This 54-year-old woman from a small village in Kerala has traded in her corporate suit for overalls embarking on an entrepreneurial journey making value-added products from drumstick leaves. Her agribusiness has not only transformed her life but also the lives of local farmers and women in her community.
Leaving behind her long-standing career in banking, Ambika Somasundaram of Marottichal, Puthur panchayat, Thrissur has ventured into the world of agribusiness in 2018 by sourcing farm produce from local farmers and converting them into value-added products while providing employment opportunities to local women.
But her innovative approach to make value-added products from drumstick leaves from 2020 has been a revolution helping several households in the village to earn an additional income from drumstick leaves which never had a price in the market. Ambika’s journey into agribusiness began as a dream inspired by her love for her rural roots. Having grown up in her village, she felt a strong connection to the land and the people who worked it.
After years of working in the banking sector, she decided to return to her roots and contribute to the development of her community. Her enterprise, Kariyattu Dry Foods which she started in 2018 acts as a bridge between local farmers and consumers. She started her venture after she saw the potential for both growth and transformation in her community by creating asustainable model that benefits all stakeholders. She began by sourcing fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables from local farmers who often struggled to find markets for their goods.
But it was value-added products from drumstick leaves, mainly capsules, chutney powder and soup powder that really ushered in a drastic change in her life and other women in the village.
“We have been making a lot of value-added products from vegetables and fruits but drumstickleaves came into our life accidently. A Dubai-based firm approached us in 2020 asking whether we could provide them with a shipment of drumstick leaves. Though we tried to collect the maximum quantity of leaves we could not deliver it and the deal didn’t take off. But we started exploring why there is such a huge demand for drumstick leaves which could be easily grown. We found that the drumstickleaves had a lot of medicinal properties and the Dubai company was into manufacturing a lot of products from grinded dry drumstick leaves. Soon, we began research with the help of the local agricultural department on means to make value-added products from the leaves,” Ambika told “OpenDigest“.
She approached Revenue Minister K Rajan, who represented her assembly constituency,seeking his support to start a movement where in each household in the panchayat will grow a drumstick tree to provide her with the leaves required for making the products. The Minister who supported her idea launched a project where drumstick saplings were distributed to over 1000 families.
“Now we collect drumstick leaves from these families and we pay Rs 30 per kg for the leaves. Drumstick trees which do not require any special attention have now opened up new avenues for people to earn an additional income,” Ambika said, adding that her enterprise makes all sort of value-added products from other vegetables.
Another significant aspect of Ambika’s venture is the empowerment of local women. Recognizing the untapped potential of women in her community, she decided toemploy them in various roles within her enterprise. These women are involved in production, packaging, marketing, and sales. Ambika believes that empowering women economically is not only a social responsibility but also a catalyst for overall community development.
Ambika stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration for her community. Her journey from a bank employee to an agribusiness entrepreneur showcases the power of passion, perseverance, and a commitment to making a positive impact in the society.
Her story is a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue one’s dreams and make a meaningful difference in the world.