I’m a network engineer by profession. I lived in the Middle East for almost eight years and after returning, I joined SBI as PO and worked there for a year. Being transferred abroad was making it difficult for me and my three children, especially the younger one who was just three years old at the time. I resigned from the job in 2006 and looked into different options but nothing enticed me.
Tell us about AR4 Organic Mango Farms
We purchased agricultural lands with our savings from the Middle East and wanted to start a dairy farm but labour issues and different hurdles discouraged us.
In 2007, we wanted to do some serious farming. I did a lot of research into various farming concepts and crops. During my research, I came across organic farming which was not particularly well-known at that time. Organic farming was interesting to me as it was health that we were dealing with. I understood that we could not get immediate returns but health was not compromised, and that was important to us.
I choose mangoes for three reasons. Firstly we love them! Secondly they are a summer crop so I can manage with the kids easily. Thirdly, and importantly for us at the time, it takes at least three to four years minimum for soil to build up organically so we had four years to get ready before our first plantation. To us this seemed feasible.
After growing our mangoes organically, we didn’t want to sell them in the normal market for little return. In 2011, we created our own brand AR4 (the name is derived from four family names: A for Arifa, R1 for Rafee, R2 for Ruwayfe and R3 for Rumaisa). We started our website www.ar4mangoes.com for customers to order mangoes online for delivery to their doorstep across India.
We deal with only our farm organic mangoes of 16 different varieties and deliver across India and globally. Our target market is people who buy online and look for quality produce, especially organic products.
Why did you set up the company?
Though it started only as a farming venture, we realised we would not achieve return on our day to day costs if we didn’t market the products ourselves. I was trained at IIM (Lucknow) for a month in business management. When it was time for us to market our produce in 2011, we wanted to do it with a difference and our website was the first online portal selling mangoes online in United Andhra Pradesh. It was unique and involved lot of risk but we took some calculated risks which paid off.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
Labour and logistics are the biggest challenges that we face on a regular basis. Logistics is crucial as we are dealing with perishable products and delivery is across the world so we need the best options to handle our products carefully.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Customer satisfaction. Repeat business with the same customers coming back to us for the past four years is our greatest achievement. Secondly, I won the TV5 Business leader award in 2012 for Agri and Food Processing for our unique business model, ‘From our Farm to Your Home’ from the then CM Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is my husband who is a self made man. Like him I want to establish myself as a successful entrepreneur.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
Farm work through the year is taken care of either during school hours and the kids often join me during the weekends. During the summer, my kids are my team for marketing, packing, customer care etc. They love the work and extend their full support to me.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
Patience and perseverance are the two most important aspects I have learnt during my journey?
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
What does the future hold for you?
The future is organic! We have gone full circle in life from healthy to filthy (chemically grown food) and then back to healthy. We hope to have other fruits and vegetables added to our offering in the next few years.