Every 2nd person or 2 out of 3 people consuming dairy products are consuming items that are not fit for consumption, and to solve this issue Aman Jain founded Doodhvale in Delhi NCR.
From being an MBA graduate to becoming a cattle farm operator and then running a full-fledged consumer dairy and daily essentials company, Aman Jain and his story of establishing Doodhvale is worth taking a sip!
Abhishansa Mathur was in an insightful conversation with him about founding Doodhvale, its expansion, challenges, and much more in a recent interview, and here's the excerpt of it below.
1. Can you walk us through your journey of starting Doodhwale?
It all began with a personal problem we were facing. Upon moving from outside Delhi to Delhi, we realized that the products we were getting did not meet our standards. Given that the dairy industry is frequently reported as one of the most adulterated sectors in the F&B category, we decided to address this issue, starting with our own family. We established a cattle farm to ensure we had cows and buffaloes producing high-quality milk.
However, it quickly became apparent that we were not alone in facing this problem. Many others were experiencing the same issues and reached out to us, inquiring whether we could provide them with a solution. What initially started as a solution for about 10 families in our circle soon expanded to serving around 300 families within just two months. It was at this point that we recognized the potential for it to become a commercial business, and that's how it all began.
Gradually, we transitioned from being cattle farm operators to becoming a full-fledged consumer dairy and daily essentials brand. Over time, we expanded our product range to address issues of adulteration, low quality, and preservatives. Starting as a milk supplier, we evolved into a dairy company producing dahi, paneer, ghee, white butter, khoya, cold coffee, buttermilk, and more. We also diversified our product range.
In addition to our dairy products, we established our own bakery and breakfast essentials section where we produce chemical-free bread, Idli dosa batter, coconut chutney, theplas, and more. We further expanded into a section for fruits and vegetables, including coconut water, and a wide array of grocery items. Our primary goal is to provide the best quality, which is why we personally consume our products.
How badly is the milk industry adulterated?
FSSCI is the regulatory body in the food space, and over the past many years, they have conducted multiple tests. The earliest available data online dates back to 2004 or 2005. From then until as late as 2023, numerous tests have taken place across different parts of the country, revealing that nearly 2/3rd of the samples, approximately 65-70%, failed to meet the criteria set by FSSCI.
This implies that every 2nd person or 2 out of 3 people consuming dairy products are consuming items that are not fit for consumption. While the degree of adulteration may vary, the milk is not one hundred percent pure. This is a significant concern. Given the cyclical nature of the issue, during the festive season, we naturally observe a spike, with the numbers increasing. The more one consumes, the more severe the problem becomes. As mentioned, this is not just a problem from 20 years ago; it still persists today. The magnitude and penetration of the problem are substantial. Therefore, there is a growing need for a solution that addresses as many people as possible.
How do you envision carving out a distinctive niche and establishing a strong market presence for your business?
There are many players trying to solve problems in different industries. Some are working for high-quality products, and some for better services like Blinkit, and Zepto are trying to provide as much convenience to the customers as possible. We are at our heart a dairy company, and our core competence is producing the best quality dairy products. Over a period of time, we have added many other categories and we will continue to innovate on products.
The intent is to solve as many categories as possible as long as they don’t dilute the mission of our organization which is to provide the best quality and adulteration-free high health quotient products to our customers. So at our heart, we are basically a very strong producer of high-quality products but at the same time, we do feel that this is an industry where you also need to be top-notch in customer service. This involves having the right technology layer to enable customer interactions, and having the right logistic layer to deliver on time daily to the customers. These are part of the overall industry to enable the fulfillment of a product. We have been into this type of provision for the customers that help us provide and deliver our mission better.
We are also a strong producer enabled by technology to solve for transparency and customer convenience and at the same time provide a logistic layer for the customers to also be able to enjoy its benefits seamlessly at their doorstep and that is how we want to progress. All the other resellers in the market at some point or the other are going to be our channels for enabling our mission right so we don’t compete with them. We want to work with them in order for us to reach the masses as much as possible.
4. You are a tech-heavy brand. Can you shed some light on that?
We are a modern take on the traditional doodhvala, so we are trying to incorporate the best of all the worlds. One of the most crucial elements in our overall service is the fact that we are technology-enabled, as we want to incorporate technology in our value chain as much as possible and is incorporated throughout the chain.
