The ancient city of Meerut, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is lined with buildings dating back to the Indus Valley period. Sana Khan, the owner of SJ Organics, practises vermicomposting, a technique that could be as ancient as the buildings themselves, in the midst of the bustling community. Sana, a trained engineer, became obsessed with earthworms after participating in a college project on vermicomposting, which inspired her to start her own business.
Sana Khan: Mastermind behind SJ Organics
Meerut is a city in Uttar Pradesh. Sana Khan is the co-founder of SJ Organics, which specialises in vermicomposting. Sana, a biotech engineer by training, knew that working for a corporation wasn’t her cup of tea. She was dead set on working on vermicomposting and turning her fourth-year project into a company. Sana began her vermicompost project in 2014, inspired by an episode of “Satyamev Jayate” about recycling and waste management. With an initial investment of a few thousand dollars, she has come a long way. SJ Organics now has a turnover of crores, manages 500 tonnes of waste each month, and produces 150 tonnes of vermicompost, all while hiring 30 workers.
From Vermicomposting to Earning Rs 1 Cr Revenue
Sana had always wanted to be a doctor, but after failing the medical entrance examinations, she enrolled in Engineering College to complete her BTech. She had to work on a vermicomposting project during her fourth year of college, despite having no previous experience with the discipline. Vermicomposting is the method of using earthworms to create enriched compost. Sana agreed to put her ongoing project on the ground after seeing the many advantages of this approach and realising its minimal practical use by farmers.
Things were not straightforward at first. Sana’s experiment with worms, biodegradable manure, cow dung, and cow urine was criticized. Sana’s family tried to talk her out of it when she told them about her aspirations because they didn’t have much experience in agriculture and she didn’t have any formal training. Her mother attempted to convince her to work for a multinational corporation. Sana has resurrected the vermicomposting tradition in India, thanks to the help of her father and brother.
Journey of Sana Khan: Hard work pays
Sana founded SJ Organics at the age of 23 with the support of her brother, who helped fund the company. Sana had directly partnered with dairy owners when she first started the business to source waste generated at their facilities for a unique vermicomposting method. The business model, however, did not work out. Sana then hired contractors to deliver the dairy and biodegradable household waste to the vermicomposting facility.
This waste is then immediately fed to Sana’s vermicomposting red earthworms, a highly productive species of worm. It takes about a month and a half to turn organic matter into vermicompost. Sana began to make money in 2015 and began expanding its activities. With an annual turnover of Rs 1 lakh, the firm expects to receive 500 tonnes of waste and generate 150 tonnes of vermicompost per month by 2020.
Taking Vermicompost To The Rest of India
The trip was not without its challenges, but Sana’s perseverance paid off. Her contributions in handling biodegradable waste were recognised by the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat scheme. She has been appointed the brand ambassador for the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Entrepreneur Development Program, and Organic Farming by the government.
SJ Organics has educated over 50 entrepreneurs to date, earning and creating jobs using low-cost infrastructural approaches. Farmers have been educated and trained by Sana’s team, who have encouraged them to use vermicompost and opt for organic farming. Contractors provide her with cow dung, biodegradable manure, and cow urine as required. SJ Organics will handle 5000 tonnes of waste, up from 500 tonnes previously. The region has remained clean due to the high demand for vermicompost. For certain people, being paid for providing waste is a perfect scenario. The work promotes cleanliness, creates jobs, and contributes to long-term sustainability.
Future of SJ Organics ahead
SJ Organics has helped popularise vermicomposting in addition to providing job opportunities. Under the guidance of SJ Organics, 104 schools in Meerut have developed vermicomposting sites. Sana hopes that by sharing her vermicomposting experience, she will be able to assist other entrepreneurs in popularising organic farming practices not only in Uttar Pradesh but across India. When asked about SJ Organics’ future plans, Sana mentioned acquiring new land in order to scale up development by importing waste from Meerut’s surrounding areas. New product development is still in the works. They are now serving customers from all over India and will soon be expanding internationally.
“There is a belief that women should only do domestic work,” Sana concludes with a warning for female entrepreneurs. Women should not be afraid to work in agriculture because there is so much potential and so many possibilities. Women have the ability to achieve whatever height they choose. More women openly participating in agriculture will be beneficial to our economy.”