To support his financially weak family and continue his education, Showkat Ahmad Dar, 28, of Ahan village in Ganderbal district would do any kind of manual job on Sundays and other holiday since he reached 9th standard.
As his father was mentally unstable and ounce of providing for the family wholly and solely was on his mother, Dar being the eldest sibling in the family, responsibilities shifted to him as soon as he 'started to mature'.
However, despite the odds, he did not left his studies and completed MA Education from the University of Kashmir in 2012. But after completing his masters, Dar didn't waste time going after government jobs. Rather he started a dairy farm by availing a self-employment scheme and with his dedication and hard work is now selling more than 150 litres of milk daily, earning him a good income.
With little hope to get a government job, given the 'corruption and nepotism', Dar says he always lived an entrepreneurial dream but to open a dairy farm crossed his mind quiet accidently one day.
"My mother acted as the patriarch of the family when we were kids, she worked hard like a man to feed us and educate us. While the subsistence farming would provide for our basic needs and routine meals, she would also spin pashmina and sell extra milk to earn some cash for the expenses like our education and clothing," says Dar.
It was thi s ancestral practice of rearing a cow, and his mother using it as an advantage during difficult times to make some money by selling milk that the idea of opening a diary farm came to Dar's mind.
As an idea alone cannot be sufficient for establishing a unit, the most important step to establish a dairy farm was the finance, so that he could buy cows and construct a barn.
With no savings or any possibility of family help, there was little hope for him to manage the required finances. However, he didn't give up there, rather went to every government office and scrutinised every self-employment scheme and at the end approached Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI).
"I went to Gandebal office of EDI, and presented them my idea. They not only liked my idea but also provided me training in dairy farming, which came handy to me in establishing this farm. I received Rs 14 lakh finance for opening the farm, Rs 5 lakh as subsidy and rest as a soft loan through J&K Bank," says Dar.
After completing the documentation process, Dar established 'Shehjar Dairy Farm' in four months only instead of a routine practice of a year for establishing such a unit.
"I built it up in a record time of four months and in 2013, it started functioning," he says, adding, "Good thing about a dairy farm is that you don't have to face any dormant period. Sales of milk started from the day one, and thank God has been increasing since then."
Dar has 12 cows of Holstein and Jersey breeds in his farm, some of them even brought from Punjab.
"As 'Holstein' breed is famed for giving huge quantity of milk, I put this herd in my barn because they produce on an average 18 kg to 20 kg of milk per day. And the another breed which I have placed in barn is 'Jersey' cattle breed, which is popular for high butterfat content of its milk and the most important benefit related to this breed is that they have low maintenance cost compared to other cattle breeds and takes less space due to their small size," he says.
Given that the cattle is vulnerable to diseases and epidemics, Dar has insured his livestock and takes all the steps to maintain the hygiene of his farm so that he can provide quality and safe milk to his customers.
Within the span of three years, he earns Rs 12 lakh to Rs13 lakh only from dairy products, besides receiving an extra income by selling the calves and the manure produced in his farm.
Dar considers himself a successful entrepreneur as he has not only liquidated major portion of loan in the shortest possible time but also fulfils all needs of his family decently.
Asked about what will be his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Dar says: "Most of the youngsters think that after getting education this kind of work is not suitable for them, which is not the right attitude. My experience is that it is most profitable business and one should have to look at its advantages rather than what the people will say about it."