Sunshine after the rain: Agri-Entrepreneur boosts his community and his business


When unseasonal rain destroyed his family’s onion crop, Nirgosh Kailesh Mandre thought his dream of starting a small-scale social enterprise was over. But Syngenta Foundation India provided a different route to achieving his goal.

Nirgosh Kailesh Mandre has learnt that the route to your dream is not always direct, but that by keeping your eyes on the prize, you can achieve great things.

His education was based on the ancient Indian ‘Gurukul’ schooling and focused on personal development and on community benefit and improvement. It instilled in him an ambition to start his own small-scale social enterprise and he returned home to the family farm to fulfil his dream.

He was greeted by financial disaster as unseasonal rain had destroyed the family’s onion crop, leaving them deep in debt. With money desperately needed, Nirgosh left for nearby Pune and worked for a refrigeration company where 12-hour days earned him a meagre INR 12,000 (approx US$165) a month. Exhausted, he visited home for a festival and heard about Syngenta Foundation India’s (SFI) Agri-Entrepreneur programme. The scheme trains local people to set up shops selling high-quality agri-inputs, but also to deliver advice, links to markets, and facilitate credit to farmers who traditionally struggle to access financial services.

Nirgosh was selected for the scheme and began his 45-day residential training. On his return, he began advising farmers on improved agronomy practices that had a swift impact on their incomes and resulted in speedy development of trust.

With very little capital, Nirgosh started small and opened his store with only five packets of each product. But with the trust and custom of more than 100 farmers, he was able to grow his business quickly by reinvesting his profits. Within a year his turnover had increased to 7-8 lakhs (approx US$9,700-11,000).

Nirgosh further diversified his business and, with guidance from SFI’s team, set up a dhal mill. His reputation for paying a fair price for crops has made his mill a success, with farmers eager to supply him.

“There is always a long queue at his mill. Everybody wants to sell their produce here because of his excellent service. If you come during peak season, you will always find farmers here,” says one.

With both businesses now running well, Nirgosh’s family income has increased threefold. But like every good businessman, he knows that service is the key to sustained success.

‘I visit at least 20 farmers every week and travel as far as 15 km to meet them. Their progress is essential for the success of my business and my community,’ says Nirgosh.

Work of Syngenta Foundation India In this context

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Syngenta India Limited established Syngenta Foundation India (SFI) as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2005. From the outset, SFI’s mission was to have small and marginal farmers participate in agricultural development by improving their access to better seeds and other inputs, increasing their knowledge of agronomic practices, establishing ease of access to credit and providing systematic market linkages. The main objective has remained to educate small and marginal farmers on the latest developments suited to their local needs, and thus ultimately improve their income.