Dreaming big is easy, but working to realise the dream is not as this man knows all too well. Rising from humble beginnings as the son of a daily wage worker in a remote village in Wayanad, Kerala, P.C. Musthafa started iD Fresh Food from a small kitchen in Thippasandra. Today iD Fresh Food has become a household name in just 13 years. As its CEO, he is lauded and recognised the world over for making a global success of packaging your every day idli, dosa batter. Invited recently by the United Nations to share his story, he reveals what it took to make this family run business a global success in an interview with
Ralph Alex Arakal
When a group of cousins got together in a 50 sq. ft kitchen in Thippasandra in the city with only a dream in their hearts, little did they know that their little home- grown enterprise would one day span 24 cities across India and the UAE.
P.C. Musthafa and his cousins, Abdul Nazar, Jafar T.K., Shamsudeen T.K. and Noushad T.A, who ran a kirana store in the locality , were quick to realise that a growing demand existed for idli and dosa batter and capitalisng on it began iD Fresh Food , which today is a household name, growing from its humble beginnings in 2005.
Now co-founder and CEO of iD Fresh Food (India) Pvt. Ltd, Mr Musthafa, fondly referred to as PC, recalls that rubber band-held plastic pouches of the batter were popular even then but complaints were common, with cockroaches finding their way into them.
The cousins decided they could do better and pooled Rs. 50,000 to make their dream a reality. “A scooty, a grinder, a mixer and some limited equipment were all that we had as we tried to reach a goal of selling 100 packets each day to different localities in the city. Once we achieved this, it was clear the business would take off and that’s when we began to scale it up,” says Mr Musthafa.
Bringing in more professionals into the team and hiring some German experts to design a heavy duty grinder capable of handling upto 1,500 kgs of dal and rice in the right quantities were other leaps for the firm, which hasn’t looked back since.
Sustaining a good rapport with a network of small grocery stores in the city, many of which are owned by Malayalis, added to the company’s initial growth. And it now claims to be the first in the country to promote authentic Indian foods that are 100 per cent natural and preservative-free.
“Determination is the key,” says Mr Musthafa. “Overcoming fears has been a part of my life pursuit and back then I started practicing with expert inputs on how to engage an audience and luckily this has helped me over time,” he adds. Ever humble, he gives credit for his success to a friend, who applied on his behalf for a computer science engineering course at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, a move, which proved to be a game-ch anger in his life as it gave him his first job in Motorola, Bengaluru.
But education was not always his priority. Brought up in a remote village in Wayanad, Kerala, where his father was a daily wage worker, he dropped out of school in class 6, but decided to resume his education, a move which helped him build a better future not only for himself but those around him.
The story behind what made him pick a course at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) is also a fascinating one. Mr Musthafa was on a visit to the Bannerghatta National Park with his family in 2003 when the picturesque campus of the IIM-B caught his eye. “I wanted to get into the campus, but had no contacts inside and was shy to ask the security personnel for permission. I realised there was one way in , get admission and so I prepared for two hours every day over two years and finally made it inside,” he smiles.
If he is proud of his association with the IIM-B, it is proud of him too. Earlier this year he became the youngest winner of the IIM-B Distinguished Alumni award. But this is only among the many prestigious awards that have come his way for his enterprise in making the idli and dosa batter popular globally. They include the Forbes Tycoons of Tomorrow, India Today Make in India Award, JCI National Award, Vocational Excellence Award and Entrepreneur India Award. He is also part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Champions of Change’ team which has been given the task of suggesting ways to build a new India by 2022. Adding to the feathers in his cap, he was recently invited by the United Nations to share his ‘idli and dosa’ story
Not one to sit on his laurels, however, the 45-year-old entrepreneur on Thursday launched a new initiative in the city, a storytelling app for parents named iD Family Time. “Whether it’s the food we eat or the stories our children grow up listening to, we want them to be 100 per cent natural and Indian. We are delighted to serve as a facilitator in the renewal of the art of storytelling. Our dream is to bring back the traditions and values of stories told by our grandmothers and keep our children away from overuse of digital gadgets,” he explains.
Over the last 13 years, the company has also launched other novel initiatives such as Meet Your Neighbour, Trust shop, Khaana Khaaya, and a month-long Independence Day celebrations, as part of its constant endeavour to be a catalyst in creating a harmonious and happy Indian society.
Mr Musthafa wraps up with the following advice to budding entrepreneurs : “Common sense, ethics, attention to quality and innovation are the doors to success for any individual beginning any business. Never wait for tomorrow and begin what you want to do today. Making mistakes is the best way to strive for excellence in whatever you do.”