We had a big guava tree at my ancestral home which bore sweet fruits in the summer. My grandma would sit with the fresh harvest and patiently chop these to be made into delicious home made jam. Making jams from fruits is also a great way to curb waste and aren’t they just so versatile?
They come in different fruit flavours and can be eaten with just about anything. It can be eaten with bread, biscuits and can add a bomb of flavours when added to desserts like cakes and puddings!
No wonder Soumi Dey’s young daughter is a big fan.
“My daughter loves eating jams but we started noticing that she would get sick everytime she would eat that. Later, we realised that our daughter is allergic to preservatives and artificial colors because of which she was reacting badly to a lot of packaged food items,” says the 37-year-old Banker mum.
However, her daughter continued to crave the sweet fruity goodness. For a while, Soumi would buy expensive, imported jams from departmental stores. But, she realised that the only way to ensure what her daughter ate is completely free of preservatives is only if she tried making the jams at home.
The proactive mother quickly browsed the internet, shortlisted a few recipes and tested some in her kitchen.
“The first jam that I tried my hand at was using fresh strawberries. The jam turned out really well and my daughter loved it,” smiles Soumi as she recalls her little one enjoying the natural goodness of the fruity spread she had whipped up in her kitchen.
The first batch of her strawberry jam led to more experiments with other fruits. Soumi started sharing bottles of her home-made jams among family and friends who were so impressed with her recipes that they suggested that commercialise her product. This was over six years back.
Come January 2015, Soumi founded ‘Yummium’, her brand under which she started selling her jams. Currently, she has developed over eight flavours of jams and has also introduced about six kinds of pickles.
Until now, the entrepreneur has sold over 10,000+ bottles of her products under her brand.
“I never really thought that I would start a business around it. I just wanted my daughter to be able to freely eat jams since she loves them so much. When we first started, I was not sure if it would do well. But, it was a pleasant surprise that people loved it so much,” says a grateful Soumi.
Want to buy Yummium’s amazing jams free of any kind of preservatives? Click on the link here.
Master of all trades: Banker, Entrepreneur, Mum
Soumi completed her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra in 2003.
With a deep interest in agri-business, she decided to pursue an MBA from the Institute of Rural Management in Anand (IRMA), Gujarat.in 2006.
After that, Soumi’s professional life in the banking industry saw a slew of roles across HDFC, ICICI and Mizuho Banks. Once her relatives and friends began demanding more of her jams on a regular basis, she decided to set up her business, and quit her banking job in 2015.
Although the business was officially founded in January of 2015, the operations started in May. They did not have any organised channels at the time and made their first sales through their Facebook page. They finally set up their website in 2015, which helped them manage their sales more efficiently.
Helping her throughout this journey was her husband, Gopal Mallya, who also quit his job in the banking sector in 2017 and joined Yummium as a partner. He now looks at marketing operations for the startup.
Season’s Goodness Served in a Bottle
Yummium uses in-season fruits and every time they make a batch, the fruits are bought fresh from the market. “If you look at jams or pickles, the cooking process is such that you don’t really need to add preservatives to extend it longevity. They have a particular shelf life and are safe to consume until then,” informs Soumi.
The jam is made in their Vashi unit in Navi Mumbai where a two-women team works full time and helps Soumi in the production process.
“There is a lot of cleaning and chopping required in the preparation of jams. Then we soak the fruits in sugar overnight. The next day, we cook it for about 30 to 45 mins. There is no use of any artificial flavours, pulp or colors and they are completely preservative free,” explains Soumi.
All of Yummium’s products are FICCI approved and have been tested for shelf life which is specified in the labels of the jars.
Some of the flavours in their range of spreads include kiwi, pomegranate, orange, fig, mulberry, plum, and green apple, among others. Recently, Yummium also launched its range of pickles and Soumi was very skeptical if they would do well since there are already numerous companies who are purely dedicated to manufacturing pickles.
But, to her surprise, these pickles were well received, particularly the popular Mango Chhundo and the Mango in mustard dip. “Since all our jams and pickles are handmade, there is very little scope of mass production. We try to use the best fruits because if they are not of good quality, the jams would not have a good texture,” says Soumi.
And it is this attention to detail that has helped Yummium garner loyal customers.
Like Sona Kandoph, who discovered Soumi’s jams through a colleague who was working with Gopal in around 2016.
“My 6-year-old daughter is allergic to certain foods so I am very careful about what she eats,” says the 42-year-old Software Engineer.
It has been four years now and Sona proudly boasts of having at least one Yummium jam bottle at home at all times.
“I love the fact that they use very basic natural ingredients that don’t overpower the taste of the real fruit. We have tried the strawberry, fig and mulberry jams which are really nice. I have even told my friends about these jams,” smiles Sona.
Recipe to Success
Soumi wakes up every day at about 6 AM and buys fresh produce from the market. Once she returns home, the busy mum quickly wraps up the household chores and heads off to her office and manufacturing unit in Vashi.
Needless to say, the road to finding the perfect recipe to a successful business has been quite challenging.
“We did not have a background in running any kind of food business. This was in itself a big challenge for us where we had to learn everything from the beginning. Right from figuring out the machines to test our products for quality parameters to packaging, everything was challenging for us,” describes Soumi
Despite these challenges, Soumi continued to persevere and read up as much as possible to get the business up and running.
For aspiring entrepreneurs too, she shares a few words of encouragement.
“As long as you know and feel you are creating something that has value, you will succeed. Go out, meet people and ask them what they want and how you can serve them better with your services. Running a business is an adventure full of challenges but in the end, it is all worthwhile,” she says.
Where does Soumi see Yummium in the future?
She says that currently, they are experimenting with a lot of new flavours. “Customers at pop-ups often ask us about carrot pickle and it tastes really good. All we have to do now is to make sure it meets all the quality check parameters we have set for ourselves,” she says.
Many parents have also insisted on an all-natural Schezwan Sauce while also urging her to experiment with making tomato ketchup.
“I do not want to build an empire out of this business. We do want to grow but I want it to be gradual. The fact that we get orders from places far away like Nagaland, Ladakh and even Lakshadweep really makes me feel like we are doing something that is worthwhile. In the end, the customers should be the ones who see a value in what we do,” she says signing off.
*An entrepreneur you admire.
Ans: Jeff Bezos
*New tech that can transform the future of small businesses
Ans: E-commerce is going to be a big game-changer.
*One value that can help small businesses thrive
Ans: Consistently delivering products/services with good quality
*Your favourite book
Ans: War and Peace
*In my free time I ____…
Ans: Read, sleep and eat.
* Before this interview I was ____…
*Something they don’t teach in college but is important to run a business is
Ans: To take failure in stride and to never give up.
*One question I always ask people while hiring is ____…
Ans: How honest and willing they are to work with us
*Best advice you ever got is to ____…
Ans: In any business, struggle for three years and then you will sustain.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)