When P Siva Kumar, a native of Palakkad in Kerala, lost his job 16 years ago, his family’s survival hit a massive roadblock. “I lost my job at BPL when my office closed down. I was under a lot of pressure,” he tells The Better India.
“Seeing how depressed I was, my better half, Sandhya, suggested I start a venture that would need minimal investment and where she could offer equal support,” he recalls. For the couple, frying up rice kondattam (fryums or crisp fries) seemed the most ideal, with Siva Kumar having spent his childhood relishing the snack his mother used to make. His wife is an expert cook too, he says, and seeking inspiration from both the women’s culinary skills, he began frying the snacks himself.
Made with love
“My wife and I made the first batch and shared it with friends and relatives. The response was great,” he says. This was the final push for them to start Amritha Foods in 2005, which they began with minimal investment, and by simply using whatever ingredients were available at home. They now sell over 10 kinds of kondattam, including spinach and tomato flavours.
“I approached shop owners with my product, but initially, they weren’t too interested in buying it from me. I told them the kondattam was homemade, and it took a while to convince them, but they eventually agreed. Now local stores and supermarkets across Palakkad sell our products,” he says.
All recipes of Amritha Foods belong to Siva Kumar’s mother. Siva Kumar says she taught the recipes to Sandhya, who now supervises his cooking.
“Kondanttam is easy to make at home, but people might not find time amid their busy schedules. Our aim is to provide these people with fresh homemade snacks,” he says.
Only a few simple steps
Sandhya says the fryums are made by first grinding the rice with salt and a masala powder made using a secret recipe, and then filling the mixture into a chakli press. “The mixture is then pressed against and laid out on a cotton cloth or plate, and kept under the hot sun to remove all moisture. Once one side is dry, the same is done with the other, and the dish is then fried in hot oil,” she says.
Sandhya and Siva Kumar started off by selling 10 kilos of the product a day. Today, the production is almost at 100 kg per day. The kondattam is sold the same day as it is prepared, ensuring that the snacks customers get are fresh. One kilo of kondattam is sold at Rs 180, and the prices go up to Rs 500, with the cost sometimes varying with the price of the vegetable.
Siva Kumar says customers loved the way the snacks tasted, and would come back inquiring about vegetable flavours. The couple then began selling various flavours such as tomato, tomato, garlic, bitter gourd, onion, spinach and banana shoot.
Biju Krishna, a resident of Palakkad, has been buying kondattam from Amritha Foods since his college days. Before that, it was a snack his mother made for him at home. “It’s been almost five years since I became a regular customer. The flavours keep me coming back for more,” he tells The Better India.
With the profit they made, the couple bought a dryer machine, pulveriser, and roaster machine, among others, totally worth Rs 10 lakh. “As subsidy from the Kerala government, we got back 30% of this money,” Siva Kumar says.
The couple now makes around Rs 50,000 from selling kondattam. Amritha Foods is registered under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and also sells products in Pollachi and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
For orders, one can contact Amritha Foods on their WhatsApp number, 90371 89775.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)