Narayani Flour Mills: Chasing Success After Sixty

We live in a society where millennials are going gaga over Financial Independence, Retire Early(FIRE). People look forward to spending their life, without being ruled about by commitments and meetings. On the other end of the spectrum, we have individuals for whom retirement leads to a monotonous life without many tasks to keep their old but trained minds engaged. They find out ways in which they can support themselves, goals to look forward to in the morning. They reestablish that age is just a number and that should not prevent you from pursuing your passion.

Here is a sixty-year-old couple, who realized that they have the potential to contribute much more to the society they live in, even after their retirement. They identified a problem, brainstormed over it, and came up with a solution that would keep them engaged. To the minds that idolize Colonel Sanders for his success in setting up KFC post his youth, we have the story of middle-class parents from Kerala, who are on their journey of growing their venture, Narayani Flour Mills.

Tell us about yourself, your background.

We’re a simple middle-class family. My husband spent 42 years in the Middle East. Life had gone by fast, raising two kids, their education, etc. I used to work earlier for a short period of time. My husband had a transportation venture in the UAE, where he also drove one of his trucks. He returned for good in 2018. Both our sons are working in the Middle East. One is an accountant the other is a Sales Director in a startup venture. 

Could you brief us on the story behind your venture? What inspired you to start it?

In all honesty, it just organically happened. After my husband came back in 2018, we wanted to start something, and we weren’t sure of what to get into. He was used to a lot of physical work, and a sudden idle lifestyle started giving him health risks. He is a workaholic person.  After a lot of brainstorming, we noticed that this location does not have a proper mill with convenient timings and customer convenience along a particular stretch of territory. Our house happened to be in the middle of it. We thought this would be a great idea. People could drop off the items they want to mill and process in the morning on their way to work and pick them up on their way back.  A big chunk of the population around pass our house as they commute to work in the morning. We thought this could be a strategic advantage and decided this is what we should do. It’s convenient for us as we could work at home itself. 

How did others react to your idea of starting such a venture at a later part of your career?

People were largely supportive. No one asked us why we need this risk at this age. My son told us how a man in his 60s started multi-billion dollar ventures like KFC. Both our sons have been our biggest support.

What, according to you, are the reasons for the success of your venture? How do you manage it at this age?

We wouldn’t want to call it a success yet. We’re still in like a baby steps stage.  People like our products. We make these in a way similar to how we do it at home. We would not give anything to a customer that we would not feed our own family. I have done some research into enhancing the flavors of these products as well. It has been mainly trial and error. Some of them failed while some of them are a big success. Managing all this at our age hasn’t been easy. We don’t have any staff. I handle the sales, and my husband manages the work inside the mill. But we have managed to get a loyal customer base. It began with friends and their friends. Mainly word of mouth marketing. It’s been a good run so far. 

What are the products and services that you deliver? Do you have plans to foray into other food products than spices and flours?

We’ve already ventured into other products than spices and flours. We have blended spices like Sambar and Rasam powder. We have avlose podi, chutney podi. We recently began coconut oil milling as well. We are planning to launch a lot more once we ramp up our production capacity. Currently, it’s just my husband. Once we hire adequate staff, we will venture into more products. 

Good quality food is always in demand. How do you ensure the quality of your products?

We procure the best quality raw materials for these. The quality of our raw materials is why our retail prices are a little on the higher side. But we cannot compromise on quality. We get our wheat from Punjab, The rice and chilies are brought from Andhra. We process and clean this in-house. The rice is washed twice before milling. Wheat is washed and sundried. We get the coconuts mainly from local houses. Except for rice, wheat, and chilies, most of our products are locally procured, mainly from the local household. Even though not planned, we think we could make an ecosystem where we can get the raw materials to support the local economy. 

What excites you about your venture? What is your vision for it?

We want to expand. Our younger son has plans to assist in the operations and ramp it up. We try not to depend on loans or banks and somehow try to achieve this by the business’s income. Our older son handles marketing and social media. It is something which we have not ventured into much due to our current limited production capacity. But it looks like we’re on the right track. 

Do you have a team? How did you meet each other, and what roles do they play in your group?

The team is just the family for now. We’re in the process of hiring some staff for mill operations. 

What are some of the challenges you faced while setting this up? How did you overcome these?

To be honest, apart from the initial financial investment, we faced very few hurdles. Many friends came forward to help us.  People say Kerala is not friendly to start a business venture. We feel that is just a myth. We never faced any hurdles while setting this up. All the official paperwork could be done from a local Akshaya center. The govt machinery and organizations were highly supportive. Kerala could be the next start-up heaven for people like us. The media needs to highlight this non politically as an example of how a couple of 60-year-olds, returning NRI,  could start a business with ease in Kerala. 

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