We have put in technology to ensure the right traceability of the milk and what kind of health parameters need to be taken care of. Our overall farm where we are operating, processing, and packaging is all tech-enabled. These are high-tech dairy farms that use modern machinery and equipment to the best extent possible, make the cattle‘s life tech-enabled by providing scientific nutrition, timely upkeep nourishment, etc, so that’s basically where our tech starts right, from being a high-tech dairy farm to a company that has incorporated technology in logistics to enable traceability.
Moving down the supply chain toward the customer side, It is critical for us to have the right technologies that make their life easier by having the right transparency on the apps. We are the only company in the country that gives a daily transparent report as to what milk is being delivered to customers and that is enabled by technology.
There are certain parameters that are really a no-go for us like if there is adulteration like urea or starch and all is detected by our tech. All our core operations, logistics, and farms are tech-enabled to ensure that we’re being efficient in what we are doing and providing value for money. We can easily choose to be high profit at high margin company, but we want to ensure access to our products to as many customers as possible, and tech allows us to do that.
Could you provide insights into your supply chain and the end-to-end process of your business operations?
The supply chain in our industry is actually slightly more complicated than any FMCG industry, given the nature of the perishability of our product and the nature of the specific demand of the supply chain in this industry. For example, milk as a product needs to be maintained under a cold supply chain, and if it is kept above a certain temperature, which is typically 3 to 4°C, it starts to become acidic in nature and then turns sour and is not fit for consumption later.
Our supply chain also focuses on the individual guidelines of this industry which basically means it ensures that the cold chain is maintained at the farm as well. We ensure that the milk is cooled down to less than 4°C at the source farm. From there our milkman procures that milk and brings it to our processing center and the milk vans are also completely refrigerated. We also ensure that in the transit the milk van is sealed and that there is no tempering that can happen during the transit. Our processing farm has bulk milk chillers and that's how the cold supply chain is maintained. The milk is then carried forward in refrigerated vans, and delivered to the hub in insulated bags.
So throughout the process, we don’t break the cold chain and this is done in intervals of 24 to 36 hours. We are giving the milk in a fresh form unlike the typical traditional players in the market who are operating under a village-level collection model where they go to individual villages, collect the milk, then move to district level centre and finally to their plant and then to the customer doorstep. This journey is about 7-10 days so, being able to bring it down to less than 36 hours has been an achievement.
But this obviously comes at a certain cost, because we don’t add powder or any artificial cream that elongates the shelf life of the milk. There have been challenges like the milk getting spoiled at our centre, and not being fit for consumption. So, we are keeping our plants more infrastructure equipped, and operating it in a manner which again leads to an additional cost but we are working on it.
How do you strategize pricing amidst the added costs you've mentioned, especially in the context of a highly competitive market?
We are actually the most value-for-money operator in a fresh and natural space and can always choose to price it better & higher and target a smaller segment of the market. But our internal strategy is to be more affordable so that more and more customers are able to access our products and we are not just for the elite few in the specific market.
At the same time, you will not find any other company that is providing the same quality and proposition at a lower rate than us. We will continue to become more and more efficient in our operations so that we become more and more affordable to work and deliver value to our customers and that has been our pricing philosophy.
What criteria do you consider when choosing a farm for your operations?
There are farms that lack infrastructure and rely solely on having cattle in place to provide milk. On the other hand, some farms are infrastructure-heavy, employing technology and scientific farming methods. We lean towards the second type, and to ensure consistency, we've developed our own Standard Operating Procedures outlining the desired farm conditions and operating procedures.
Several key parameters differentiate a high-quality, high-tech farm from a conventional one. Firstly, the type of food provided to the cattle must be nutritious and adhere to scientific standards. Secondly, the treatment of the cattle and the environment in which they are kept are crucial factors. Ensuring that the cattle have ample space to roam freely and graze happily is a priority.
Another crucial parameter for us is the presence of a properly trained and qualified veterinarian associated with the farm. Additionally, the ability to differentiate between sick and healthy cattle is essential. Unfortunately, at certain farms where milk is produced, this distinction is often overlooked. When cattle are unwell, they are sometimes given antibiotics, which can eventually mix with the milk, posing a health hazard.
Infrastructure enablement at the farm is another key parameter. This involves having the right set of machines for milking the cattle and the appropriate chillers to maintain a cold chain for the produced milk. While these are the topmost priorities to differentiate a high-tech dairy farm from a regular one, we have a comprehensive list of SOPs.
