Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
From restarting business with an investment of merely ₹100 to earning more than ₹5 lakh per month and going on to win the International Peace Council UAE Award for being the 'Best Entrepreneur' in 2019, Elavarasi Jayakanth's life is no less than a movie-plot.
40-year-old Elavarasi's family, Tamil Nadu's native, had moved to Kerala's Thrissur district more than 45 years ago. She told The Better India that she grew up watching her parents and grandparents making and selling eatables including snacks and sweets to earn a living. Meanwhile, she also helped them in selling products to different households in the village.
After marriage, Elavarasi decided to take the legacy forward. Initially, she started making sweets and snacks at home to distribute to nearby stores and houses. In 2010, she turned into an entrepreneur to start her own snack business after discussing the idea with her family and putting together the savings and a loan of ₹50 lakh to open a mart.
"I had always wanted to be a businesswoman. I discussed the idea of opening a supermarket here in Thrissur with my husband and children, wherein different snacks and chips would be sold. We combined our savings, and took a loan of ₹50 lakh from banks and neighbouring loan sharks to open the mart in 2010.
Day by day, I saw our sales and the number of happy customers increase. I had also provided employment to around 50 people. According to customer requirements, I introduced a variety of products," Elavarasi shared.
Her mart now offered a number of food items such as halwa, chips, and cakes made of fruits and vegetables including mangoes, oranges, gooseberries, Chinese potatoes, Averrhoa bilimbi, jackfruits, and cucumbers.
But everything in her life collapsed when a robbery took place in her mart, leaving her physically and mentally devastated.
"The shock and trauma of the robbery resulted in me being in the hospital for months, and no medicines were effective. Over time, I came to the slow realisation that I couldn't afford to carry on living in fear. This was not just for the sake of my own family, but also for those who were dependent on me and my venture. I'd borrowed money from people, who would also be at a loss if I did nothing to pull myself out of this situation," she said.
She said that banks authorities hassled her and her family to repay the loans.
However, Elavarasi regained courage and enthusiasm and decided to not let situations dominate her life. In 2012, she opened a hot chips stall named 'Awasthi Hot Chips' near Thrissur Railway Station with less than ₹100.
"My family's talent of making delicious snacks was passed on to me, so I decided to give my food venture another try. It was difficult to invest money in a new business, so I began my new venture with less than ₹100," she said.
Sharing why she chose the station as the 'spot', Elavarasi said that she felt that the people travelling in trains needed quick pocket-friendly snacks for their journey.
And fortunately, her idea hit home!
Travellers loved her hot chips and soon, she also started selling vadas. "I do not add any preservatives or colours to my products, so they're safe to consume. Besides, the aroma of the snacks, their quality, and taste is what brings the customers to my stores," she said.
With her business expanding, Elavarasi started repaying her debts and eventually expanded her business.
"I have learned several lessons from my setbacks. One should understand that whoever is trying to bring you down, is already below you. Who you are, and how you live your life, must be decided by you alone. I wanted to grow, so I motivated myself, and worked hard. Today, I earn more than ₹5 lakh per month from selling my products," the entrepreneur said.
"My faith in myself helped me restart my own business, and today, I own four stores which make as many as 60 products, including sweets, snacks, cakes, and pickles," she added.
Elavarasi said that although there was no one to guide in her journey, she decided to extend help to budding entrepreneurs from villages who have lost their businesses or are facing setbacks.
"In a few instances, people have come to me and said they read my story and feel motivated to restart their own businesses, and I feel proud that I was able to make a difference in someone else's life," she said.
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