Breaking the Mould: Niche Entrepreneurship

Emus at Bhagirathi Hatcheries, Baramati Maharashtra

Maharashtra has 300-plus emu farms. India produces 30,000 tonnes of emu meat per year.

Some weeks ago, a reporting assignment took me to Malegaon, a village in Baramati, which lies about 99-100 kilometers outside Pune city. My destination was an emu farm, Bhagirathi Hatcheries, in Malegaon, one of the first in the state of Maharashtra. Sandip Sadashiv Taware, the owner of Bhagirathi Hatcheries, used to be a poultry (chicken) farmer who turned to emu farming in 2001 when profits in chicken farming dipped. He is one of about 300 farmers in Maharashtra today who depend on this ostrich-like bird for their livelihood.

Looking at a live emu, there is no way I would curry it in my kitchen. It is possibly the ugliest bird I have ever seen, though it also happens to be quite friendly and rather curious about sports shoes — a gang of four of those tall (about five feet each), blue-necked creatures eyed me quizzically for half a minute and then proceeded to inspect my already frayed sneakers with their do-not-mess-with-me beaks for a full eight minutes.

No, I don’t see myself grabbing an emu tandoori leg in a hurry (it is supposed to be one of many delicacies) — and that would be one big tandoori leg, about a foot at least — but selling emu meat is a growing and profitable business for Taware and his ilk.

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