"While pursuing my studies at the institute I did not just learn to communicate well but I also learnt how to convince people to give back to the society and make it a better place."
A smart entrepreneur, loving father, a caring son, an empathetic leader, but above all a man who believes that true happiness lies not in earning profits but in making a difference in the lives of people around you and helping the world become a better place.
Utsav Siag shares his journey and how he plans to contribute to the betterment of the society. Truly an inspirational leader and entrepreneur.
Q. Tell us about yourself and your journey.
A. I am an agriculturist.
I own around 100 acres of land of which more than half (56 acres) is a citrus fruit orchard of fruits like kinnow and malta, and in the rest I grow mustard, wheat, cotton and grams.
I finished my three-year integrated program in management in 2010, and in 2011 started interning under my father. As I visited the farm and started getting to know the business I realised that there are two things that a farmer needs to look at
a) First, crop management . This includes things like cultivation, sowing, irrigating, harvesting, pest-control etc.
b) Second is Human Resource Management.
I had done my specialisation in HR and that knowledge helped me in understanding better the problems of the farmers and come out with innovative solutions. These farmers are illiterate and do not really comprehend or understand how to plan their future and their growth. The maximum that they want in life is to make a cemented house and buy a motorbike. I wanted to do something for them and make a difference in their lives. So I came up with various ideas and schemes for them.
Q. What are the various initiatives that you have started to make the lives of the farmers better ?
A. I am continuously trying to do things to make the lives of the people who work for me better. I keep encouraging them to work harder and in return I have promised them an increment of 20% per annum. However I knew that any extra income they got would be blown away in alcohol. So I opened joint accounts with them and deposited the extra money in those joint accounts so that they could not withdraw the money without my knowledge before the year ended, This way I ensured that they got into the habit of saving. It also helped me in reducing my attrition rates. Apart from this everyone who has stuck around for long is given an even larger chunk of the profits. So it has turned out to be a win-win situation for both me and the farmers.
My aim always has been to help them live better and more fulfilled lives.
I have built rooms for them on my farm with solar light fittings so that they can save on the electricity costs and reduce their expenses. They also have enough space around their homes to grow their own vegetables, keep cows etc.
Whenever anyone joins me I get their life insured, as they would never get it done on their own for they have little understanding of the importance of such policies.
If there is a marriage in anybody’s family I gift them a good amount of money so that they can go ahead with the celebrations without feeling burdened.
Of course when there is a medical emergency I never hesitate to help them in whichever way possible. These are the small steps I have been taking to make the lives of people around me better and happier.
My communication classes at the institute taught me how to connect with others and speak in such way that they believe in me and join me and work as a team. Winning the trust of my workers and having them by my side has been one of my most fulfilling activities.
Q. As an entrepreneur what are the challenges you face and how do you handle them ?
A. When I was at the institute I was taught how important it is to invest in R&D (research & development) if one has to stay ahead in the game. So every year I make sure I spend at least five to six months visiting farms that have successfully implemented new techniques, and also read up all literature related to them. This has made me aware and I feel better equipped to bring about positive changes in my farm too.
After working on the farm for four years I realised I could do a lot to make the farm better. My research and readings helped me discover the benefits of drip-irrigation. At that time it was a very new method of irrigation and hardly anyone was doing it. I saw the huge potential and cost saving possibility and realised that this was the most sustainable way of farming. By using less than one-fourth of the water I could triple my production. I was also aware that with each passing year water would get more and more scarce. So i started work on this method. I built a one-acre rain water and canal water store tank. I installed a drip irrigation motor and made sure that the motor ran on solar power.
The solar panels did cost me a fortune but when I compared costs I realised that in the long run the cost of fuel that a generator would consume would be way higher. Solar power in the long run would turn out to be way cheaper and the cost of the solar panels could be recovered easily within two years.
I also figured out that drip irrigation meant that I could save a lot on fertilisers and pesticides as they are given with the help of machines which do proper calculations and make sure the fertilisers etc reach the roots directly. This reduces wastage and hence saves costs.
This method also drastically reduced my manpower requirements. In the part of the farm where I have used drip-irrigation, it takes one person to single handedly irrigate 26 acres of land in just 3 hours. Compare this to the part where we are still using the traditional way that is flood-irrigation to irrigate the land, where it takes 3 men 3 days to cover 30 acres. The difference in terms of time, money and manpower is huge.
To summarise , keeping myself abreast with the latest developments and continuously investing in newer and better ways of farming has helped me increase the efficiency of the farm.
Q. What motivates you ?
A. I learnt about the importance and benefits of giving back to the society while pursuing my management studies at the institute. I have always had the desire to bring about a positive change in the world around me. I really feel good when I am able to do something good for others.
As a farmer I don’t need to pay taxes but I try and give back something to the society in whatever way I can. My sister is a nature lover and she inspired me to do something to save the environment. So I decided to plant about a thousand ‘sheesham’ trees alongside the driveways and water channels of my farm. One benefit of these trees is that they reduce evaporation, but the flip-side is that the shadow from these trees reduces the produce of crops. But I think life should be beyond just thinking about financial gains. The trees provide shade to my people, they also provide them with drift wood, apart from reducing pollution levels on the farm. The honey from the flowers of the sheesham trees is said to be of very high medicinal value and is known to be incredibly effective in curing cancer. So I have got into apiculture and the honey collected by the bees from the flowers of the sheesham trees and the flowers of the mustard plants is of the best quality possible.
I have planted lots of other trees in my farmhouse. Not just this I have planted hundreds of trees in vacant areas around my village and take proper care of them too. This makes the place greener and the air cleaner.
Yes, I work to earn but always my main motive has been to do something for the betterment of the society too, and I am doing my best in my small way to make a difference. The fact that I am able to give back to the society has been the biggest motivating factor in my journey.
Q. What are your future plans ?
A. My future plans are actually based on my past ! To understand them I need to share a few things from the past. My great-grandfather was a ‘Zaildar’ during the time that the British ruled this country. A ‘zaildar’ used to be the revenue collector of the area and was also incharge of the law and order of that area. He was a man with a very big heart. Since my childhood I have seen people coming to my house from far flung places in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana and telling me stories of his various acts of kindness. A few years ago I met a man in Jaipur who said that whenever there was famine in his village he used to go to my great grandfather’s house and ask for help, and was never ever turned back. He used to open the doors of the storehouse and tell them to take whatever they wanted. Somehow these stories have left an indelible mark on me and have inspired me to be like my great grandfather. I also want my daughters to develop the same attitude. I would really want them to work for WHO (World Health Organisation) or Red Cross and go around the world helping ailing people in whatever way they can. This shall be their greatest education and shall make them better human beings, and conscientious citizens.
I have been passionate about sports. I see so many talented young people who want to go ahead and make a career in sports but they don’t have the funds or the knowledge to help them make the best use of their talent. So I have decided to start a Foundation in my great grandfather’s memory and I want to name it ‘Ram Rakh Siag Foundation’. The purpose of this foundation will be to fund meritorious students from the economically weaker sections of the society and help them to go ahead in sports. The foundation will provide them knowledge, training and a good diet to help them excel in their fields. I want to also develop a first-aid health facility with the help of this foundation.
This is how I want to continue the good work my great grandfather started and keep his legacy alive, and I hope some day my daughters too join me or start some such philanthropic initiatives too.