When reading this you’re probably sitting comfortably in front of your laptop, in your office chair during a “brain” break, or lounging on your living couch scrolling uncontrollably through your smartphone to kill time on a boring Sunday afternoon. Have you ever wondered how your life would be if you had to take a risk and completely change your career, how your life would be if you had to abandon the job you know so well for another one you know nothing about? Let’s face it! Not many of us have the courage to take that leap of faith and plunge heads on into the unknown, mostly because we don’t have to. But what if you had to?
Vinutha is the name of Sumithra’s only daughter, and it’s also the name of her own registered company, Vinutha Foods. Sumithra is a single mother, and until recently, she was supporting her daughter and her mother by running a beauty parlour in her village, Murgahamatt, not far from Dharwad, Karnataka.
Roopa used to work as the local tailor in the same village and she’s a close friend of Sumithra’s. Hence, it made sense for the two women to join forces and start their own company when they realized that their jobs offered them a fluctuating income that was not enough to help them support their families.
The Making of Vinutha Foods
Making a decent income only during the marriage season, when her services were in high demand, Sumithra decided to take on a new job. As she liked cooking, Sumithra started making traditional snacks endemic to her region and exhibit them at the Krishi Mela, an event organized by the Deshpande Foundation to promote work by local artisans. Sumithra’s delicious snacks were noticed by the employees at the Deshpande Foundation who referred her to us (GO DESi).
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Around the same time, we were visiting different regions of Karnataka looking for long-forgotten foods that we wanted to bring back to life. We visited the Deshpande Foundation that put us into contact with locals who were skilled at making chigli (tamarind candies), and we met Vinutha and Roopa.
We got good vibes from them and we loved their enthusiasm and tamarind paste, so we decided to place the first order of 1800 tamarind lollipops, which later on would become Imlipops.
A challenging new job
Nothing comes easy, and the imlipop production is a time-consuming process and the churning of 1800 lollipops a day requires a lot of manual work. Initially, Vinutha and Roopa wanted to try and make the lollipops themselves, without hiring any workers, so that they could learn and master the process. Also, new workers needed training as most of them worked on the daily-wage basis and were unskilled and irregular. Vinutha showed her entrepreneurial qualities right from the start:
“If you put too many rules, which is essential to maintain a seamless process, the workers would quit, and if you’re too friendly, they take the process for granted. Finding the right balance is crucial”.
After having supplied Imlipops for a month for GO DESi, Vinutha had to decide on whether to quit her beauty parlour. “We were excited to start something different by ourselves together. My friends had their apprehensions, some asked why don’t you take it easy and others thought it was risky, but we wanted to do this”, says Sumithra.
New business, new life
More than three months after they took the decision to completely turn around their professional life and take a risk with our tamarind lollipops, Sumithra and Roopa’s company is manufacturing 5400 imli pops a week, has hired two workers, has become a registered business and has applied for an FSSAI license.
“The income of her parlour job was very inconsistent. Often I wasn’t sure by the end of the month whether I’ll be able to cover the house expenses. Being a single mom, I had to take care of my daughter’s education and other expenses. But now I’m quite happy to have a constant flow of cash and need not to look for money elsewhere”, says Sumithra.
As a social start-up that supports women empowerment and development of local communities, at GO DESi we feel humbled by Sumithra and Roopa’s passion and commitment, and we are very proud to have been able to make an impact in the lives of marginal farmers and of women self-help groups.
Vinutha foods success has proven to us, given the right opportunity, training and incentive it is possible to set up 100’s of micro-units across the country supplying regional food products to urban centres.