What are your expansion plans?
We have experienced significant growth in the last few years, and our intention is to penetrate even further. Currently based in Delhi NCR, we plan to delve deeper into the market, as we believe we have yet to tap into the full potential of the overall market. Our strategy involves a deep market penetration in the coming year, aiming for at least a tenfold growth. Rather than focusing solely on the top 5% of the market and pushing them to make online purchases, our approach is to provide customers with an offline shopping experience through our outlets and various resellers and channels. Our goal is to build a company with a valuation exceeding a thousand crores and establish connections with thousands, if not millions, of customers. Given that tier 1 and 2 cities are significantly affected by this problem, they are our primary focus. Our plan is to penetrate deeper into the northern part of India in the next 12 months, with a subsequent expansion to other cities in the future. Following that, we aim to move and expand into other parts, including Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore.
Since there are other players in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, what would be your entry point?
There are many other companies and brands working toward the same cause and vision, which is excellent because these cities also have a majority of the young population. I'm very glad that there are other players attempting to address this issue.
From a commercial standpoint, since the markets are vast, it is not possible for one player to cater to everybody. We need many players on this mission to eradicate the problem we are discussing, and all of us will have to coexist together. What is crucial is finding the best way to attract customers and then establishing our presence.
We take pride in being a high-quality player and producer while simultaneously being the most affordable and value-for-money provider. With both these aspects, there is a high chance of automatically attracting customers to adopt our products. We always aim to be a more affordable, high-quality product provider and a service-oriented company. This is what we rely on and work along with our sister companies and brands to accomplish the mission together.
Your key milestones?
We started in 2018 with a farm of about 50 cattle, and today, we have evolved into a fully-fledged consumer brand company. This marks our first milestone. The next one would be covering the entire NCR region, including Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Kundli, and Sonipat, transitioning from our initial location in Haryana's Sonipat.
From being solely a milk provider, we have transformed into a comprehensive daily dairy essentials company, offering more than a hundred preservative-free, high-quality, fresh, and natural products. This achievement stands as another significant milestone for us.
We take pride in being the first company in the country to produce khoya as a high-quality product available for retail consumers. Another noteworthy product is our segregated buffalo and cow ghee. Additionally, our paneer is 100% made with milk, with 0% synthetic additives and no adulteration. Introducing these products has been a milestone for us, accompanied by a growing customer base of over 50,000 people.
What have been the challenges?
I believe that no journey of this length can be without challenges. However, I also feel that these challenges can be transformed into opportunities, leading to more efficient processes and a better mindset for problem-solving. Admittedly, there were numerous challenges. Milk, being a sensitive material, is not simple to handle, and maintaining cold chains poses its own difficulties. The pasteurization plant must adhere to certain standards and cleanliness requirements to operate effectively. Despite these challenges, they have also served as valuable lessons, even if not always commercially beneficial.
Convincing and educating people about our products was also a task. Overcoming the awareness and persuading individuals to switch from traditional to premium products has been challenging, though markets are gradually maturing. While we have devised solutions for these challenges, it is an ongoing process.
The first significant lesson for us has been the necessity of having strong Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the various verticals we are currently operating in. We have SOPs outlining how our farms should be operated and how milk should be handled and transported. The second major lesson is that, at the end of the day, the customer is king. This realization motivates us to innovate and improve continuously. Every customer feedback serves as a valuable learning experience, guiding us to become more consumer-oriented and attentive to their needs.
Additionally, we have emphasized leveraging technology to the fullest extent possible in our operations and focusing on long-term solutions to prevent the repetition of work, enabling us to accelerate our progress.
A piece of advice you'd like to give young entrepreneurs?
My personal advice to all aspiring entrepreneurs is to be action-oriented. I firmly believe that the more you do, the more you learn. Real learning occurs through practical execution, so it's vital to immerse yourself in the market, face challenges, and execute your ideas. I encourage every entrepreneur to roll up their sleeves, get hands-on, take action, and consistently strive for growth.
1. Your favourite book- Zero to One from Peter Thiel.
2. Your favourite podcast- Sadhguru
3. Favourite movie- The Dark Knight
4. Favourite travel destinations- Kashmir and Mauritius
5. Fitness mantra- Playing badminton
6. Favourite food- Desi Chinese