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From homemaker to exporter: How coconut transformed Kerala mom’s life

Sumila Jayaraj. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Sumila Jayaraj, a homemaker and mother of two children from Thrissur in Kerala, has never been to any B-school or had any business background. But her perseverance and determination helped her build a successful business venture that not only brings in lakhs in revenue now but also helps local coconut farmers get a fair price for their produce.

Sumila’s desire to be an entrepreneur began when she joined a virgin coconut oil manufacturing company in 2010 to keep herself occupied after her twin children started attending school and her husband Jayaraj M K, relocated to Abu Dhabi for a hotel management job.

“The job gave me the opportunity to learn more about different products that can be made by processing coconuts. I realised the huge potential for certain coconut-based products and decided to give it a try,” Sumila told “Open Digest“.

In February 2012, she started a small unit named “Greenaura International” in a shed adjacent to her house at Engandiyoor to make coconut oil. Though she could keep her business running for a few years, the Covid pandemic situation in 2020 forced her to shut down the manufacturing unit.

“When I decided to reopen my business after the Covid period, I faced several challenges. Securing a bank loan was the initial hurdle which I had to overcome. It took me nearly a year to get my loan approved. Many advised me to give up on this business, but I wasn’t ready to quit. My dedication and hard work got me this far,” said Sumila, a postgraduate in English literature.

In a span of just two years, her company reached new heights, growing from producing one product to 13 and employing 15 persons, the majority of them women. While the key product is coconut milk, the unit also makes other products that include coconut powder, virgin coconut oil, coconut water vinegar, desiccated coconut, coconut pickle, coconut laddu, and cookies.

Sumila procures high-quality coconuts for her unit from around 100 local farmers in the coastal area. Currently, her unit exports the products to the United States and also supplies them to supermarkets and catering companies across India. “It’s my hard work and dedication that helped me to build my company from scratch. You need to be patient as every business needs time to grow,” she said, adding that her company is planning to widen its portfolio by adding more coconut-based products in due course.

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