Francy Joshimon, a female entrepreneur from Kerala was shocked to learn in 2018 that her father had cancer. They started looking for healthy, organic foods that could help her stay healthier while undergoing therapy. But to their surprise, there weren’t many choices available in the neighborhood market.
Francy lost her father a few months later, it was an incident that completely changed her life.
She made the decision to make changes on her own in order to stop further occurrences of this nature. A few months after her father passed away, she started a small business called Minnus fresh food from his home in Karalam, Thrissur, Kerala, to produce nutritious and organic food.
The brand, named after her daughter, offers blends and value-added products created with jackfruits, millets and other components. These, according to Francy, are completely free of chemicals and preservatives.
The brand, which started in 2018 with a few jackfruit-based items, now sells over 50 different organic product variants and even exports outside of India.
Start small with fewer goods
Making homemade jackfruit puttu powder with a small, all-female team was how Francy started her business. “At the time, jackfruit and its health benefits were widely discussed. We chose to focus on jackfruit first after conducting extensive research and consulting with specialists from Kerala University of Agriculture,” says Francy, who only completed up to grade 12.
In addition to puttu powder, she continues, “we also produced some jackfruit and millet products, such as immunity boosters and health blends, which were mainly distributed to cancer patients in nearby areas through various social groups.
Francy made the decision to establish a processing unit in 2019 when her business finally started to grow.
She set up the necessary equipment for processing and packaging in the unit with the help of her husband Joshimon, a mechanical engineer, after taking advice from university experts.
“For the machinery, we secured a loan of Rs. 15.5 lakh. We invested almost Rs 30 lakh from our own personal funds in constructing the building,” she adds.
Organic ingredients produced by nearby farms
Francy introduced more value-added products as the business grew using a variety of raw materials including bananas, tapioca, wheat, millets and others. We always make sure to use top quality organic raw materials in the creation of our products. They are completely cleaned and dried after sourcing, then we process and process them into other goods,” she says.
She says that all raw materials are organically grown and sourced from neighborhood farmers in and around her village of Thrissur. “Farmers in this region often struggle to find a reliable market for products such as jackfruit, Tapioca, bananas and turmeric. Therefore, when we buy their produce, we make sure they receive a fair price, she says, noting that produce like the rice needed to make puttu powder is grown on her own property.
“Each year, we harvest around 2,500 kilos of rice. We use it for our business rather than selling it directly,” she says.
Additionally, Minnus Fresh sells healthy blends for Rs 50-350. Plus, they offer a variety of conventional snacks including chakka varatti and banana chips.
According to Francy, the company currently sells an average of 400 kg of puttu powder, 250 kg of crisps, 100 kg of rice powder and 50 kg of health mix per year.
Francy reports that there are eight different types of puttu powder, jackfruit, jackfruit ragi, banana mix, banana mix ragi, tapioca, sprouted rice bran mix, sprouted ragi, and sprouted wheat being the most sold.
However, they encountered a significant hurdle when setting up their business. The biggest problem was the shelf life of our products. We found it difficult to promote our organic products due to their short shelf life and complete absence of preservatives, she notes.
“To find a solution to the shelf life of our products, we met with some experts in the Kerala Agricultural University. They asked us to dry the items according to their moisture content after extensive testing that lasted about six months and advised us to make some changes in formulations and processing techniques, which would help the products stay fresh longer, she said.
In Kerala, local shops, supermarkets and Kudumbashree outlets serve as the main distribution channels for Minnus Fresh Food Products. Facebook and WhatsApp are also used for sales.
In addition, our items are sold in the United Arab Emirates, where there is a large market, adds Francy, who is currently anticipating the growth of her business.
First published: July 29, 2022, 01:34 IST