Homage to our pets
This site’s domain name (arg0s.in) is a homage to our pets, and a nod to Argos, the faithful dog of Ulysseus. In Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” there is a character named Argos who is a dog belonging to the hero Ulysseus. After 20 years of wandering, during which he fought in the Trojan War and encountered many dangers and adventures, Odysseus finally returns home to his kingdom of Ithaca. When he arrives, he finds that his wife Penelope has been besieged by suitors who are trying to win her hand in marriage and take over his kingdom. To avoid being recognized by the suitors, Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar and goes to his own palace, where he is recognized only by his old dog Argos, who has been waiting for his return. Argos wags his tail and then dies, having fulfilled his duty to his master.
Street dogs off the streets
India has a significant stray dog population, and the treatment of these animals is a controversial issue. Some people advocate for humane population control measures, such as sterilization and vaccination programs, while others believe that all stray dogs should be euthanized. The government and various animal welfare organizations have implemented various programs to address the issue of stray dogs in an effort to balance the needs of the animals with the concerns of the community. There are several NGOs doing excellent work with caring for animals both on the street and in their shelters, but these are not sustainable. The balance is now at a breaking point, and needs a different approach that balances economics with humanitarian considerations.
The key cost drivers are food, medical care, and manpower to run the shelters. Finding a way to manage these in a leveraged, economically sustainable way would enable greater coverage for sheltering animals and getting them off the streets. Meanwhile, efforts to sterilize and vaccinate those in shelters and those on the streets needs to continue. Lastly, in areas where animals are moved to shelters, care needs to be taken to ensure ecological balance and garbage removal without which other scavengers like rodents take their place, causing far more serious health challenges.
Economically sustainable approach
As an entrepreneur, my thought process at approaching the problem from a systems perspective is to find ways of enabling businesses which can co-exist with a shelter, providing mutual leverage. That can dramatically increase coverage for the number of animals we can get off the streets. There are elements of these that already exist in rural India for centuries, with street animals having co-existed with farms, homes and factories, often providing security and companionship. Urbanization of modern India has made these challenging, but there are opportunities to reimagine these for business owners who care about animal welfare and can be supported in part by corporate CSRs. By law, Indian companies are required to spend 2% of their net profit on CSR, but many choose to allocate larger amounts.
Dairy with Dogs
One such business segment that has opportunities for co-existence and leverage is dairy, which also requires boundary walls, security, manpower and veterinary channels. The dairy industry is a significant contributor to the economy of India, and it is an important source of livelihood for many people in the country. India is the world’s largest producer of milk, and the dairy industry is an integral part of the country’s agriculture sector. The Indian dairy industry has grown significantly in recent years, and it is expected to continue to grow in the future. The dairy industry in India is highly decentralized, with milk being produced in both urban and rural areas and distributed through a network of milk collection centers, chilling centers, and processing plants. The majority of milk production comes from small enterprises, typically with less than 5 cows. Desi cows are a category of cows that are native to India and are considered to be of a higher quality than crossbred cows.
Desi cows are known for their hardiness, ability to adapt to different environments, and their resistance to disease. They are also prized for their high-quality milk, which is said to have medicinal properties. Desi cows are over 20% of the overall cow population and over 50% of those used by small enterprises. When street dogs are introduced to Desi cows as puppies, they co-exist without territorial challenges. Both dogs and cows have an elevated status in modern India compared to other livestock. Dogs are regarded for their unconditional love, and treated as a part of family in urban India. Cows are revered for their strength and all that they provide us, and deified in most parts of the country. Bringing them together is India old and new coming together.
MVP for the idea
- A small business dairy with 3-4 cows co-existing with 8-10 young street dogs.
- Street dogs have minimal impact to dairy production
- Shelter boundary walls, security, manpower and veterinary channels have leverage with the dairy operations.
- Cost of food & medicines for the dogs within operating margins are quantifiable (cow:dog ratio).
- CSR networks expressing intent to contribute once administrative entities and a scaled model are in place.
- Retail customers express intent to purchase higher value dairy products (like ghee, cheese) from businesses that support this initiative.
- Low-tech system for tracking animals and their health
Where we need help
- Identifying small dairy owners willing to test the MVP
- CSR groups willing to discuss ways of partnering
- Marketing ideas for branding, certifying and promoting dairies that endorse the initiative