It was the year 2009. The IT industry was facing its worst economic slowdown and thousands of professionals were being laid off their jobs. Krishnamurthy, who graduated from the well-known Kongu Engineering College, Erode, and later campus recruited by Wipro Technologies in 2007, was one of the select few to have survived the mass layoff in Chennai. In fact, he was he even was offered a promotion with an option to travel to the United States for an onsite project. “That was the day I decided to quit the job, return home and become an entrepreneur,” says Karur-born Krishnamurthy. “It was not that I didn’t enjoy my work, but over time, a sense of dissatisfaction had crept in. City life lost its appeal. The novelty and excitement of the early days had died down,” he recalls. But he knew his parents would not understand. He finally told them that he too had lost his job due to the recession.
It took him nearly two years to decide what he wanted to do next. “This wasn’t a period of struggle, but of learning,” he clarifies. He tried his hand at several low-investment ventures, travelling across the state, studying the trading markets of various commodities, such as Neyveli for cashew nuts, Erode for turmeric, Pollachi for coir fibre, Udumalapet for maize, Tiruchy for handicrafts and vegetables, Karur for textiles, Tindivanam for watermelons and Ernakulam for cuttlefish bones. But none of these led to anything more major and Krishnamurthy had, by now, ended up exhausting his savings.
“That’s when I decided to invest my money in my own business rather than investing in other people’s,” says Krishnamurthy. His comprehensive research over a year led him to zero in on producing and selling honey. “I discovered how big a role beekeeping played in agriculture, horticulture and forestry and how it wasn’t practiced properly in Tamil Nadu,” he says, knowing then that this was what he would enjoy doing. He set up Honey Kart in 2012 at Aravakuruchi in Karur with a capital investment of Rs 3 lakh which he borrowed from his friends, Krishnaraj, Arun and Prabhu.
“I sourced all the equipment I needed. There was plenty of bee flora in the area and farmers here were more than happy to let me place my hives in their farms. Pollination of bees actually helps boost crop yield by about 30 per cent with no additional labour or cost,” he adds.
Profits did not flow like honey right away. A disease struck the bees within weeks of starting up. Professional beekeepers whom he consulted suggested the use of antibiotics. But Krishnamurthy was looking for an organic solution. His own research showed that natural beehives were never infected by disease. He now proceeded to create the ideal environment for his bees — well-aerated and pollution free surroundings with a good water source. “It took nearly a year for me to understand all the nuances of beekeeping. I had lost more than 65 per cent of my bees to disease, but steadily the numbers improved and I recovered them all,” he says. He also repaid the money he’d borrowed. Today, he has disease-free colonies, producing high quality honey without the use of antibiotics. He processes 1,500 kg of honey a month for over 3,200 clients across the country.
Krishnamurthy also chose to be innovative in developing unifloral varieties that were lesser known in India. “I direct the honey bees to a particular flora and collect honey from the same flora in order to produce unifloral honey, namely drumstick, coriander, glory lily, mango, sesame, jamun, sunflower, banana and neem,” says Krishnamurthy, who calls himself a scientific beekeeper. “No two unifloral honeys will have the same taste, smell, colour and moisture content. For example, sunflower honey is golden yellow to look at while mango honey is maroon in colour.” All his products are sold through the company’s website and Facebook page. The website provides details on health benefits of each unifloral honey variety. He recently introduced a honey for babies and pregnant women, that is processed from the season’s first harvest.
Krishnamurthy, who is proof that diligence pays off, is a strong proponent of youth getting into entrepreneurship. “One feels a sense of ownership; one learns the business from top to toe, and to manage it,” he says, with a sense of accomplishment in his voice. Krishnamurthy says the whole point is to live a life that’s free of regrets. “Everything — four years of education, two years at Wipro and the subsequent years of uncertainty — has made me what I am today. And success is about making the best use of one’s resources. I do something that I enjoy, it helps pay the bills and gives me a sense of contentment and an identity.”