POULTRY is being projected not just as a means of livelihood or as a business proposition, but also as an affordable nutritional alternative to millions of people. The industry is, however, still young and requires effective marketing to develop it. Efforts are not lacking, as is seen by the success of the country's largest poultry group, Venkateshwara Hatcheries.
The late Dr. B.V. Rao, the founder of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, revolutionised the industry by bringing it on a par with the best global poultry producers. From an unorganised, erratic and undependable trade, the poultry industry was pitchforked into the big league, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rao and now his daughter Anuradha Desai. They have the largest network of poultry farms and hatcheries in India.
Dr. Rao's foray into the poultry business began in the early 1960s. By 1969, he had operationalised the Venkateshwara Poultry Farm at Hyderabad. He contributed to making India's poultry market self-reliant by streamlining pure-line and breeder operations, vaccines and medicines, specific pathogen-free eggs, pellet feed mills, poultry processing, egg processing, microprocessor-controlled incubation systems and automatic feeding systems. Dr. Rao set up the National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) and the National Broiler Co-operative Marketing Federation. He also set up the Institute of Poultry Management and Technology of India (IPMT) and the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Centre (PDRC), which have trained more than 1,300 entrepreneurs from India and other developing countries.
Within three decades of the company's operations, India rose to being the world's fifth largest producer of eggs and the 22nd largest producer of broilers. As a Rs.6 billion conglomerate, the VH group is Asia's largest fully integrated poultry group. It has a nationwide network of parent farms and hatcheries and its activities include the production of poultry feed, poultry feed supplements and soya cake for poultry feed.
Since its inception, the VH group has worked towards providing comprehensive veterinary support to farmers all over the country. The PDRC and the eight VH zonal laboratories located in regional poultry pockets, provide disease-monitoring and diagnostic services free of cost to all farmers irrespective of the breed they patronise. The PDRC at Loni near Pune, is the foremost bio-avian diagnostic and research laboratory. It is equipped with the latest sophisticated equipment to conduct disease-monitoring programmes on the virological, microbial and immunological aspects. It conducts in-depth research on various types of existing and emerging viral and bacterial diseases.
The Specific Pathogen Free or SPF egg is another of the group's initiatives in the country. These eggs provide reliable vaccines, thereby widening the safety net for millions of chickens. Nearly 12,000 eggs are exported to Indonesia, 1,500 to Saudi Arabia and 5,000 to Switzerland every week. The use of SPF eggs in the production of live virus vaccine in human and veterinary medicine is on the increase. SPF embryos and cell cultures derived from SPF eggs are in demand in virological research all over the world. Apart from vaccines to treat poultry disease, SPF eggs are used to manufacture poultry and human life-saving vaccines. Today India is one of the few major producers of SPF eggs.
The vaccine division of the group, which became operational in 1980, has a turnover of over Rs.170 million. The Indian poultry industry had suffered owing to the unavailability of quality vaccine, untimely deliveries and uncertain quality. To overcome these obstacles, the VH group set up an ultramodern vaccine plant called Ventri Biologicals near Pune. Backed by extensive and modern research and development facilities, Ventri Biologicals is constantly engaged in developing new-generation vaccines to combat emerging bacterial and viral diseases. It produces a wide range of live and inactivated vaccines conforming to international standards.
The company is a franchisee of two developed poultry breeds - the Vencobb and BV-300 - and has farms and hatcheries in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Bihar.
Industry publications rightly refer to the group as the lifeline of the Indian poultry industry. Today, owing to the VH group's nationwide network of 38 layer hatcheries, 38 broiler associate hatcheries and 156 broiler integrated hatcheries, the Indian farmer can avail himself of one-day-old chicks right at his doorstep. The group has been solely responsible for upgrading the Indian poultry industry from the stage of a backyard operation to an organised industry.