Snacking for Success: Homemaker leading charge amid India pandemic disaster
Bangalore, India, Nov 26 (EFE).- Away from the swanky marketplaces and dizzying skyscrapers in India’s IT capital, savory snack-maker Sunanda was a quiet homemaker in a Bangalore suburb until the pain inflicted by months of Covid-19 lockdown on “helpless people” moved her to act.
When she saw people being driven to the brink of starvation, the 56-year-old woman started making low-cost traditional south Indian snacks in a village away from the outskirts of the Silicon Valley of India.
“I am a homemaker and continue to be. Pandemic moved me a lot. I thought what could I do. I did not know how to help these helpless people who had lost jobs, had closed their small businesses,” Sunanda told EFE in an interview.
“My passion is cooking. Then I thought why not to channel my passion into my strength. And that is when I started making snacks,” she said, recalling the days when India was under months-long strict lockdown during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.
Studies and surveys have shown that nearly 95 percent of small businesses were negatively impacted due to national lockdown when almost all regular economic activity came to a halt till August 2020, as the pandemic hammered India’s lucrative micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME).
According to the latest report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 11,716 businesspersons committed suicide last year.
The majority of them (1,772) were from Karnataka, whose capital is Bangalore.
Sunanda did not mean to feed the jobless villagers but followed an age-old cliche: “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”
Following the adage that long-term benefits are more useful than short-term benefits, the woman with firm grit and adequately supported by the family employed 10 people from the village to take her baby step in the more than $6.2-billion snack segment in India.
The segment is likely to more than double by 2026, Statistica, a global market and consumer data provider, predicts.
Having little or no inkling on running a business venture, she took the advice of her kids settled in the United States.
She said her kids told her to cook and pack them to the US, and to begin with, they would market the product in Charlotte in North Carolina.
Not an easy proposition though. But Sunanda was determined and “desperately wanted to help these helpless people on the verge of poverty.”
Today, Sunanda has 70 people, mostly women, running her business of what she calls only “organic and health snacks” sold by the US-based grocery chain giant Patel Brothers, owned by non-resident Indian brothers Mahendra and Harshad Patel.
“It was a dream that started with a five kg output and today we sent some 18 containers of our snacks to the US,” she said.
Branded as “Aaha” snacks, the product is available in 15 states of America and Sunanda hopes to add seven more “very soon.”
“My kids and my husband, my close family members and friends were very encouraging. It is a team work. I do not claim the success as entirely mine. Every single hand that has helped in building this shares the credit for our success,” she said.
Sunanda said the USP of her product is that they would add no artificial colors or preservatives in her Aaha snacks because “everything is done so naturally.” EFE