- A SUCCESS STORY OF SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Excerpts from article published in THE HINDU , 8 March 2013 (Women's day)
titled -'Lakshmi's Gongura - A success Story of Social Entrepreneurship'
"There is only one most beautiful baby, and every mother has it", said the famous philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthy. He was referring to the recipe of Avakai. And this 'secret' of making pure, authentic and delicious pickles thus passes on for generations.
Lakshmi's Gongura - The Traditional House of Andhra Pickles and Podis, the business that she founded a little over two years ago in a small way has come a long way, and is poised to scale new heights.
The beginning was almost like a fairytale as with all spectacular success stories, nurtured of course by hard work and commitment to a 'vision' and purpose. When asked on how it all started, she smiles unassumingly and quotes Madam C.J. Walker, the famous American entrepreneur and philanthropist, "I got my start by giving myself a start."
Her aged mother who used to herself make a mouth watering variety pickles and podis (spice and masala powders) once upon a time was longing for that unique old nostalgic experience' of savouring traditionally made healthy and tasty Avakai. The constant stream of visiting North Indian friends of her husband, a senior bureaucrat in the Central Government, longed for original 'South Indian' Aaachars and Masala powders, and not those off-the shelf ones available everywhere that "taste like chemicals", she quotes them.
After much futile search she concluded - "If I can't find it, I'll make it. And make it not just for home but for all who long for the original taste of Andhra pickles and podis."
Thus began the journey of 'discovery' (from her mother about her family lineage in the districts of Guntur and Vijayawada who traditionally make authentic pickles and spice powders) and innovation (selecting and using the purest of spices and condiments and a team of traditional experts to prepare the delicacies). Today 'Lakshmi's Gongura', her brand, has nearly a dozen varieties of delicious pickles and spice powders. "What sets us apart" she says confidently, "are these differentiators - No artificial preservatives or colours are added, ingredients like chillies, spices and condiments are the purest obtained from native Guntur and Vijayawada in A.P, they are prepared by traditional cooks in hygienic conditions". And what is more, there is 'customization' too to suite specific socio-cultural practices - pickles are available in two varieties, with and without garlic.
On questioned about the obstacles and difficulties that she as entrepreneur, women at that, had to go though, she smiles again and says, "There were plenty. I took them all as challenges and not as difficulties; I used obstacles as stepping stones."
And is it a co-incidence that her quotes from her business role models happen to be philanthropists too?
You can call me a Social Entrepreneur, and here are no co-incidences in life", she says. It's all about free will and choice. Ten percent of my net profit is pledged to genuine NGOs in the field of health care and education of children from economically underprivileged families." It's not a co-incidence either that her employees are predominantly women from such segment.
So it's not 'all about money honey' as usual? "Our vision is to be the best in taste and tradition and a benchmark in originality. The vision and value of our brand overrides profit", she says and adds, "Many individuals and companies both in India and from abroad have approached us ordering huge quantities provided they market it in their brand names. We politely declined. As a firm obsessed with quality, and registered and licensed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), we make no compromises. We are however open to partner with genuine distributors and retailers."
Lord Venkateswara of Holy Tirumala is our Omni-Chairman. Nippani Lakshmi Prasanna is the Founder-Director.