an automatic honey processing machine, automatic honey packaging machine and setting up honey candy machines.
The machinery produces 90,000 kg of candy in a year. The new venture will also generate employment opportunities for the local people. It is expected that nearly 600-1000 farmers will benefit from the new venture. The candies produced will be first marketed in Assam and after establishing a successful market base it will widen the market network to other NE states. Truvalu.enterprises will further help to bring CK Udyog establish its market in India and abroad by specializing in honey and allied products.
All the activities have helped the organization enhance its business by manifolds. The company has not only gained its niche in processing and manufacturing bee boxes but also scaled up its operations within Assam and other NE regions.
C.K Udyog is the only enterprise in NE region capturing the market of Italian honey. From an initial investment of € 120 and with a set of only 10 bee hives, today the enterprise has a turnover of € 150,000 annually. The practice of bee keeping, manufacturing and processing is involved with extensive farmers’ engagement based in locale of Assam. The farmers also get fair price as per sale of bee boxes distributed to them. The income obtained provides them with livelihood security.
Leela says “We are producing 10-12 tonnes yearly of pure organic honey which no one else in North East is doing. We are very focused and strategic about the quality being produced. We deliberately don’t follow the buy-back model of big brands because we feel it will impact the quality of our product. The focus is on product and not profits; market will follow with good product”.
He adds “Currently, we have 50+ retailers under our umbrella who earn an income of € 2,500 yearly. Horticulture departments of districts also help us enhance our outreach”.
The organization wants to scale up its honey candy making business, making farming practices more sustainable with other bee keeping farmers, and provide opportunities to farmers for becoming entrepreneurs (giving bee colonies to them and buying the honey
from them and then sell it in the market).
Leela’s mission in the coming years is to have at-least one entrepreneur each in 28 districts in North East who can produce honey worth € 2,500 every year which can be exported outside India as well.
KEEPING THE LEGACY INTACT
Leela says that it is imperative to ensure that beekeeping legacy is restored. This can only happen when all the stakeholders work together closely. We need Government support; policy should be better as well. Migration is important in beekeeping. The system should work hard to make farmer work better. Pollination of bees makes production better. Government should understand the needs and work accordingly.