These sisters go everywhere with their homemade asafoetida

Business

3Vees introduced locally made Asafoetida to Kerala and caught the attention of the market

3Vees introduced locally made Asafoetida to Kerala and caught the attention of the market

It took Varsha Prasanth 15 tries to get the asafoetida connection right. asafoetida ( Ferula asafoetida) is the dried juice extracted from the roots of Ferula plants. It is commonly used in Indian cuisine and Ayurveda.

After learning how to make this commercially viable product at a one-day training program at Agro Park, Piravom, she recalls sitting with her father, Prasanth A., in their home in Kalamassery, and scooping Asafoetida pungent resin, wheat flour, several times and Arabica Gum blended over to find the right ratio. “Slowly, I approached the required solid form,” she says. Once ready, the mixture was packed into 25 gram cakes in paper boxes by her parents, sisters and herself. Varsha and her father used to visit hotels and supermarkets for orders.

After six months, Varsha formed 3Vees International (her sisters are Vismaya and Vrinda) with the compound as the company’s core product. Started with a seed capital of 2 lakhs in 2019, the company now has a turnover of £1.25million and specializes in breakfast products and powdered spices. Packing, blending and freezing have all been automated and the workforce includes 10 local women and a fleet of sales managers. With orders from all over Kerala and even abroad, Varsha has gained recognition and won awards such as the Kairali Jwala Awards 2022; Women’s Day 2022 – Young Entrepreneur Award and JCI Young Entrepreneur Award 2021.

“I neither dreamed nor planned to reach this level. I’m happy, but also surprised,” says the 26-year-old, who is sitting on the manager’s swivel chair in her office in the manufactory in an apartment building.

(From left to right) Sisters Vrinda, Varsha and Vismaya

(From left to right) Sisters Vrinda, Varsha and Vismaya | Photo credit: special agreement

domestic factory

Earlier I got lost to the office in Surya Nagar, Kalamassery but was rescued by Varsha and Vrinda on an e-bike. At 11 a.m. the unit is manned. Two women are labeling packages on the small veranda, and there are shelves with packaging material in the anteroom. In another room is a large blender that turns Asafetida into cake tins. Two other rooms each have a packaging machine. A pulverizer for pulverizing asafoetida is placed next to it. In the kitchen is a freeze dryer, in which a group of women talk during a tea break while the tea is brewing in a pot. I don’t find the strong smell of Asafoetida to be what I expected; instead, the warm scent of masalas hangs in the air.

We make our way to Varsha’s office, a small room shared by the women who help her with administration. “I had the idea of ​​starting something of my own but wasn’t sure which product to choose,” says Varsha, who received her MBA from SCMS in Kochi. The family is from Mallapuram and moved to Kochi five years ago for girls’ higher education. Her father helped her narrow down Asafoetida as a commercially viable option. She had read market studies and found that one company had a monopoly on production and there was no one in South India making this, even though Asafoetida was a staple in South Indian cuisine. “My father comes from the pharmaceutical world and has experience in distribution and sales. He advised me there,” she says of the initial planning.

3 Vees asafoetida

3 Vees asafoetida | Photo credit: special agreement

As work increased and staff was hired, Varsha divided responsibilities between family members. Her mother Sarala was put in charge of production and oversees the women’s work. Vismaya, who is a CA and has a full-time job, helps with financial advice. Vrinda, the youngest sister, is responsible for online promotion and sales as well as maintaining the social media pages, while Varsha oversees business development and administration.

State programs for women entrepreneurs

Varsha sees a lack of awareness as the biggest hurdle. “There are many government programs for women entrepreneurs, but when we start we are not aware of them,” she says. She learned about the programs from the District Industrial Development Corporation and applied for a Mudra loan under the PMEGP program. “We get subsidies for buying machines, but if we don’t know the system properly, we lose the subsidies.”

Within 18 months of founding, it expanded its product range to include spice powders and breakfast products such as appam, puttu, and toasted rava powders. Their latest diversification is into freeze-dried products; an experiment on her desk shows light yellow packets of dehydrated banana figs. There are many inquiries from the Malayali diaspora in West Asia, she says. “Kerala snacks will be a good option. Made from Nendran bananas and infused with honey, the product has a shelf life of six months.”

Varsha offers discounts or additional packages on instant payments to deal with the competition. She has applied for export license and ISO certificate and is also looking for investors.

“I learn as I walk,” she says, looking at the busy women who are engrossed in their work.

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