While many farmers come to cities to earn their livelihood, an engineer from Bihar has taken up farming and has ended up starting a new agricultural trend in the Muzaffarpur area.
After completing his Bachelor of Technology course from Chennai's MGR University in 2011, Ujjwal Kumar refused job offers from multinational companies to take up an unlikely profession - farming.
His middle class urban family considered the decision 'suicidal' but Kumar was adamant. Even the fact that he would be a 'landless' farmer in an area where land ownership is a must for prestige and prosperity failed to deter him.
So, does Kumar live in penury? Not quite.
A technology graduate from a modest middle class urban background, 24-year-old Kumar has subverted the trend by taking land on contract and turning it into a money-spinning proposition.
Within two years of taking up farming, Kumar earns anything between Rs 75,000 and Rs 100,000 every month through his farm produce and agro-products. And he has plans to extend his operations further.
He has also become a source of inspiration for many educated and unemployed youths in north Bihar, who have been taking his advice on farming.
Kumar has also inspired many landowners in Muzaffarpur and adjoining districts to adopt contract farming to significantly increase their monthly earnings.
But three years ago, Kumar's family expected him to take up engineering. "I was determined to take up farming, a decision that my family, which had no background in agriculture, considered suicidal," he said.
He started by taking two acres of land on contract from the head of a math (religious place) at Sirisia and sowed turmeric and elephant foot
yam (ole in Hindi).
After earning profits, he took an additional four acres on contract. Borrowing money from friends to cover his costs, Kumar used his knowledge of technological advancements and hybrid variety of seeds to his advantage.
This way he earned a ten-fold returns on his initial investment of Rs 15,000 per acre. "Now, I have taken 70 acres of land on contract and I use the latest equipment and technology to grow crops. This not only reduces my input cost per acre, but also gives me better returns," he said.
Ujjwal is now all set to install processing plants, boilers and polishers which can also be used by other farmers to process their crops.
"I am installing a solar tunnel dryer machine, possibly the first such initiative in Bihar and Jharkhand. All the formalities, including those for a bank loan, have been completed," he said.
Kumar's father, Dev Narayan Verma, an accountant in public works department at Muzaffarpur, who was initially disappointed by his son's decision is now proud of him.
"I wanted him to be an engineer but now I think he made the right decision," Verma said.
Kumar's success story has inspired more than a dozen farmers to take to contract farming, after taking tips from him.