Armed with two kilos of rice, jaggery and ghee, when 49-year-old Tara Das decided to turn into an entrepreneur to popularise ‘arisa pitha’ way back in 1999, she had no idea that the outcome of her hard work would be so sweet! Her ‘Rajmoni Foods’ today supplies the traditional pancake all across the state and beyond.
Initially, she used to supply her ‘arisas’ to the shops near the Lingaraj temple and Unit 1 market. Soon, she began delivering her pancakes at hotels like Venus Inn, Kalinga Ashoka, Keshari and Swosti Premium. Today, having scripted her own destiny and success story, Tara receives personal orders from in and out of Odisha for marriages, thread ceremonies and house warming functions besides state level programmes and events. That apart, Iskcon temple and Ramakrishna missionary are also regular customers of ‘Rajmoni Foods’.
To know more about her journey, MCL caught up with this 67-year-old lady who tells us with pride that her company uses a minimum of 50 kilos of rice and 40 kilos of jaggery on a daily basis to supply the delicacy to different parts of the state.
Why did you think of doing a business of selling ‘arisas’?
When I started my business, my sole motive was to get a good income out of it. At that time my husband was bed-ridden for his kidney ailment and all his pension money was spent towards his medicines and hospital bills. I had to think of other sources of income in order to manage household expenses. Therefore, I thought of selling ‘arisas’ as it was a ‘no investment’ venture and I had nothing with me to invest and start a business. Also, no other shop in the city used to prepare ‘arisas’ at that time.
Was there a lot of struggle in the initial period?
Yes, struggle holds a major part of my journey. I faced a lot of problems for about six years. The only reason I started this business was for the sake of income. But then I had no idea this will be such a big success. Now when I think about my decision to start the business, I feel proud of myself. I am 67 now and totally independent in terms of everything. Even my children ask me to help them financially when they need something. That is a great feeling. If I would not have been into this business, I might have been sitting idle doing nothing and would have become a burden to my family at this age.
I want to advise everyone to do something in their life and become independent. This would give them the strength and power to lead their life in a better way.
What has been the most challenging phase for you in your life?
There have been many challenges that I have faced to achieve success. The first one was when I started my business and I was unable to find helpers (karigara) for my work, but then when I got some men and trained them, they left me after a short span of time and started their own business to sell ‘arisas’. This happened to me a couple of times. I did a new start every time, but had to face the same situation of betrayal. But then circumstances changed and I got a lot of loyal people who have stayed with me till now.
The second challenge for me was enrolling my youngest daughter for higher studies. When we came to Bhubaneswar in 1999, she had just finished her higher secondary studies. She was interested to pursue her career in hotel management. But I was not financially strong then. However, she got selected for her admission into a management school and I had to pay Rs. 25000 every three months as her course fee. Despite many difficulties, I managed to pay her fees and helped her complete the course.
From where did you get the strength to keep moving ahead in your life despite the challenges?
Actually, I don’t know from where I got all the strength. It might have been within me, I guess. But I had never surrendered or given up hope even in worst circumstances. I want to tell people not to fear or give up in life and always stand strong in every situation. That has been the success mantra of my life.
Who has been your support system in your struggling days?
My family was my strength when I was struggling to make my business a profitable one; particularly my son, supported me a lot. He had completed his management in marketing in Delhi, but he had to leave his job just to come and live with us as my husband had retired. When I started my business, he was the one to do its marketing and advertising throughout the city. He has dedicated his life for this business and now he is the one managing all the orders and customers.
That apart, both my daughters and husband have also encouraged me to move ahead in my life and have had full faith on me.
What is so special about your ‘arisas’ that people like them so much?
The crunchiness and crispiness of our ‘arisas’ is the main reason why people love them. That apart, I have never compromised with the quality of raw materials I use to make the cakes. I personally check each and everything that is used at the time of preparation. Also, I give full attention to remove all the stones from the rice grains before making arisas, which is another factor why people like our preparation.
What other things do you cook well other than your famous ‘arisas’?
When Ekrama Haat near Ram Mandir started functioning in Bhubaneswar, I took a stall there and served different kinds of pithas including enduri, chittau, dhala manda, kakara and many more. I always had a passion for cooking. I have stayed in many places in India. I learnt to cook South Indian dishes while I was living in the South, North Indian dishes when I was in Delhi and all kinds of Bengali cuisines when I resided at Kolkata.
My husband enjoyed all my preparations and always encouraged me to try out new and innovative dishes. Also I have participated in many cooking competitions including those held by Rabindra Mandap and Amrutayana magazine and have also won some of them.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I used to do a lot of knitting during my young days. Since I have now become a grandmother, I have started knitting again for my grandchildren. I can make any design by just seeing it on the TV or any magazine. Also, I used to enjoy tailoring and stitching work.