From selling 50 packets a day in 2006, ID Fresh now sells 50,000 packets.

From selling 5-paise sweets as a kid to running a multi-crore idly-dosa batter empire
news Journeys Of Triumph Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 16:47

This story is part of The News Minute's 'Journeys Of Triumph' series. Read other stories in the series below. 

When he was 12, Musthafa ran a business out of his home in a remote village in the hilly Wayanad district. He had a smart way to raise money for it. He would go along with his father who worked in the fields. Musthafa’s wages were Rs 10 a day. With that money, he bought sweets which he sold for five or 10 paise to the neighbourhood kids during the summers.

Born into a family in Chennalode village in Kalpetta municipality, Musthafa is the eldest of four siblings.  

“I’m not sure if one can call it a home. With a roof that leaked and no light after the sun had set, it was nowhere close to a home,” recalls 43-year old PC Musthafa, who founded ID Fresh, a Bengaluru-based company that sells idly-dosa batter in four cities.

Musthafa’s childhood memories are dominated by his father Ahmed’s constant struggle to make both ends meet. “Uppa (father) used to earn Rs 25 a day.”

This was rationed between running the household and educating Musthafa and his three sisters. 

Despite this, his father let him keep the money. “He never insisted that I spent it for the family. I would save the money I earned. I was so naïve….my dreams were limited to my small village, which was my world… I was not even aware that there existed a world beyond it. All I wanted was to earn enough to build a house for my parents, and get my sisters married,” smiles Musthafa.

Failing in Class VI was a major turning point in his life. “I was never particularly interested in studies…the school was kilometres away. But my father always wanted me to have the education he never got. So I went back to school on his insistence. When I passed out of school, I was the topper,” he grins.

It was at the age of 15 that Musthafa first stepped outside his village to go to Kozhikode to pursue his ‘pre-degree’ studies. From there on, there was no looking back. He obtained his engineering degree from the Calicut Regional Engineering College. 

The day he got first job – with Motorola in Bengaluru - back home in Kalpetta, his father heaved a sigh of relief. But it was only after much persuasion that his father stopped going to work.

PC Musthafa's mother Fathima and father Ahmed.

Over the next eight years, Musthafa worked in the UK and West Asia, before he decided to quit his well-paying job and return to India in 2003.

“Looking back, I realize that was a huge risk I took. By then, I had got the house renovated, and I had some savings too. But something did not feel right. I wanted to be with my parents, as well as do something for society. There was also this urge to pursue higher studies,” he recollects.

In 2003, Musthafa joined IIM Bangalore to pursue his MBA. In the bustling city, his cousin kept him company. The cousin had run away from home at 16 in search of greener pastures, and ran a ‘kirana’ (general provisions) store in Indiranagar. 

PC Musthafa along with the other co-founders. (From left to right): Shamsudeen TK, Jafar TK, Noushad TA and Abdul Nazer (seated)

During a brainstorming session, he and four cousins came up with the idea which eventually became ID Fresh. A man in their neighbourhood sold batter in plastic bags with no mention of the manufacturer. “But it still had many takers. We were convinced that if we offered good quality, we too would find a market for our product.”

In 2006, ID Fresh produced its first batch of idly-dosa batter from a 50-square feet room next to his cousin’s store.

“We had a mixer, grinder and a packaging machine in that tiny room. For the first few days, we could barely sell five packets a day. But within two weeks, we began to sell 50 per day.”

But a good nine months would pass before ID made a name for itself in the market. They set up a larger kitchen in the same neighbourhood to increase the daily production to 100 packets.

In 2009, the company opened its first plant in Karnataka’s Hoskote, and expanded operations to Chennai. However, competing with local unbranded sellers proved nearly impossible at the time, and the company incurred losses for nine months.

"That was the time we could not pay salaries. So we shut down the Chennai operations," says Musthafa. 

But in 2011, it was producing 3,000 packets every day. The company continued to expand, both in terms of the number of kitchens, and the number of products. A year later, they re-launched the product in Chennai three years later. “Now, we are doing well in the city,” Musthafa says.

A decade on, ID Fresh sells eight products, including half-cooked Malabar ‘porotta’ and chappattis in Bengaluru, Chennai, Mysore, Hyderabad and Pune.

From Rs 100 crore in 2015, the company’s turnover has gone up to Rs 170 crore this year. The team hopes to touch revenues of Rs 1,000 crores in the next 5-10 years. 

"We made Rs 430 as profit the first time. This went on for a couple of years, during which none of us sought any returns. In the last two years, we have revamped the company, with professionals employed in every department," Musthafa says.  

As Musthafa continues to weave his dreams to the making of a business empire, his now 66-year old father still finds the going unreal.  "Uppa keeps asking me whether all this is for real," he laughs. 

 

Also read: From a single pushcart to TN's trusted greengrocer, Kovai Pazhamudir Nilayam's phenomenal rise

Once a cleaner at Hyderabad's famous Niloufer cafe, this man now owns it

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