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A school dropout rides high, selling donkey’s milk for ₹7,000 a litre

By P. Sudhakar

It is still very common in the towns of Tamil Nadu for teachers to chide poorly-performing students as ‘only fit to rear donkeys’. Except in the case of Babu, it was a prophetic pronouncement, showing him his life’s path

U. Babu of Vannarpet, a school dropout, has established Tamil Nadu’s first donkey farm near here, and has become a young successful entrepreneur selling a litre of donkey milk for a whopping ₹7,000 to a Bengaluru-based firm manufacturing a range of cosmetic products with it.

Though he passed 11th standard, Mr. Babu decided to put an end to his studies and entered pharma products distribution that led him to the company manufacturing 28 unisex cosmetic products with donkey’s milk. They were looking for a credible source to supply 1,000 litres of donkey milk every month, and Mr. Babu soon realised that Tamil Nadu had only less than 2,000 donkeys and each milking female could give only 350 ml a day and only for a period of 6 months.

The ‘Poovanur family’ feed, bathe and milk the animals. (Source: P. Sudhakar)

It was at this point that he decided to start his own ‘donkey farm’. One can imagine the kind of reception he could have got from his family when he revealed to them his idea of starting donkey farm near Tirunelveli. Even when he tried to explain about the demand for donkey milk, none of them, including his wife, was ready to buy it. “But, my efforts continued. I could identify a few people from Vriddhachalam district who wander all over to sell 10 ml of donkey milk for ₹50 to the rural folk who believe this milk with anti-ageing elements tremendously strengthens their toddlers’ immune system. And, I have successfully brought a family with 5 donkeys from Poovanur near Padaalam to my farm to take care of all 100 donkeys of my farm, ‘Donkey Palace’, created on 17 acres of land taken on lease from a friend,” says Mr. Babu.

He has Halari donkeys of Gujarat and Kathiyavadi of Maharashtra besides the country variety of Tamil Nadu. “While the country variety animal costs about ₹40,000, it is ₹1 lakh in the case of Halaris which give 1 litre milk a day,” he says. The fodder for the animals like ragi, pearl millet etc. is raised on 12 acres as the farm has come up on the remaining 5 acres at Mukkoodal near here.

The ‘Poovanur family’ with T. Govindan and his son-in-law A. Karuppaiah now feed, bathe and milk the animals besides taking care of the donkeys in case of ailments mostly caused by cold. “We isolate the donkeys that are suffering from a cold,” he says showing the animals kept in a separate closure.

One of the members of this family, G. Santhosh, is doing his final year in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in a college at Kovilpalayam near Coimbatore, and is also taking care of the donkeys like others. “I don’t want to join any company… I want to be part of this venture by taking care of the marketing division as suggested by Mr. Babu,” he says.

The donkey milk with more than 99% TFM (Total Fatty Matter) is refrigerated at the farm and sent to Bengaluru to make the cosmetics including bathing soaps, lotions for skin and hair care, cream etc. While a 130 gram hand-made soap with donkey milk costs ₹ 799 on e-commerce platforms, it costs USD 16.77 (₹1,299) in the U.S.

“Yes… our product meets all FDA norms there and we’re working on entering the Europe market,” says Mr. Babu, with whom an Indian billionaire’s retail venture is holding talks for marketing these cosmetic products as he is now one of the partners of the Bengaluru-based cosmetic manufacturer.

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