Runa Rafique, a mother of two decided to forsake a cushy job as the senior manager in an Assam Government enterprise and turned an entrepreneur two years ago. She set up a firm, ‘Blue Planet Amalgamated,’ in partnership with her brother, Nozoom Rahman Hazarika.
Under this banner, she set up her poultry farm, ‘Saraighat Farm’ at Athiaboi village in Kamrup district.
Runa hails from a middle-class Muslim family of Dibrugarh. Her husband, Rahul Mahanta, associate professor of Physics in the Cotton University of Assam, is supportive of her work. She says, “Had it not been the support of my husband I could not have come so far. The family support is very important for a woman entrepreneur.”
“The beauty of entrepreneurship is freedom. The freedom which allows you to look into possibilities,” says Runa. She followed the scientific method of vaccination, medication, the feed and gradually equipped herself with the technical skills.
Runa Rafique with visitors to her farm
In 2020, Runa diversified her business and moved on to livestock farming. Runa’s business ideas are distinctive. Today ‘Saraighat Farm’ caters to fresh meat. She has also started selling antibiotics-free chicken. She is further planning to process, brand, and supply Pati duck, an indigenous breed of Assam, and local chicken.
She has launched the smoked meat brand ‘DhowaSang’. ’ Under this label, Runa is selling authentic Northeast flavoured smoked varieties of duck, fish, and chicken and is therefore promoting local food culture through her business. The unique characteristic of DhowaSang’s supply is that the chicken is antibiotics-free.
On her innovative idea of antibiotics-free chicken, she said, “I read a lot on the harmful effect of antibodies in chicken. The resistant bacteria created by their use in poultry is the main concern as people who ingest these bacteria can develop infections that may be antibiotic-resistant. After knowing this I could not let my children eat such meat, I decided that people should have the right to each antibiotics-free chicken and someone has to start it.”
Runa decided to empower rural women through backyard poultry. Many Assamese rural women traditionally rear chickens and ducks in the backyard of their house. She used these small enterprises for her business. At present, she has trained 100 women farmers in raising antibiotic-free chicken.
Runa rafique with women farmers
“My identity as a woman and a Muslim remains. Having said that, I want to add that the challenges I faced weren’t unique to womanhood or my Muslim faith. I faced the similar problems that every entrepreneur does,” she says.
She never faced any hindrance because of her gender or religion and she attributes this to the secular nature of the Assamese society.
Runa believes the region has a huge potential for livestock farming provided the right ecosystem is created. The government must pay attention to this field.
Runa describes the mantra for success in business as her belief that “If the mind can perceive it, one can achieve it.”