Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on the day of Hosanna on top of a donkey. Another biblical character, Jobe had 1000 donkeys (jennies), as described in the holy book.
It made Aby Baby, a true believer of the Bible, wonder why Jesus did not choose a horse for his grand entry, or why Job reared jennies and not male donkeys that were good at carrying goods.
Aby’s curiosity was roused by this special importance given to the animal in the Bible, generally considered a symbol of insult and abhorrence.
Then Aby did something that took his family aback. He quit his well-paid job as a marketing manager at an IT firm in Bengaluru in 2005 and returned to his home in Ramamangalam in Ernakulam district, to start a donkey farm.
He spent 10 years researching on the benefits of donkey milk and found that donkey milk has been considered an elixir of life for centuries. Legend has it that Queen of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin. Milk from at least 700 donkeys were used for her daily bath.
So he ventured into a business that he had very little idea about. To materialise his vision of marketing donkey milk, Aby travelled across south India and secured 32 donkeys by 2016. It took him 10 years to set up the farm.
“Since I had no examples to follow I had to set the way for myself. I went to all the southern states to get them and brought them here in lorries,” Aby says.
Since Aby was aiming at marketing the milk, most of the donkeys he bought were jennies. He built a shelter for the animals at his 2.5 acre land in Ramamangalam and planted grass and his farm was ready for business.
“I do not want to compromise in their facilities. I give them good food and shelter. They are the most loyal and sensible animal I have seen,” Aby says.
But people around Aby mocked him for rearing donkeys. To add to the insults, 15 of his donkeys died of illness.
“I had gone through a lot, there was no one to guide me. So, I incurred a lot of loss, but I was sure I can be successful in this,” Aby said.
But Aby persisted, egged on by his research that showed that donkey milk had special healing properties. Currently his farm has 23 donkeys, of which 20 are jennies.
“Donkey milk is a universal cure, according to me. Apart from that it is a biggest solution for all your skin problems. I have proved it,” he said.
Aby explored the potential of the milk in cosmetic products and got favourable results that led him to launch his own brand of cosmetics that uses donkey milk as its prime ingredient
But Aby’s gamble finally paid off when he successfully launched Dolphin IBA, a cosmetic product that uses pure donkey milk
“The main ingredients I use in my products are donkey milk and rosemary,” he said.
In 2016, Aby established a small production unit near his house, where he started manufacturing a range of cosmetic products--firmness creams, facial creams, shampoo, body wash, to name a few.
“It must be a first initiative of its kind in India. Nobody has yet explored this aspect of donkey milk. Although a few western countries are doing this,” Aby says.
Not only that, many of Aby’s neighbours now swear by his products and claim that the raw milk has helped them get rid of skin diseases.
“People come here to drink donkey milk for diseases and I can tell you that it keeps away all diseases, even in old age,” Aby assures.
Aby has now launched a website www.dolphiniba.com where his products are sold online.
But donkey milk comes at a cost and is sold in the Indian market for Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per litre. Aby says even donkeys are very costly. “A good donkey will cost around Rs 80,000 to Rs one lakh. Even the products made of donkey milk are costly as the making cost is very high,” Aby says.
Calling his initiative a revolution in the cosmetic industry, Aby says despite the high prices of his products people are more than willing to buy them because of the results they get.
According to Aby, donkey milk is very effective because it comes closes to human milk, which is rich in lactose and low in fat.
“This milk has got anti-bacterial agents and also lot of vitamins, studies have proved that,” Aby says.
Even the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation acknowledges that donkey milk has “particular nutritional benefits”, with a protein profile that may make it more suitable for those allergic to cow’s milk.
Edited by Kannaki Deka