The Covid – 19 lockdown has snatched lakhs of jobs which has also resulted in the closure of many industries. However, following a lockdown last year, a techie couple have turned into chocolate-makers.
Last year, Swathi Kallegundi and her husband Balasubrahmanya, both working in a Bengaluru MNC, returned to her hometown of Bettampadi Renja Village in Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada District. The couple have 5 acres of arecanut estate in which they grown Cocoa as inter plant. Owing to lockdown there were no buyers for cocoa. That is when yhe couple thought of manufacturing chocolates to get better price for their own cocoa. Soon the couple ventured into chocolate-making, availed training, bought machineries online and started their business.
Speaking to News Karnataka Swathi said that, “initially there was poor response from people. Now we are getting good online orders.” She said the uniqueness of chocolate is that the chocolate is free from chemicals and preservatives. These chocolates are being sold under slogan of Farm to bar as they use first quality cocoa bean to manufacture chocolate. Most chocolate manufacturers use sugar and chemicals but Swathi uses jaggery in chocolates. Hence, these chocolates have different taste attracting buyers.
Balasubrahmanya said that they invested Rs. 3 lakh for small chocolate manufacturing machinery and infrastructure to set up at their home. He said they employed two women labourers for manufacturing. He further said his spouse is earning nearly 70 per cent of her previous salary amid lockdown. He said he is confident that they will earn more than her monthly salary once the situation comes to normal.
“The fully automated chocolate-making machinery costs lakhs of rupees and we could not afford that in initial stages. The unit started just a year back and that that too amid lockdown. We are getting good response, and I hope our products get greater response in the coming years.”
Now the couple is not only using their estate cocoa for chocolates, they are procuring organic cocoa bean from neighbouring growers. This is very helpful for local cocoa growers as they get better price than in the market. At present the couple is marketing their products in Amazon, Facebook and Instagram, selling 14 varieties of chocolates under brand name Anuttama. Their product costs Rs. 175 for 50-gram bar but in the market, other MNC made chocolates are available for Rs. 50 to Rs. 60. However, these products have very good demand in upper middle-class segment.
In coastal region people normally use coconut in their daily food. Keeping in mind about this the couple introduced chocolate with jaggery (Bella in Kannada) and coconut which others don’t manufacture. This is called Bella Tharai (Tharai is coconut in local language Tulu, language of coastal region of State) chocolate which has gained good demand.
The couple also has been instrumental in providing employment for local women and are searching for new technology in the making. They also aim to launch organic chocolates and establish a large factory in the coming years.