By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai: There is nothing wrong about Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking educated youth to set up pakoda business and stand on their own feet, said an expert idli caterer who has made it big selling the humble south Indian dish.
“Elders used to say there is no need to be ashamed of any legal business if it is done honestly. Similarly, no labour needs to be ashamed of,” M. Eniyavan, founder of Mallipoo Idly, told IANS.
Eniyavan is a rags-to-riches story. He specialises in whipping up different kinds of idlis and caters to wedding and other party orders.
He said political parties faulted Modi on his suggestion to the youth to start pakoda business as he came to power on the promise of generating two crore jobs and did not do so.
Eniyavan reiterates whether it is idli or pakoda business, one needs not to be ashamed of it as one can make it big with hard work and innovative ideas and cites himself as an example.
“In the US, a shoemaker’s son became the President,” he added referring to Abraham Lincoln.
“Mine was a very big family. I went to school as there was a mid-day meal there. I have washed tea glasses in a bakery shop in Coimbatore,” 49-year-old Eniyavan said.
Curiously, even Modi had worked in a tea shop in Gujarat.
“I came to Chennai with two idli making vessels and stayed in a thatched hut. The first lot of batter was washed off in heavy rains. From there I struggled and worked hard to come up in life,” Eniyavan said.
“I am a school dropout. But today I address students of big colleges. I employ 10 persons permanently and on need basis hire more,” he mused.
He said his friends in Dubai and Australia are interested in opening outlets there, but that will take some time while taglines like “no oil, only boil” have been decided.
“One can steam idlis in different shapes so that the kids don’t get bored. The idli batter is such that one can add carrot/ beetroot/ pineapple juice and make it interesting for the kids,” Eniyavan added.
What is interesting to note is that the simple idli has thrown up a great outsourcing business opportunity for entrepreneurs like Eniyavan and R.U. Srinivas, founder of Idli Factory.
“Having an idli master in-house is a headache for the hoteliers. If idlis don’t come out well then blame game will happen while the customers will go away. So many hotels have started outsourcing idlis,” Srinivas said.
City-based Idli Factory supplies idlis in bulk to various institutions including eateries — small and star hotels — and also caters to orders placed with online players.
The company also sells idli packets on railway platform outlets under the brand Uppili’s On.D.Go. and in a small way on trains.
Srinivas said many late-night restaurants also buy idlis from his company to cater to their clients.
According to him, the company has batters of different grades catering to the different price points offered by its clients.
Srinivas said the concept of frozen idlis may gain popularity in the days to come.
He said new idli varieties like “thattu idli” would be launched soon.