Tender coconut not only quenches your thirst but also has numerous health benefits, including an increase in blood circulation and prevention of kidney stones, among others. Tracing this delicious fruit back to its origin in the South, however, some coconuts are found to lose their taste while others come with less water. But two friends from Kozhikode, Kerala, have found a solution to these problems by tending to tender coconuts at its source.
It all started last year when Abdul Shameer bought a tender coconut from a shop for his relative who was hospitalised at the time. He found that due to being overexposed to the sun, the coconut had lost its taste and most of its water. An upset Shameer then complained to the shop owner. “The owner told me it is difficult to identify which fruit is fresh, or which will have more water, as he didn’t know when it may have been harvested. Besides, coconuts available at stores here are mostly imported from Tamil Nadu,” he tells The Better India.
This incident soon sparked an idea which Shameer discussed with his friend, Sadakkathulla. Together, they started Royal Karikku, which translates to royal ‘tender coconut’ in Malayalam, to source coconuts from across Kerala to sell it to the shops themselves.
The coconut experiment
The shelf life of a tender coconut is approximately 30 days, after storing it in a cool and dry place. But, if they are stored in direct sunlight, it must be consumed within one week. “Initially, when we collected the tender coconuts from the farmers, we made sure it reached the market the same day itself so that the customers got fresher produce. We realised that if we took more time to distribute the coconuts, then they lost their natural, fresh flavour,” Shameer says.
As the first step, the duo sourced tender coconuts from farmers across different villages and districts of Kerala and sold them to different shops. With their venture, they also decided to aid the plight of coconut farmers who often find it hard to sell their produce in shops due to shipping constraints.
Shameer says, “Due to shipping difficulties, most of the farmers sell their produce to different agents who then distribute the fruit to the shops. From this, the agents stand to make a profit by selling it for Rs 24 in shops while the farmers earn just Rs 16. Our Royal Karikku ensures that the coconut farmers are the ones who reap the benefits of their produce and not the agents.”
To better understand the plight of these coconut farmers, we spoke to Ahammed Kutty, a farmer in Kozhikode, who says, “I have been selling tender coconuts for almost a decade now. As I didn’t have the transportation facilities or the good health to travel to different shops, I used to rely on agents to distribute the coconuts. I got Rs 15 per coconut from the agent. It was a smaller amount than what I would receive from a paying customer but I had no other choice.”
But after tying-up with Royal Karikku, the farmer says that things have changed.
“Shameer and Sadakkathulla contacted me for tender coconuts some months ago. They were different from the agents I have met. Usually, agents come to collect the fruit, pay the money and leave within five minutes. But the Royal Karikku owners considered me like family. They made me understand about their venture and how it is going to help farmers like me in the state,” says Ahammed, adding, “They give me Rs 22 for each coconut.”
Currently, the Royal Karikku is collecting coconuts from over 20 farmers in Kerala and are looking to get connected with a few more in the state.
But, while the duo admits their initial plan of sourcing coconuts from the farmers to sell didn’t take off as expected, as shopkeepers were forced to spend more money to get rid of the husk on them, the friends soon began working on another idea to state the date of expiry on their coconuts.
As fresh as it gets
“If a customer is consuming the fruit after its expiry, it won’t taste good or have sufficient water in it. To solve this problem, we decided to add a ‘date of collection’ and ‘expiry’ tag on the tender coconuts so that customers can take an informed decision. The fruit would then have to be stored in the freezer,” Shameer says, adding that the shopkeepers initially found it a task to store these large fruits.
With more research, the duo introduced the new and improved Royal Karikku. This time, they sold a more refined set of tender coconuts which had their husk peeled off, making them smaller in size which also made them easier to open and store. They also contained the price tag, date of collection of the fruit and the expiry date.
“The price of the drink depends on the size of the coconut, which varies between Rs 49 and Rs 59,” says Shameer, adding, “We have figured out a way to make our Royal Karikku coconuts stay fresh for a few more days than regular tender coconut. After plucking the fruit, we store it in our shop at room temperature for almost three days. We then distribute it to different stores. These coconuts can stay in the refrigerator for up to 14 days without impacting its taste, whereas ordinary ones last only for less than a week.”
Due to the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, Shameer and Sadakkathulla couldn’t find enough sales. However, the duo kicked off their venture from 1 January 2021 and have already sold 1,900 coconuts in Kerala. They tell me that they aim to cater to anyone in India who wants fresh tender coconuts.
“We have also received orders from Kuwait and Qatar to deliver 2,000 tender coconuts weekly to both places,” Sadakkathulla says, adding that a trial pack of the Royal Karikku coconuts was shipped to these places in the first week of January.
To order from Royal Karikku you can contact them on 90486 32523.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)