As an 18-year-old, Ravikiran Bhat decided to cultivate pearls on an astrologer’s recommendation. But all the oysters he had implanted with nuclei (imported from Japan and made from oyster shells) died. That was 2005 and Bhat headed to China to study pearl farming at the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center in Jiangsu. “Pearl farming involves patience. How could I give up after one failure,” he says.
Two years later, Bhat came back and re-started pearl cultivation, investing Rs.5 lakh. This time he was successful. He collects mussels from rivers, which are operated upon to implant the nucleus. They are later put back in a pond where, in about a year, pearls form in the shell. He exports all his pearls to France.
Bhat has expanded through a franchise model of sorts. He ties up with those who have land and water supply for rearing oysters, provides manpower and technology, including the nucleus. The only difference is that instead of selling pearls to customers, these clients sell them back to Bhat. “I have 28 clients, in Malaysia and Singapore. In India, most of them are in Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Orissa,” he says.