Left with no work during the COVID-19 lockdown, Kerala's Shiji decided to support her struggling family by selling unique papads made from coconut, curry leaf, jackfruit and more.
A sudden heart attack that took away her husband six years ago, left Shiji C Balakrishnan in shambles. The mother of two began toiling hard to make ends meet. But the bitter coronavirus pandemic has given her a second lease on life as she launched her own papad business, which she says, provides her a decent monthly income.
Every Indian is doubtlessly a papad fan and Shiji sells 12 varieties of papad, including coconut, carrot, tomato, coriander, ginger, curry leaf, jackfruit, masala and banana papad.
“During the initial days of lockdown, I had no work for almost one month,” says Shiji, who works at the vehicle registration department of an automobile company in Thrissur. But the company had to close for a month due to lockdown.
“The question of how I will take care of my parents and daughters without money haunted me for days. So I decided to make something at home,” Kerala’s Thrissur native tells The Better India.
Before lockdown, Shiji also made earrings, bags and necklaces by watching YouTube tutorials. After the pandemic hit, she tried making special masks with ribbons for children, but the profit margins from these products were razor-thin.
“One day while scrolling through Facebook, I saw the news of a farmer in Nageshwar, Gujarat, who is making varieties of papad. After contacting him I learned how to make vegetable papads. As I had plenty of jackfruit available at home, I first tried making jackfruit papad and distributed it to my neighbours. After their good feedback, I got the confidence to try more varieties of papad and sell them. That is how I began the Amma Food Products brand,” says Shiji.
She further shares, “I can proudly say that I used the money which I saved from making earrings, masks, bags and necklaces to set up Amma Food Products. And now I earn Rs 10,000 monthly from my business.”
A packet of Amma Food Products papad cost just Rs 20. In a packet, eight papads will be available.
She adds that some of the vegetables like bird’s eye chilli, curry leaf, jackfruit and coconut used for the preparation of papads are sourced from her small vegetable garden and the rest are bought from nearby vegetable shops. “I wish to expand my business by buying vegetables from the farmers who grow organic vegetables,” adds Shiji.
Other than papad, the 39-year-old woman is also making seven varieties of chutney powder — including curry leaf chutney powder, tulasi chutney powder, prawns chutney powder and coconut chutney — powder at home.
“I began selling these products in the month of June and now I have customers at Kannur and Kozhikode, too. I send them the product via speed post. I take some products while going to work and distribute them to people and I also give them out at some supermarkets and other shops near my home to be sold,” she says.
“Initially, when I approached the shop owners they were not interested in my papads, but once they saw their varieties they began to buy them”, Shiji says, and adds, “During my work days, I make papads before going to work and some after work. And when I am on leave, I make almost 800 papads with the help of my parents. My daughters help me in packing the products.”
Speaking of her lip-smacking creations, she says, “My personal favourite papad is the roasted coconut papad and the curry leaf papad. My daughters, Parvathi and Meenakshi also love papad.”
If you wish to order papads from Shiji, you may contact her on this number 6282 518 318.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)