Sonam Surana found her late mother-in-law’s old recipe book which is now her go-to guide to their homemade food venture. Prem Eatacy in Chennai sells gongura chutney and molagapodi and clocks 2,000 orders a month.
Italian actress, Sophia Loren once said, ‘Good Food Is A Celebration Of Life.’ And there could be no better tribute to Late Prem Lata Devi, than the company that her daughter-in-law Sonam Surana (34) and son TS Ajey (36) have built. Named Prem Eatacy, this company was started in November 2020 and has served more than 1500 clients so far. The homemade food venture was started as a tribute to Prem Lata Devi, inspired by the memories of food created by her.
“I cannot separate good food from my mother,” Ajey tells The Better India. Known as a cook par excellence, everyone in the family and beyond have always relished the food that Prem Lata would whip up.
Whether it was the everyday fare or the chutneys, powders, or pickles, Prem Lata certainly was a gifted cook.
In July 2017, Ajey recollects the day he lost his mother, and says, “It happened to be my birthday. She had especially made some molagapodi (gun powder) for me. After our breakfast we were all sitting together to spend some time with her. Suddenly she complained of uneasiness and in a matter of seconds, she passed away on my lap.”
Around August 2018, a year after Prem Lata’s passing, Sonam was on a cleaning spree when she found her late mother-in-law’s book collection.
“I found some old, yellowed paper in her cupboard which were her recipe repositories. These were recipes that she had meticulously jotted down in her days as a young bride,” says Sonam.
“During lockdown, since we were all home, I decided to try and recreate some of the recipes. From her most loved gongura chutney to the famous molagopodi, there were all kinds of recipes I found,” says Sonam, who is not a fan of cooking. She and Ajey then packed them in individual containers and went about distributing it to close relatives.
“We did not expect anyone to call and let us know what they thought. However, their response was overwhelming. Almost everyone called to tell us how much they enjoyed it,” says Sonam. That got them thinking abounding this on a larger scale. She adds here that it was her father-in-law who encouraged her to start something of her own, and she felt this would be a fitting tribute to her mother-in-law. With a route map in place, Sonam and Ajey started their venture.
The birth of a business
Sonam says, “My father-in-law’s nudge was what steered me in the direction of becoming an entrepreneur. Earlier, I didn’t have the inclination nor the patience to cook but something in me changed and I am so glad I took the plunge.”
Sonam started with putting up stalls at various exhibitions around the city and with each customer giving her good feedback, her appetite to take more risks developed. This also helped in gauging what the market wanted and what products did the best. “I had more confidence in the recipes, and my mother-in-law’s detailed notes, than myself. I drew all my inspiration and strength from that,” she says. Even today, with each batch of product being appreciated, Sonam thanks her mother-in-law for leaving behind this legacy for her to work with.
“I am loving this. I feel that she is with me every step of the way. It was her dream to do something related to food, in her lifetime but she was unable to,” says Sonam.
When asked about the initial investment that went into setting up Prem Eatacy, Ajey says, “Since we work out of our own home kitchen, we did not have to invest in renting a space. The company was therefore started with about Rs 10 lakhs of initial investment.” What’s heartening for Prem Eatacy is how quickly they were able to get orders from online retail platforms and Ajey also adds here that customers from Singapore and U.S. have reached out to have the products shipped to them.
Started with a target of fulfilling 100 orders a month, Ajey shares that in their first month of sales itself they were able to make close to Rs 5 lakhs, which is more than 2000 orders per month. The couple say they are overwhelmed by the love and appreciation of the customers.
Nutan Shrimal, a resident of Mumbai who has been ordering for various products from Prem Eatacy, says, “Having tasted almost every product that this brand has made, I can vouch for the quality that they maintain. My only disappointment is the waiting time between ordering and having the product reach my home,” she says.
“The mint coriander chutney, the curry leaf powder and also the molagapodi are such big hits in my home as well as amongst my friends. While this might be a store-bought product, it’s as close to having made it at home ourselves. For me that is the biggest USP,” she adds.
As of today, the brand has 21 varieties of pickles, podi (powders) and chutneys on their list. Priced between Rs 175 to Rs 225, some of their bestsellers include the hing chutney, molagapodi and the mint coriander chutney.
Available across online retail platforms, you can also log in to the Prem Eatacy website to buy their products.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)