The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Deepti Sharma
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Aman Khanna, the Owner of Khanna Dairy Farms located in New Delhi. Being a supplier of an essential service Mr Khanna remained in action even during the lockdown, which meant standing long hours in queues to procure passes from the DCP office for movement across the city. He opines that pandemic has been tough on all the businesses equally and his dairy business is no exception. With workers returning to their villages during the lockdown they had to face a shortage of manpower but kept up with the supply of milk throughout while complying with the government guidelines. To make his way through a heavy competition Mr Khanna sticks to his USP- establishing customer connect and providing them with fresh, pure & unadulterated milk products. Though their business is on the path to recovery post lockdown but the profit is still not at par with last January. He plans to procure more cattle heads to boost his business.
Mr Khanna, welcome to our interview series! Please tell us about your business.
Aman: We own a dairy business and have three dairy farms running from Ghazipur near Delhi border. Both buffalo and cow milk are available with us, besides we also sell Paneer (cottage cheese) prepared from the same milk. We have kept workers under us for milking the cattle and supplying the milk. Our dairy business is called Khanna Dairy Farm and as I mentioned it’s located in Ghazipur on the Delhi border.
How did the pandemic and the lockdown affect your business?
Aman: Pandemic has taken its toll on everybody equally, albeit a clothing business or a dairy business or any other small business like cobblers, provision stores, etc. Everybody has faced its heat and we’re no exception. We’ve faced problems from footfall to customers and even manpower, with our workers leaving for their villages.
How was your business faring during the lockdown?
Aman: Lockdown was announced on 24th March last year, but dairy business as you know falls in the essential services, so we continued to remain in action even then. We were required to avail of a pass from the DCP office — because the Delhi government hadn’t initiated the alternative by then — and there used to be a long queue over there. Remembering the initial days of lockdown, there used to be a big line-up in front of the DCP office. But we collected the pass anyway to avoid any problems pertaining to our movement and supply of milk across Delhi.
Do you have some knowledge about how your customers and competitors are doing at the present stage?
Aman: There are multiple competitors I’d say. Firstly there are those who are into milk selling at the local level by vending directly to the customer in their containers. And then we’ve big brands like Amul, Mother Dairy, Anandji, Gopalji, etc, which also pose competition for us. But, our USP lies in supplying absolutely pure and unadulterated milk. Besides, packaged milk is pasteurised which is a process carried out to preserve fresh milk for a longer period, while our milk is supplied directly from the dairy; it isn’t passed through any machines. Now it’s an online world and it has given rise to companies like Country delight which carry out home delivery of fresh milk. They’ve started an online marketplace like Amazon & Flipkart by entering into a contract with local vendors like us. They can be considered competition as well.
Is your business online or completely offline at present?
Aman: One of our USPs is our strong customer connect. 70–80% of our customers are fixed; they’re provided with a monthly card and the billing happens at the end of every month. Our customers are consistent and supply remains constant. During the COVID lockdown, many of our customers moved to their hometowns or with their family resulting in less supply.
So, Mr Khanna how is your business doing at present?
Aman: If I compare it to last March when the first lockdown started followed by several mini lockdowns of 1 or 2 months, then it’s in a much better state now. Take for example January only, we’ve definitely profited more. Still, the profit isn’t comparable to previous January but yes the things are recovering now.
Is there any plan to grow your business underway for the upcoming months?
Aman: For starters, we seek to increase the procurement of cattle heads and be able to buy a few more dairies. Also, we’re looking to hire more workers under us to expand the business.
We wish you success in all your plans. Please tell us about any three things that you need help with.
Aman: Everybody needs encouragement. Even the greatest mountains can be broken with courage. We have the example of Manjhi ( the mountain man of India) in front of us. So, first is encouragement. Then comes marketing support. And most importantly a voice like yours which provides us with a medium so that small businesses like us can pitch our voice. That’s all for the three things.
About the Guest
Aman Khanna is the sole proprietor and owner of Khanna Dairy farms. He is involved in animal husbandry and has his own cows and buffaloes. He strives to serve the community with pure milk products in the time of adulteration and other malpractices. He has three dairies in Ghazipur Dairy farm, Delhi.