Neeraj Dhanda would have remained a software engineer all his life had he not visited the VNR nursery in Raipur, where he saw the Jumbo guava for the first time.
Neeraj was born in a farmers family in Sangatpura village of Jind district in Haryana. Although no one in his family wanted him to become a farmer, Neeraj had an instinct right from childhood that he could do well in farming.
His family was against his wish to become a full-time farmer, so Neeraj kept trying to settle down in the software world. However, due to his lack of interest in the work he was doing, the software firm he started had to bear a considerable loss. In 2004, Neeraj finally decided to quit his well-paying job and switch to full-time farming.
Initially, he stopped the traditional farming of pulses and vegetables at his farm and started growing the Allahabad safeda variety of guava.
The quality of the produce was superior to the ones available in the market, as Neeraj had grown them using organic methods. However, when he took his produce to the wholesale vegetable and fruit market, he found out that a farmer has no right to decide the price.
Neeraj had declared that he would be selling his guavas for ₹ 15 per kg, but the middlemen informed him that they were buying it at the price of ₹ 7 per kg from others and would be giving the same to him. When Neeraj did not budge, the middlemen refused to buy anything from him. As these guavas had a shelf life of only day or two, Neeraj suffered a loss and was offered only ₹ 3 per kg for the guavas.
After this incident, Neeraj concluded that farmers could prosper only if they ditch the middlemen and sell their produce directly to the consumer. Thus he decided to set up his own counter at the market after much resistance from the middlemen.
Neeraj was also in search of a fruit that would have a longer shelf life.
His quest ended at the VNR nursery, where he stumbled upon the VNR-Bihi variety of guava, which often weighs more than half a kilo and has a shelf life of longer than 15 days.
Neeraj does not sell his produce in the market and uses his website, Door Next Farm, to take orders and delivers them to the doorstep of customers.
Neeraj now has a team of 6 farmers, and his friend, Rajesh, has also recently joined him in the venture.
Neeraj claims that one can earn a minimum of ₹ 10-12 lakh per acre by growing these guavas and conducts classes to train the youth of the village.