Women who took the lead

Bangalore, decades ago, saw several young women take the lead in entrepreneurship. They changed their lives for the better

August 02, 2018 05:20 pm | Updated 05:20 pm IST



Like Kalyanamma, another young woman Sakamma, in spite of being deprived of marital bliss, established herself as a successful business woman in Bangalore around eight to nine decades ago. Her Sakamma Coffee Works was a household name. It had centers in different areas of the city. Even well-known writers like Masti Venkatesha Iyengar and D.V. Gundappa made references about Sakamma’s coffee powder in their literary works. She was popularly known as Coffee Pudi (Coffee Powder) Sakamma.

She was born in 1880 in a small middle class family in Bidare, a village in Gubbi Taluk, Tumkur District. After her birth, her parents moved to Bangalore in search of a livelihood. As she was a very bright girl, her parents sent her to school. She was one of the very few girls who passed the secondary school examination of the Mysore Province. But, at the age of 16, circumstances forced her to marry, she became the third wife of a very rich coffee planter Savkar Doddamane Chikkabasappa Setty from Somavarapete in Coorg. Even before opening her eyes to the realities of the society around her, she lost her husband within two years of her marriage. His other two wives followed. As the sole survivor of the family, Sakamma became the absolute owner of the entire property including a very big coffee estate. Her education helped her face the calamities that befell upon her.

By 1920, she moved to Bangalore and settled down in Basavanagudi. She opened a coffee curing and powdering unit near Bull Temple Road. Soon the aroma of her coffee powder spread to a larger number of houses in the city. In addition to trade, Sakamma also got into various social service activities. She was recognised as one of the prominent personalities of Bangalore.



To give a boost to industrial development in the state, the then government gave a call to the industrial and business community to invest in several industries run by the government. Sakamma was one of them, she also generously helped the Kuruhina shetty community to establish a hostel in the present New National High School Road, Basavanagudi. The choultry attached to the hostel is Sakamma Bhavana, where her portrait can be seen even today. The area in Basavanagudi where Sakamma ran her coffee curing unit is even today known as Sakamma Garden.

Recognising her yeoman service to trade and concern for social welfare, the Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Krishan Raja Wadiyar IV, honoured her with a title ‘ Lokaseva Pararyane’ . The Imperial government also awarded her with the medal ‘ Kaisar-i- Hind’ which literally means emperor of India. In 1934, she was nominated as woman representative to The Mysore Representative Assembly.

A few of the surviving relatives of Sakamma, narrate several anecdotes about her strict administrative abilities.

She nurtured Puttaparthi Saibaba when he was a young boy. Sakamma died in 1950 at the age of 75.


Decades ago, widows from the Brahmin community used to make condiments at their homes. Perhaps Hurigalu Subbamma who gave the dimension of business to her culinary skills, is the forerunner of condiments industry in Bangalore.



Again, it’s the same story of child marriage and the husband’s death at an early age. Subbamma came to Bangalore from a small village near Hindupur with her tiny kids hoping to get a little job to feed her children. She got shelter in a cultured family and in addition to cooking for them she starts making chilly powder, chutney powder and other spicy items. Recognising her culinary talents, advocate Lakshminarasimhayya gives her a small accommodation next to HB Samaja in Gandhibazar to sell her homemade products. She started selling her products here from 1947. Soon all the condiments, particularly hurigalu , become very popular. Though the small establishment was named after the family deity Srinivasa, it is well-known as Subbamma stores. It was a favorite stop for writers like Masti, DVG, GP Rajaratnam and others. People enjoyed munching chakkuli, kodubale and other snacks of Subbamma, along with Sakamma’s brilliant coffee.

After Subbamma’s demise in 1954, her son K. Vasudeva Rao took over and now her grandson K. V. Anantha Rao and other family members run the show.


Several decades back running a hotel was a male domain. Yet, Karur Krishnamma was a daring woman to get into the field of hotel business in 1920s and 30s. She too was born in a poor Vaishya family in Karur, and lost her father early. The widowed mother comes to Bangalore with her young child and begins to work as a cook in a hotel. When Krishnamma turned 10, she was married to Gopalayya a young man, also working in hotel. But within a few years, Krishnamma lost her mother and husband. She started her own hotel in a house with the assistance of an elderly person Raja Venkatasubbaiah.

Her hotel not only was supplying tasty and clean food, it also catered to the religious needs of orthodox people who were coming to the city in large numbers from other places. She also gave free food to poor students and those studying in veda pathashala . Meanwhile, another elderly person K. Laksminarayana Shetty joined her and helped her run the hotel business successfully. After running the business for more than a decade, Krishnamma with the consent of Laksminarayana Shetty closed down the hotel and bought a house in Malavalli Pappanna Galli and led a simple life, donating generously to temples.

After her death in 1957, her wealth was used for charitable purposes. Even today Smt Karur Krisnamma’s Charities free boarding hostel stands testimony for the philanthropic contributions of Karur Krisnamma.

Sakamma, Subbamma, Krishnamma are only a few examples of women entrepreneurs of Bangalore’s yesteryear. In the subsequent decades, their ventures have inspired many young women.


(This is a fortnightly column on Bangalore)

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