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Sharon Lobo

IWB Blogger

Rohini of Woohoo Doodh Walks Us Through Her Farm With Free-Willed Cows

  • IWB Post
  •  April 16, 2018

Now, every time I drink milk I say Woohoo!! Read ahead to find out why.

Rohini Unnikrishnan started her journey as a freelancer and is now a successful entrepreneur. She began working at the age of 17 with 20+ part-time jobs as a student. She is greatly interested in value creation starting from product development at start-ups to efficiency driven global sourcing at MNCs. Her product put me in a puzzle as to why would someone start a brand with so many big ventures existing in the same category to compete with.

Co-founded by Rohini, Woohoo Doodh promises its customers healthy and pure milk at their doorstep. With this promise comes the surety of a greener environment and a sustainable future for the farmers who earn a little more without any compromise on cattle safety and adulteration. With all of this on the list, Woohoo Doodh provides these benefits at minimal margins. Roshini tells us about how she came up with the venture dedicated solely to pure milk. Excerpts:

With so many apps already existing for groceries and with a heavy competition in the dairy category, what made you milk this startup idea?

We started in 2014 December. I did a lot of part-time jobs with a consulting company. While I was pursuing my MBA, one of the projects that I worked on was from the dairy industry. I had to research on different modules, premium brands and how they in-house all the cattle. I found out about the shocking adulteration of the milk during its processing, inhuman conditions for the animals on the milk farms. This made me realize how the quality was compromised. No one really worked with farmers in India in spite of us being the largest milk producing country. The whole idea of our startup is to develop fair trade for the farmers and boost healthy human-animal relationship.

Tell us about your liters and liters of research.

There were reports in the newspaper about the government of India testing the top brands, and they found out that at least 70 to 80% of milk products had been adulterated. I spoke to farmers, people from the processing units, distribution channels, consumers, and even doctors. The research revealed that kids who drink milk with preservatives for years accumulate the chemical in their bodies. You know these days, if doctors cannot identify the cause of illness, the first thing they say is to stop all your dairy products.

We saw cows treated cruelly. They are ingested with hormones to give a lot of milk and are kept tied all day. There’s a lot of puberty shifting that happens among kids these days, and we found out the reason for that is the hormones stimulated in the cows which are passed on in the milk consumed by kids.  We even named our product Woohoo because freedom keeps everyone happy, including our cows. Our cows are free from all joint pains because they aren’t tied. Their health is being constantly monitored.

Yeah, I read that you use the open housing practices for your cows.

In open housing, the primary requirement is to have a fenced area and huge trees need to be planted for natural shade and sunlight. Due to the excellent air circulation, a lot of diseases are kept at bay. The tied cows have problems with their hip which affect them during the pregnancy.  With open housing, the stress level in animals also goes down.

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And, how do you beat the cows’ blues and stress?

(laughs) Everything the cow eats or feels is all manifests in the milk quality. That is why we boldly talk about milk made by happy cows.

Was this why you also appointed a doctor for your cows?

One of our vital team members is a veterinarian, and he deals directly with the farmers. He sees what treatment needs to be provided. Just basic sustainable practices. If preventative care is in place, the cost of managing the cows also goes down. Also, if any cow is on antibiotics, he makes sure that the milk is not going into the packaging.

And, what is the philosophy behind the packaging?

Basically, I researched a lot of packaging that is available, and primarily there were plastic pouches. There are tetra packs as well. We thought of going sustainable. The carton we decided to use is paper-based, so it’s recyclable. It was quite challenging to use this packaging because it’s paper and it’s quite sensitive. Regarding educating people, we also faced challenges since people didn’t know how to open it. So, we started putting a QR code so they could scan it to learn how to open the packaging.

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All this makes your product expensive, how do you deal with competition?

Honestly, I don’t think our product is that expensive. The tetra packs come at 65 per liter, and we are priced at 70 per liter with excellent quality. Our costs are based on the parameters that we pay our farmers adequately, take care of the cows and the cold chain of packaging without preservatives. Regarding competition, dairy is such a big industry, there is space for everyone. Even just in Pune, the demand for milk is over 30 lakh liters. With such high demand, there is a lot of space for quality brands to come up.

Chalk out your social media strategy for us.

Basically, there’s a lot of awareness these days. For example, if you talk about food, there is organic food and other food. Similarly, there is milk and pure milk. So, people are interested in healthy food habits, and such content diverts them to our site. We put out a lot of blog posts, and we are quite active on Facebook. If people send us a query, we respond quickly. Mostly, we just focus on social platforms.

How was the Ted Talk that you attended recently?

Frankly, it was a surprise to me because I don’t believe in promotion but just doing work with good thoughts in mind. Some other fantastic speakers were present there too. They gave me quite a difficult audience considering they were junior college kids. Students who want to start their own ventures and are thinking about it at such a young age. Post the talks kids walked up to me and said they could relate to what I said.

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What is your farm experience like?

Initially, it took me time to understand things but now I can tell if a cow is healthy or not just by simple signs that I learned to recognize. I am learning every day. We had initially 8 farmers, and now we have 11.

What challenges did you face while getting these farmers onboard?

Firstly, asking them to set their cows free was difficult because they are so used to tieing them. Secondly, getting the farmers to use milking machines. They have always been doing hand milking. Now, the lives of farmers and cattle have improved because of these practices we introduced and that gives me a sense of happiness.

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You’ve partnered with Crossfit as well. Give us your favorite tips to maintain good health for a busy entrepreneur.

I am an active member with Crossfit. For them, it’s not about how thin you are, but it’s about being fit, and we share a similar understanding. People prefer slim milk over regular milk, but that’s not good for the health. In the first year, I drowned myself in work because in the dairy industry the clock doesn’t stop. I didn’t care about sleep or my food habits and then fell terribly sick. From then on, I have been careful.  My day starts at 5:30 and I think that’s the fitness tip for all entrepreneurs, have an early start to your day.

What does your power breakfast look like? A glass of milk?

It’s a mix of a lot of things, and I don’t follow any specific diet. It involves binging on all the items that I like which naturally includes milk. So, milk, cereal, egg, sausages and fruit juice. Sometimes, a nice cup of chai before I leave for work.

And your go-to drink for de-stressing?

I’m not trying to boast about my product, but it’s a cup of chai made with Woohoo milk.

This article was first published on November 28, 2017.

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