Special Column
VILFRESH Selvakumar, the Chief Executive Layman

By Rajesh Govindarajulu

Mar 03, 2019

" India is an interesting country and has given the given numerous concepts to the world. The country has been known for entrepreneurship and once upon a time, it was the biggest economy in the world. Democracy in India has been existent for a long time. The inscriptions at Utharamerur share details about the democracy that was really ' by the people ', ' of the people ', and ' for the people '. 

However our farmers have been unable to reap the benefits of freedom due to several reasons. Laymen Agro Ventures Private Limited is an outcome of my exposure concerning the plight of the farmers and the milk requirement of my daughter Shringa. I got married to Sharmila in the year 2010 and my daughter Shringa was born in 2012. The baby was mother fed for two and a half years. My wife wanted to give the best to the child thereafter. We were puzzled initially for my wife who happens to be a research analyst found out that 70 % of the milk in India was adulterated ( according to FSSAI ). It was decided that our family has to solve this issue and we felt that it was an opportunity to solve this problem for everyone once and for all through a novel venture. 

We understood the three issues (1) The urban consumer was paying more but was neither getting the right quality or the required quantity. (2) The farmer was also not getting a decent margin simply because he was buying inputs at the retail price and his outputs or produce was sold at the wholesale price. (3) The rural youth were either unemployed or underemployed. All the three segments had be made happy and after much thought EEE ( Triple E ) was identified as the solution. Enriching the farmer by Empowering the rural youth to Excite the urban customer., " smiled the dhoti clad Selvakumar Varadharajan , the Chief Layman at ' Laymen Agro Ventures Private Limited ', the company which owns to brand ' VILFRESH '. 

Selvakumar Varadharaja ( 37 years ) was born to Varadharajan Kulandaivel and Indirani. He did his BA in Corporate Secretaryship from the Muthayammal College of Arts and Science in Rasipuram. He furthered his academic background by doing a Masters in Finance & Control from Sri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya from Malumichampatti on the outskirts of Coimbatore. This was followed by an M.Phil ( management ) from the Periyar University. His wife Sharmila Selvakumar is an MBA and has worked for a few overseas ventures. The daughter S.S.Shringa carries the first alphabets of both her parents as her initials. Selvakumar has worked for HDFC Bank, Accenture and has been a professor at ICFAI in Bengaluru. He co founded BSBS ( Bangalore School of Business Studies ) Business Academy. Selvakumar had played a lead role in this B school but finally quit due to personal reasons. He joined DJ Academy for Managerial Excellence and spent a few years in the same before taking up ' Vilfresh '. 

The Chief Executive Layman was brimming with energy while talking about his venture, " We have a mantra for sustainability. Our job is to bring village fresh agro products to the urban consumer. The products thrive on natural shelf life without the aid of chemicals or preservatives or refrigeration. We have begun by supplying farm fresh milk from the villages and it is our VISA to the urban kitchen. Value added products like butter, ghee and panneer are part of our list. We are making 27000 deliveries in 910 houses in Coimbatore as of now. Our last mile activity is the strongest. Our Villagepreneur is the first mile soldier and its his input which brings the stuff from the farm to the hub. 

By transforming the life of villagepreneurs we hope to reverse migrate people to the villages. The zero mile soldier does the packing ad forwarding from the hub. The last mile soldier ensures timely and safe delivery. Newspaper boys are paid Rs.2000 per month for delivering 200 papers but we are paying Rs.3000 plus incentives for the guys who are doing 40 deliveries per day. They are on a lesser workload and use the vehicle and fuel of Vilfresh. The boys are college going and these green T shirt wearing guys earn their semester fees by delivering milk. 

The day starts at ' Sydney Time ' for them. The farmer gets the best price for his output and through transparent pricing he gets the prevalent procurement price plus 25 %. Through an alternate distribution channel we are assuring a better price by which we are ensuring that the farmer gets the lions share of the consumer price and this enriches the rural economy. Plus, we are providing agro inputs at a 20 % advantageous price. We have brought in the Mahindra Jeeto for the rural youth and this helps them to take the output to the cities and inputs to the villages everyday. "

The economics are simple but the initiative is excellent. Let us say if the topline is Rs.20000 and cost of farming is Rs.17000, the margin is Rs.3000. However Vilfresh offers a 25 % percent jump in topline, thereby it becomes Rs.25000 and the cost of farming is brought to Rs.15000 because of good bargains for the inputs. The margin thus becomes Rs.10000 and the farmers margin gets tripled. The work is bottom line centric. 

Laymen Agro were given the ' Sustainable Enterprise Award ' by Jagriti. They were recognized by ' Upaya Social Ventures ' and were listed among the top 11 promising start ups in the country. " I have explained our model so that others can replicate it and this will help both, the farmer and village youth to get their due. Now, Upaya Social Ventures has finally narrowed down to investing in our company and this backed by Allen Blue ( Co Founder of Linked In ). Native Angels Network are Co investors in our venture along with Upaya. Ours is a ' Middle India ' model and there are more than 600 million people who reside in it. 

We are interested in replicating our work in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The next cities will be Madurai, Salem, Tirupur and Trichy. Later on, we will move beyond Tamilnadu. We got an invite from a big company for a joint venture but our love towards our model and the collective dreams of each one of us ensured that we continue to pursue our goals under the existing umbrella. Indians fall in love with the products and brands that they buy and not the place of origin. Our aim is to become a trustworthy and credible household brand. If Kurien was known for the 'white revolution', M.S.Swaminathan for the ' green revolution ' , I want me to be known for the ' light green revolution'( green T shirts are used by everyone in Vilfresh ). We are grateful to the ' STANDUP INDIA ' Scheme which supported us initially with a collateral free loan ( Government of India guarantees the loan ). 

Grapevine has it that the company is valued at almost double digit crores. While Selvakumar ( 37 years ) is the Chief Executive Layman, Sharmila ( 33 years ) is the Chief Laywoman, Yashwanth Rangarajan ( 23 years ) is the Chief Business Layman and Suba Sadhasivam ( 32 years ) is the Chief Marketing Layman. Interestingly, Selvakumar was the Professor and Yashwanth was the student. 

Selvakumar calls Yashwanth as his backbone and breadwinner. Selvakumar was eager to make one more statement, " Shringa was fathered by me and mothered by Sharmila and VILFRESH was fathered by Sharmila and mothered by me. Our daughter used to visit our company everyday during her homeschooling days. We have to work hard and start at ' Sydney Morning ' and complete by the ' European Night '. Nobody quits our company and we are the Google of Coimbatore when it comes to employee retention, satisfaction as well. We are grateful to the many noble souls who have guided us and helped us reach this height. " 

The cute and well behaved Shringa added a flavor to the story by making her own sweet statement," When I was 2 plus years old , my mother was worried about the quality of milk that may be given to me. Later my parents started VILFRESH and now father, mother and Vilfresh are nourishing me ." 

Hope ventures like Vilfresh add more and more nourishment to the entrepreneurial spirit of Coimbatore. 

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