Pigeon lover becomes a local trailblazer
When life knocks you down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. It is a lesson Bogra town's ATM Faysal Hasan learnt after his graduation with a master's in Bangla. Twice he appeared for a viva-voce exam for the public service. Twice, he claims, he was confronted by brokers wanting a bribe. Dreams defeated, Faysal turned to his hobby—pigeon rearing. He could not guess how successful he would be.
“Pigeon is one of the most affectionate, fancy and passionate birds,” he says. “I've loved them since I was young. It's really great that I was able to make pigeon breeding my bread and butter.”
Faysal bought his first pair from Dhaka in 2001, at a time when he should have been at home to sit SSC exams and attend his ailing mother. “Those pigeons cost me Tk 950,” he recalls. “I had Tk 700. I had to borrow the rest.”
A resident of Brindaban Para, Faysal continued to sell pigeons while he studied but he would never earn more than Tk 8,000 a month. It did not seem like the sort of activity that could blossom into a lucrative business.
Thus, when he told his family and friends of the decision to focus on pigeons for a livelihood they were understandably concerned. Why would a master's graduate pursue pigeon farming? “There's no future in it,” Faysal was told, many times.
But he had that particular business advantage: he held a passion for what he was doing. In the course of time, success arrived. “There's a huge group of enthusiasts on the internet who buy and sell pigeons,” he explains. “It's easy to sell them online.”
The size of his flock increased. He added rare varieties. Buyers started to arrive from across the country. That's when his critics fell silent. Neighbours even offered praise.
By 2003, Faysal was earning up to Tk 35,000 per month from his birds. Now his average monthly income has reached Tk 45,000. He currently has fifty pairs of 25 varieties, mostly housed in a small room attached to his living room.
“I specialise in fancy pigeons,” he says, “which are rare in Bangladesh.” American runt, German Jacobin, English carrier, French fish mondain, Turkish tumbler, African owl: the names of the breeds that Faysal has are exotic enough. They are also valuable.
“Last July 18, some Indian buyers who found me on Facebook visited my farm,” says Faysal, now 33. “They bought six pairs for Tk 1.76 lakh.”
Before this Eid-ul-Azha, he sold three goats, two bulls and three pairs of pigeons for Tk 7 lakh.
Naturally enough, Faysal's success has inspired others.
Twenty-eight-year-old Hedaidul Islam Sagar from Shakpala in the town is one who has followed in Faysal's footsteps. “Faysal is really helpful,” says Sagar, who earns up to Tk 20,000 per month from his own flock. “I learnt so much from him about the different breeds, what food to give them, about medicines and how to care for my pigeons.”
Sagar is one of more than fifty people of all ages who have started farming pigeons because of Faysal. “Some of them earn more than I do,” Faysal laughs.
But Faysal's business interests did not end there. In 2012 he diversified. He farms parrots including Indian ring necks, Australian rosellas and South African love birds. He has added three Haryana goats, two Nepalese bulls, five Australian cows, and 24 Indian garole sheep.
“Faysal is an enterprising young man who found success through his own efforts, with hard work,” says a friend, Atiqul Islam, who has made his rooftop available to house Faysal's ever-growing flock.
In fact, it is not only accommodation requirements that have expanded. Faysal employs three people these days to look after his farm. The pigeon breeder who now has property worth more than Tk 75 lakh is also working on adding a fish farm.
“What I learnt is that for any educated person who doesn't find a job, mental strength is one's capital,” Faysal says. “Invest that in hard work. Sincere, personal efforts can bring success.”
“Initially I was afraid for my son,” reflects his mother Fatima Begum. “But he has done well with pigeons. He has inspired many. I feel proud of him. It's a good thing to be proud of, isn't it?”