Story of a successful woman entrepreneur

A culinary delight.

A culinary delight.  

ON AN average working day, Lakshmi Balasubramaniam makes more than 50 bottles of fruit squash, an assortment of pickles, jam and an array of edible powders and pastes. Clean, double sterilised bottles wait to be filled with fresh, home-made preservatives or pickles, and every evening, by 6 p.m., the last bottle is sealed in home-made freshness.

On the right side of 40, Lakshmi is an able homemaker and a successful self-made entrepreneur. Her industry and enterprise have come in for government recognition as well: she was felicitated last year by the District Collector for being an `Outstanding Entrepreneur.'

Beset with extreme financial problems, when her husband was forced to take up VRS, Lakshmi shifted her family from Chennai to Madurai five years ago. Encouraged by her brother, T. Chidambaranathan, she underwent a 15-day training in food processing and preservation, after which she set up her humble business, named `Ragavendra Food Products.' Started with an initial investment of Rs.5, 000, now her monthly turnover is more than Rs.30, 000.

Today, looking back on the financial hurdles and the efforts to market her home-made products, Lakshmi is nostalgic, but grateful that she could capitalise on her love for cooking. Having tasted the fruits of being independent and self-reliant, she is keen to pass the buck — not her business, but her indefatigable spirit — to her two school-going girls. "I hope that my children can achieve much more than this, especially what I lost due to lack of education and opportunity," she says.

Ginger, garlic, tomato, lime and amla pickles were sold like hotcakes at a recent exhibition where she put up her stall.

Not just food to tickle your palate, but food that nourishes is also Lakshmi's forte. Her oldest and most famous product is a nutritious, nourishing breakfast food `CEPINUT,' an acronym for Cashew Energy Protein Iron Nutrition, is a family recipe.

What makes Lakshmi's accomplishment remarkable is her ability to take the hurdles in her stride and to welcome hard work as a way of life. "My husband has been an enormous support. Despite chronic health problems, he tirelessly knocks on every door to market and sell our products," reveals a visibly moved Lakshmi.

Future plans include diversification to undertake training in making various chutneys and also expanding her office premises in order to acquire a quality certification. Her message for women out there who have the potential to do something on their own but are unsure if they can: "The only limits are the ones you set for yourself."

By Preethi Chandrasekar

Photo: S. James.

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