Graduating from Bhubaneswar’s Utkal University, Manasmita Patra started her career in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry early 2005. But, wanting to do something on her own, she co-founded a 3D printing and prototyping services company. While this provided her an opportunity to grow, she wanted to do more. “Coming from a very humble background, I experienced the vagaries and challenges of life. One of my biggest dreams was to create job opportunities for women from the lower socio-economic strata of society,” shares Manasmita.
That dream took the shape of FreshPhulka – an F&B venture that retails premium uncooked chapatis . “I started the venture in 2018 from my kitchen and with my cook as my first employee. My neighbour was my first client. We sold eight ready-to-cook chapatis,” she shares. Today, FreshPhulka retails thousands of phulkas, parathas and chapatis for both B2B and B2C clients. In FY 2019-20, the venture clocked a revenue of Rs 73 lakh. Manasmita says being one of the very few players in the organised ready-to-cook market was pivotal in driving growth. While there is competition from bigger brands in the B2C market in the segment, they have been able to penetrate the B2B market. “About 95 percent of our revenue comes from the B2B market. The rest comes from events, B2C clients and one-time orders.” In addition, the quality of the phulkas, and varieties they are able to serve have been key growth drivers.
While the venture grew steadily over the years, the pandemic brought a sharp decline in its business. “We are likely to clock about Rs 30 lakh in FY 2020,” she shares. The drop in the business also meant that FreshPhulka had to cut down on its team size. “We are now a nine-member team, scaling down from a 17-member full-time team a year ago.” Despite 2020 being a challenging year for the business, Manaspita says that they were able to contribute positively to the society. “We supplied more than 3 lakh phulkas through Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Iskcon as part of the COVID-19 relief efforts. We also donated more than 1 lakh phulkas as a part of our CSR programme with the support of donors from the community,” shares Manaspita.
Having steered the growth of FreshPhulka in a competitive market, Manaspita says she understands the demands of the consumers and industry better. The entrepreneur harbours a dream to go for bigger opportunities. “I want to introduce packaged branded parathas having the authentic Indian taste with a shelf life of six days to six months that will cater to both domestic retail markets as well international markets. I also want to cater to the entire product chain – from phulkas to pizza bases made of 100 % whole wheat. With a broader product and unique range that scores better in terms of taste, I believe that we can compete in the market even though there are bigger players.”
While access to finance continues to remain a key business challenge, Manasmita hopes that being a part of Xcelerator Bangalore will help her work more efficiently towards realising some of the action items on her vision board. “Building on the networking and collaboration opportunities, I look forward to connecting with financial institutions for grants, schemes and loans to take my business to my next level,” shares Manasmita.
In the last few years, FreshPhulka grew from making eight chapatis in a day to 27,000 . “The journey has been satisfying even with all the challenges that came along the way. From now, I am hoping the journey will be upwards and onwards,” she says while signing off.
Xcelerator Bangalore aims at accelerating the growth of women-owned, non-IT businesses in Bengaluru. It provides support to the women entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate and network with various stakeholders through a multitude of workshops, learning and mentoring sessions. This series highlights the work of 24 women entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first cohort of the Xcelerator Bangalore programme.