Survival story: Covid-struck Gulf returnees launch fish & meat retail chain in Kerala

Dilmart stall at Kundara, Kollam.

Kochi: Thirty expatriates, 22 of them forced to return to Kerala as COVID-19 pandemic struck their job sectors in the Gulf badly, have joined hands to launch a fish and meat retail chain in the state. Dilmart, which already has opened five stores in various parts of Kerala, is the outcome of the spirit of survival and resilience showcased by the 30 people.

The founders of Dilmart include people who lost their jobs and those who had to face huge pay cuts in the Gulf countries due to the COVID outbreak and the lockdown that followed. Eight of the 30 promoters are still working in the Gulf and will join the returnees as and when their service is required.

They launched the retail chain without waiting for any government-initiated rehabilitation packages. The five stores have been opened in Kottakkal, Malappuram; Chalakudy, Thrissur; Thumbaman, Patthanamthitta; Kundara, Kollam and Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram.

Cyril Antony and Anil K Prasad, the founder directors of the company, said they were planning to open 10 more stores in three months and to take the total number of stores to 40 in a year. Through its e-commerce site, the chain has also started online order facilities for home deliveries in and around where they have already opened stores.

Considering the convenience of sourcing seafood, the headquarters and warehouse facilities of Dilmart is in Varapuzha, Kochi, though the 30 promoters are from various parts of the state. To ensure supply of fresh fish varieties in the shortest possible time at the store locations, the company has already made arrangements with trawlers based in the major fish landing centres in the state including Munambam, Vypeen, Thoppumpady, Neendakara, Vizhinjam and Puthiyappa. In addition to these, Dilmart had also started farming of fish varieties like red snapper (chempalli), Asian seabass (kaalanji) and trevally (vatta) in Kottappuram, Thrissur which is being harvested now.

Promoters of Dilmart
Promoters of Dilmart

Anil K Prasad, the director who looks after administration and operations, said the company is being modelled after the famed Indian Coffee House, where shareholders also work, or rather they are the main workforce. Promoters who got working experience in various fields while they were in the Gulf have chosen related sections in Dilmart to work in. For instance, three of the promoters who are experienced in the logistics sector in Qatar and UAE have taken up the responsibility of transportation at Dilmart while ex-chefs of three Bahrain hotels are busy working to launch ready-to-cook dishes and pickles, which are expected to hit the stands through Dilmart stores in a month's time.

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