Activist company

Kerala jackfruit lovers form a WhatsApp group, then a business | Economic news

When engineer-turned-activist Anil Jose started a WhatsApp group in 2019, he had no idea he was laying the foundation stone for a company. Jose, a biomedical engineer based at Palarivattom in Kochi, started the discussion group named “Chakkakkoottam” to bring together those who love jackfruit which was declared the official fruit of Kerala in 2018. Jackfruit is called “chakka” throughout the State.

The group was supposed to share information about the availability of jackfruit and hold small gatherings for members to enjoy its various specialties together. Four years after a series of fruitful discussions and sessions led by him, a thriving food business has sprouted from the group.

Six members of the group founded Chakkakkoottam International Private Ltd which produces and markets a variety of value added products from this fiber rich fruit. Although the WhatsApp group was an idea of ​​Jose, the company is the brainchild of R Ashok, a jackfruit-loving commercial photographer, who joined the collective later. Ashok then became a group director and then managing director of Chakkakkoottam International when the company was established in October 2021.

Ashok shared his dream of bringing a global brand out of the WhatsApp group in an interview he gave to a radio station in Qatar in 2021 as part of World Jackfruit Day which falls on July 4 every year. The interview sparked a buzz among the band members about the possibility of starting a business and it became a reality when six of them came forward.

The other founders are Vipin Kumar who has over 40 years of experience in the food business; Sabu Aravind and Manu Chandran who have been in marketing for over 16 years; and Bobin Joseph, who is an expert in manufacturing and customizing machinery for the food industry. Five of them live in and around the town of Ernakulam while Bobin Joseph is settled in Perumbavoor.

“I’ve been a huge jackfruit fan since I was a child and discovered the Chakkakkootam group through an article I read in Malayala Manorama. Then I joined the group and became active in it. We had l used to hold small gatherings which turned out to be something like jackfruit festivals. When Covid hit the world and lockdown started, more people joined. During the pandemic, we collected and served jackfruit to a lot of people. Now there are four groups led by us,” Ashok said Onmanorama on the origin of the company.

The group members include people from different parts of the world and from various walks of life. Many of them have previously been in agriculture and jackfruit-related businesses.

A booth of Chakkakkoottam International at HoReCa Expo held in Coimbatore. Photo: special arrangement

“We can find jackfruit, our main raw material, from the group. There are farmers, harvesters and vendors among us. If we order a certain amount of fruit, we will get it the next day. We harvest the fruits in bulk during the season and keep them in cold storage for the rest of the year. A variety called Vietnam Early yields twice a year and that helps us get more fruit,” Ashok said.

The company has set up a 5,000 square foot factory and storage facility on a leased property in Kadayirippu near Kolencherry. Products include popular Kerala Ripe Jackfruit Crisps, Green Jackfruit Flour, Jackfruit Halwa, Tender and Cold Jackfruit and Dry Jackfruit.

Tender and fresh jackfruit (idichakka) is a ready-to-cook product. The fries are air fried using only a small amount of cooking oil.

The products are sold in Lulu and Reliance malls and on electronic communication platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart and Diaguncart. The company does direct distribution in Ernakulam district and other parts of the state it has engaged distributors. Today, efforts are being made to find a way to access overseas markets while competing with some big players who have already realized the potential of the once overlooked big fruit.

The company showcased its products at the recently concluded Vyapar B2B meeting hosted by the Department of State Industries at the Kaloor International Stadium Ground. Its products were well received at the recent India HoReCa Expo held in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, the founders said.