Cleopatra used to bathe in it to preserve her legendary beauty, and now more than 2000 years later donkey milk is back in fashion not just as a beauty product but as a super food as well, already fetching Rs 700 for 100 ml. Select entrepreneurs across the country, from Kochi to Pune to Delhi-NCR, have woken up to the ancient wisdom of donkey milk’s nutraceutical & therapeutic properties that include anti-ageing and antioxidant qualities to roll out personal care products such as fairness creams, soaps and shampoos besides liquid donkey milk.
“There is so much interest and demand, now that consumers are going back to the traditional methods of what their ancestors did to cure them of diseases,” said Aby Baby, founder of Dolphin IBA that sells premium beauty products made of donkey milk. “Donkey milk has superior qualities. It is very good for infants, especially those with gastric problems, and for people suffering with skin allergies.”
Back in fashion
‘The government is working to formalise donkey milk business in the country, a senior agriculture ministry official said. “We have suggested Indian Council of Agricultural Research to explore possibilities of promoting donkey milk in India,” said Tarun Shridhar, secretary at the animal husbandry department. “It has challenges such as low milk yield and limited shelf life besides developing taste and market for this new dairy product.” ‘Once Indian regulators approve it, donkey milk is likely to see a huge growth in the country, industry insiders said.
‘Already those who have got into rearing and milking donkeys are making money. ‘Recipient of Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s innovative farmer award 2019, Baby sells donkey milk-based skin cream for psoriatic arthritis at Rs 4,840 for an 88-gram pack, a firmness cream widely used for eczema at Rs 6,136, and a 200-milli shower gel shampoo at Rs 2,400.
‘He claims steady growth of clients and markets since he started the business in 2017. Dolphin IBA reported turnover of Rs 1.15 crore in 2018-19, up 70% from the previous year, and expects similar growth trajectory in the coming years, Baby said.
Nutraceutical & therapeutic properties
‘Pooja Kaul, who sells soaps and other beauty products based on donkey milk under Organiko brand, source milk from construction workers and tribal communities who rear donkeys in Ghaziabad, Barmer in Punjab and Solapur in Maharashtra. ‘“It been an educative experience to work with brick kiln workers, construction site workers and herdsmen,” said Kaul who started working with donkey farmers when she was a student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
‘In Pune, Ramesh Jadhav is a secondgeneration farmer who sells donkey milk for Rs 700 for 100 ml. His clients are largely infants and people suffering from cough, stomach infection and skin infection.
‘Scientists agree donkey milk-based cosmetics and health mixtures can be an attractive agribusiness for equine framers in India.
‘“This new possibility of increasing the income of the equine owners is very widespread among general public,” said Anuradha Bhardwaj, senior scientist, animal biotechnology, at ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines, HIsar.