By qualification I’m a post graduate & a Network Engineer, most of my studies were completed after marriage. I had chosen to be a house wife to be with my kids but kept myself busy by enrolling into various courses. We stayed in Middle East for 8 years. After returning from abroad, I applied for SBI as it was my last chance to write the exam according to the age limit. I took it as a challenge to clear the exam despite a long gap. I was selected & joined SBI as Probationary Officer & worked for a year but transfers to far off places was making it difficult for me & my children (3 kids) especially the younger one who was just 3 years old, took the hard decision of resigning from the job with a determination to do something better.
We had purchased agricultural lands with our savings from Middle East & wanted to start a diary farm but labour issues & different hurdles regarding dairy discouraged us to start it especially as we were neither trained nor did we have any background in dairy or farming especially with the livestock it’s a big risk. After resigning from SBI when I explored different options, nothing enticed me. One day when we went to check our lands ,a thought crossed about trying my hands on farming.
As it was a new field altogether, I researched a lot regarding various farming concepts, various crops, etc. During my research, I came across organic farming which was not known to many during that period of 2006-2007. Organic farming was challenging & I have always loved to take challenges. A choice was made to have an Organic mango Orchard. Now, it is a bio-dynamic farm.
I choose mango farming for 3 reasons – we love mangoes, summer crop so I can manage with kids easily & above all it takes atleast 3-4 years min for soil to build up organically & mango crop can be harvested only after 4 years of plantation. It looked feasible & proved to be a win-win situation on all counts. During summer, my kids are my team for marketing, packing, customer care, etc. They love the work & extend their full support to me.
After growing mangoes organically, we didn’t want to sell them in the normal market for peanuts. In 2011, we created our own brand AR4 (FAMILY NAMES A- ARIFA, R1-RAFEE, R2- RUWAYFE, R3- RUMAISA, R4-RIFAA). We started our website www.ar4mangoes.com where a customer can order mangoes online & they are delivered at their doorstep across India. We deal with only our farm organic mangoes of 16 different varieties & deliver across India & many parts of the World.
Though it started only as farming, it was essential for us to get back our minimum costs that we incur on day to day basis in the farm which wouldn’t happen if we didn’t market it ourselves. When it was time for us to market our produce in 2011, we wanted to do it with a difference & our website was the first online portal selling mangoes online in United Andhra Pradesh. It was unique & involved lot of risk but we took some calculated risks which paid off. Customer satisfaction, repeated customers for the past 4 years is the greatest achievement. Secondly, I have won the TV5 Business leader Award in 2012 for Agri & food processing for unique business model “FROM OUR FARM TO YOUR HOME” by the then AP CM Mr.Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Labour & logistics are the biggest challenges that we face on a regular basis. Logistics is very crucial as we are dealing with perishable products & delivery is across the world so we needed the best options to handle our products carefully.
Patience & perseverance are the most important aspects I have learnt during my farming journey. Farming has taught me lessons which no classroom or degree had taught & my kids learn along with me early in life.
Definitely, future is more to do with Organic as we have come a complete circle in life “from healthy to filthy(Chemically grown food) back to healthy”. We hope to have other fruits & vegetables added to our kitty in the next few years.