By M. Rajini

Small drops make an ocean. This is indeed true for Thelma Isaac, MD of Nazreth Foods Pvt. Ltd., who started filling tiny bottles with drops of Liquid Blue, assisting her husband in his small business venture. Their business is now an ocean, a brand popular in India and abroad – Aachi masala, which boasts of more than 300 products in masalas and ready-to-cook food items. She is a persevering woman who unrelentingly supported her husband through stormy times. In her chat with Adyar Timesshe spoke of the trials they faced and the pride they take now, in the fact that 40% of their employees are women.

Do you hail from a business family?

No, we are agriculturists. My husband was an employee of Godrej till 1988, when one day he shocked me by telling that he has resigned his job.For a start we decided to supply Liquid Blue (Twinkle) in small sachets. We struck upon our own formula after several trials. Sometimes there would be mounds of unsold sachets. It would be a devastating sight but we moved on to make changes in the formula and continue. But we had to think of an alternative business; rainy days and school vacation days brought a lull in business.

That’s when you hit upon masalas, is it?

Yes, Aachi masala made its foray in the market in 1995.My husband observed that masalas were available only in large packs. There was Sakthi and Lalah’s doing good business then. He wanted to introduce small 1Re packets which will attract anyone to buy a sample. I promised to come out with a good combination of spices to make thick gravies – the Kuzhambupodi. We are great cooks in our family, so it was easy to arrive at an aromatic combination. Packing and marketing was my husband’s forte.

Marketing would have been tough?

Exactly. He even stood at market places and sold directly to the public. All our belongings were at stake and we were desperate. I even started a chit fund scheme to mobilise funds for our working capital. I literally brought up my children at the work place amidst blues and reds (chilli). (Laughs). All our efforts paid off and our brand got recognition. Later, actress Devayani’s TV ad about making 8 Kuzhambuwith this masala made a huge impact and we had arrived.

How did you shift to ready-to-cook recipes?

He was always of the opinion that women had so much talent but they are tied up at the kitchen. This led to our instant rice-mix, gulab jamun, dosas, kesari, idli podi etc. Our rava dosas are so easy to prepare and our kesari mix is the best. These products posed a big challenge to me. Before launching a product, we sit around to taste it, compare it with other brands, spot the negatives, and rework on it till it is perfect. We do not use preservatives or artificial colours. We have the best R&D lab.

You mean research and development?

We have a team which works on developing new products. We are planning to launch ready to eat biryani packets. It involves preparing a lot of batches and checking them for safety standards every month. It takes even a year to zero-in on a product.

How do you maintain the quality?

Quality control is our strength. We purchase chilli and coriander during season and cold storage them. My sons do the purchasing personally. The quality team again samples at least one sack of chilli in every truck before stocking. We procure the spices directly from the farmers. I always use the masalas from retail outlets to check for colour, aroma etc.

A word to budding women entrepreneurs…….

Do only what you can. Don’t try anything which is beyond your comprehension. Venture into any business only if you know the technicality and logistics involved. Family must always be your priority. Be prepared to work hard and face challenges. Thelma Isaac can be contacted at 89398 85735 or