16 Feb 2021 18:46 IST

When chips are on the way up

A Kerala entrepreneur looks to build a brand of its traditional banana, jackfruit chips

For 36-year old Manas Madhu, a branded banana and jackfruit chips maker, the agri business incubator at Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has helped with his transformation from an entrepreneur to an agripreneur.


Manas Madhu, Founder, Beyond Snack




His start-up, Dr Jackfruit India, promoter of the Beyond Snack brand, aims for a makeover of Kerala’s traditional and widely-eaten banana and jackfruit chips, and has received a seed stage funding of ₹20 lakh under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana-Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sectors Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) scheme of the Agriculture Ministry through KAU RABI (RAFTAAR Agri Business Incubation) Centre. Owing to the detailed research done on jackfruit for the start-up, Madhu added the citation Dr before the company's name at the time of registration.

Traditional with a twist

It was the lack of accelerator programmes for start-up platforms that led him to approach KAU’s agri business incubator to avail of its technical expertise and grant-in-aid for scaling up his business. “The journey towards agripreneurship, perhaps, reflects an intention to provide value addition to farmers, helping them reduce wastage of agri products as well as enhance the agriculture ecosystem around them,” he says.


Three flavours of the banana chips




The banana and jackfruit chips were introduced in three flavours in January last year from its Thiruvallam facility near Thiruvananthapuram with a production capacity of 250 kg per day. The product has been received well in the market and the demand is increasing steadily, he says. The packs are available at an MRP of ₹60 to ₹80 per 85 gm packet, while, he says, locally made chips sell at ₹50 to ₹80. “Unlike local products, our brand focus is more on single-time consumption, similar to potato chips,” he explains.

Banana and jackfruit chips in Kerala has been a small-scale mom and pop business and he has now taken it to a branded, organised format, which is making a difference, says Madhu, an MBA from SIBM, Pune and who later worked with various MNCs in Mumbai and Bangalore. To pursue his passion of launching branded traditional snacks, he quit his job to become an entrepreneur.

Expanding reach

With the support of KAU ABI, Madhu now plans to expand his brand to all the southern states. The company is in the process of shifting its production facility to Kinfra Food Processing Park in Adoor and increasing the capacity to 350 kg per day with the help of automation. There are also plans to set up a more equipped lab facility for quality testing of raw material more efficiently, he said.

He is also expanding his reach to adding more R&D facilities which could help him add new fruits and vegetables in the product line up and is also developing newer flavours.

R Chandra Babu, Vice-Chancellor, KAU, says the university is committed towards agripreneurship and it supports agri business incubation by tapping innovation and technology for venture creation in agriculture. KP Sudheer, Head of the Department of Agricultural Engineering, KAU, said its scheme was introduced to rejuvenate agri business by the Union Government. KAU has successfully established RABI centres to take forward the vision and objectives of RKVY RAFTAAR by translating the technical know-how in agriculture to commercially viable enterprises and facilitating entrepreneurship.

Flavour research

According to Sudheer, Madhu was an active member of the 2019 cohort of KAU RABI. He had attended an eight-week start-up incubation training programme that helped him to define his entire agripreneurship pathway. “Incubations have given more thrust to value addition. The entire crew was really supportive, especially Prof Sudheer and his team who were always available for any support in the journey,” says Madhu.

His core team of four members has already started working on bringing other snacks to the organised market. “We are working on the formulation of more flavours that appeal to continental and regional tastes. Though new products are in the pipeline, banana and jackfruit are the key products the company will continue to focus on,” adds Madhu. Clearly, for Madhu, the chips aren’t down, but on the way up!