C V Devaki started a modest enterprise to help herself recover from the untimely death of her husband. More than 16 years down the line, the business has become integral to her life. Her curry powder making unit has grown into a lifeline for 12 families.
Devaki was looking for a product that could be sold locally when she chanced upon the idea of curry powder. Her initial investment was Rs 60,000 but Swathi Curry Powder has found many takers.
The unit that works out of Nenmeni near Sulthan Batheri offers 25 products including chilli powder, coriander powder, chicken masala, meat masala, sambar powder, pickle powder, garam masala, mutton masala, fish masala, pork masala (special item), turmeric powder, puttu flour, payasam mix, appam flour, pathiri flour, wheat flour, green gram flour, chickpea flour, urud flour, rice flakes, coffee powder, dosa batter, idli mix and various types of pickles.
The manufacturing unit grew out of humble beginning. Devaki bought a pulveriser and related machinery in 2003 to set up the business in a rented building. First offerings were just chilli powder and some masalas. The business gradually improved. She took a loan of Rs 5 lakh under the PMEGP scheme and bought a piece of land to set up the factory. Devaki found a willing supporter in son Vineeth.
She expanded the business when she availed of a government grant of Rs 1,75,000. She also took a loan of Rs 25 lakh before starting to offer coffee powder, dosa batter and idli mix. She received Rs 3 lakh as subsidy through an entrepreneur support scheme run by the district industrial centre.
Devaki says she could develop the business further. She employs 15 of her neighbours at her manufacturing unit.
She said her business benefited from her decision to source raw materials directly from farmers. She buys chilli, coriander, turmeric, mustard, cinnamon, clove, urud dal, chickpeas and green gram from farmers in Theni, Mysore and Guntur. The direct purchase allows her to ensure a steady supply of quality ingredients and to even get up to 10 per cent discount on prices. She can purchases all her requirements at one go. The business requires about 50 agricultural products.
Most of the products are sold inside Wayanad district. The brand has some steady takers in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. Swathi products are also sold through distributors and even on Amazon. The company supplies directly to supermarkets. Idli and dosa batters are sold to restaurants and some shops.
The biggest challenge in the business, according to Devaki, is the practice of selling products on credit. She is forced to sell “bill to bill” for up to one month. She finds it hard to make some of her customers pay for the products sold. Some of the establishments which owed her money were abruptly closed down.
Still she is confident of the possibilities of the market despite stiff competition. She counts her experience and reputation as her strong points. Swathi products are known for the freshness of their ingredients and affordability. She said she hardly have to stock products. Her mantra is low margin. That translates to good business. The unit does business of up to Rs 10 lakh a month. The net profit may run up to 10-15 per cent of the turnover. Sale on credit and unreliable electric supply are hampering the business. However, she is encouraged by new orders coming her way.
She has a word for entrepreneurs. The food products business is full of opportunities. You can invest Rs 3 lakh to start a modest business with 10 horsepower. There is a good market out there. Curry mixes can also be sold. Start out with two or three workers in the first phase. Even if you can ensure sales of Rs 3 lakh, net profit could be around Rs 45,000.