Today, the world’s focus is slowly but surely turning towards sustainable living and the important of organic produce and products. The impact of this worldwide concern has also reached the district of Chengelpet in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, where Jagadeesh Palraj is from. Born in Dindigul, another district of the same state, Jagadeesh was raised in Chengelpet amidst a lot of financial crises that his family faced.
It is here that Jagadeesh runs M/s Jaga Enterprises, a wholesale shop selling a variety of handmade soaps made from goat milk, sandal and other organic products. They also sell pure coconut oil.
Currently in his early thirties, Jagadeesh beat all the financial challenges that his family faced and cleared his engineering course. As an engineering graduate, he got hired by an IT farm. His family counted on his financial support to help get his sister married. After working a couple of jobs while taking care of his family, the horizon of his ambition expanded.
While working with a company that manufactured organic products, Jagadeesh was struck by inspiration. As he gained experience in various formulations that were needed to produce soaps, he cultivated the idea of his own venture, which would be completely eco-friendly and sustainable. The thought pushed him to dedicate all his efforts and undertake extensive research. Finally, he zeroed in on the idea of manufacturing products based on plant-based raw materials that would be biodegradable in nature.
In 2017, under the brand name of Varna, he initiated his venture. Though the knowledge he garnered in his job helped his business immensely, it wasn’t really a smooth ride. Till he approached BYST for support, his business was running on limited funds and resources. Jagadeesh always wanted to grow and expand his business and take it to the next level, but he lacked the capital for it.
While he desperately looked for funds, he came to know about BYST and their role in shaping the businesses of promising entrepreneurs. BYST spotted his passion and dedication towards his venture, and thus began Jagadeesh’s journey with BYST. He received counseling, training, financial support, mentoring as well monitoring of progress. With the support of the organization, Jagadeesh’s business proposal was developed and submitted to Indian Bank. In 2019, Jagadeesh successfully took out a business loan of Rs. 10 lakhs.
Over and above the financial back up he received through BYST’s intervention, what helped Jagadeesh a lot was the mentorship he received under the organization. As a first-generation entrepreneur, the handholding, support and training he received through sessions and all the workshops he attended, was what enabled him to achieve his goals effectively.
Through this journey, Jagadeesh was supported by his mentor, Mr.Victor Joseph, an expert in marketing and branding and in the field of Plastics. Mr. Victor guided Jagadeesh through the branding process of his products and helped him digitize his business. On Mr. Victor’s advice, Jagadeesh created a website for his business. This became immensely helpful during the Coronavirus pandemic situation as Jagadeesh ended up receiving a huge order of sanitizers from the government. This order was for Chennai and other places and was to be delivered within 30 days. It was the biggest order of his career, worth around 25 lakhs.
With the transportation restrictions in place during the pandemic, delivering this order in time became a huge hurdle. During this difficult juncture, his mentor helped him to obtain a license for his commercial vehicle. Not only that, Mr. Mahesh also mediated with the bank and resolved the issue when he ran in to a roadblock while trying to open a company account.
Today, with the help of a full-fledged working unit in the Chengelpet district of Tamil Nadu, Jagadeesh’s business is all set to take the next step in growth and expansion. He has also repaid his loan in full. With a focus on diversification, Jagadeesh now plans to increase his offerings to include sachets of detergent in both liquid and powder form. Quality control is extremely important to Jagadeesh. He has designated personnel for each process. New formulations of products are supported by extensive research by an R&D team.
Even though his eyes are set on an exciting future, Jagadeesh hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. To keep doing his bit, Jagadeesh not only employs local women and men, but also trains them, thus supporting their livelihood and building their capacities. Local women, in fact, form the majority of his work force. These women come from marginalized backgrounds and have no experience in the field. Jagadeesh trains them based on their skill-sets post-employment. His compassion towards his team and his focus on their care, makes him stand out as an amazing leader. To benefit the local economy, his business supplies to few organic stores in the same region.
Jagadeesh is also actively involved in the activities of BYST. He participates in the training webinars regularly. He has also been part of the experience-sharing sessions during IKEA discussions.
One of the biggest qualities an entrepreneur has, is to be constantly on the lookout to bring in innovation. Jagadeesh is always on the lookout for new ideas to incorporate into his business. He wants to grow and expand his horizons and is persistent about working hard towards that goal.
Jagadeesh’s business model includes an end-to-end sustainable process. Even the detergent water from the washed clothes can be used directly to water the plants, as all the raw materials used in his unit are plat-based and eco-friendly. He is also one of the few in the market who use castor oil as the product base. Most other organic players in the market use coconut oil for moisturization.
With a business based out of a rural area, the purchasing power of the customers from in and around his unit is much lower than people living in the city. To meet the needs of local customers, and to make his products accessible for all sections of the society, Jagadeesh introduced sachets priced as low as Rs. 5 and Rs. 10.
The vision Jagadeesh is going forward with, is that of innovation, sustainability, and inclusive growth – quite a relevant combination given the current times, and possibly the biggest strength of his business model.