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Man who minted money with sattu

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SHUCHISMITA CHAKRABORTY   |   Published 02.08.11, 12:00 AM

Patna, Aug. 1: From “Sariwala” to “Sattu King”, Lalit alias Ramesh Kumar Agrawal has come a long way.

The 53-year-old entrepreneur, with a business worth Rs 8-10 crore today, started as a salesman who would travel 20-25km with a load of inexpensive saris on his bicycle.

He was a smart salesman then, winning customers with his honest and impressive communication skills; he is a master salesman today, turning grocery items into gold.

Agrawal has not only given sattu (gram flour) a brand name — Swastik Sattu — but also taken it to places outside Bihar. Swastik Sattu is reaching homes in Jharkhand and as well as in Bangalore, where it was launched this year only.

Agrawal’s success story is inspirational in many ways. As an 18-year-old, he used to accompany his father, late Parmeshwar Agrawal, who sold saris on bicycle. The father-son duo travelled 22-25km at one go to sell Surat saris, which started from Rs 50 and went up to Rs 100. They travelled to neighbouring Rajauli and Pakribarawan areas and returned home to Warsaliganj in Nawada only after two to three days of toil. Agrawal was popular among his regular customers as Sariwala.

“We were four brothers and one sister. Being the eldest one, I had to share the responsibilities of my father. But even then I continued with my studies. I wanted to alleviate the burden on my father who was working hard to earn bread and butter for his family,said Agrawal.

He started selling saris soon after finishing school, and took it up again after finishing college. In between, he took a break to attend Nalanda College at Biharsharif and graduated with distinction in philosophy honours.

Hard work always ends up in good results and the same happened with the father-son duo. “In 1982, when I visited Patna on business purpose, I tried a sattu drink at a roadside stall and realised it had an awful taste. The quality of sattu was very poor and that was the time I got the idea to set up a sattu plant in Patna that would supply quality products at reasonable price,” said Agrawal.

But success did not come that easy to Agrawal. “We set up a small plant at Didarganj (20-cottah land was taken on 25-year lease) in 1985 with the help of a Rs 45,000 loan from State Bank of India, Hajiganj branch. The plant produced five quintal sattu a day. Initially, we had no workers at the plant. Altogether we were 10 people, including my father, uncle and me, who did every thing from cleaning and drying the grams to grinding them. We gave the finished product the brand name ‘Swastik Sattu’. Our biggest challenge was persuading the shopkeepers to buy our sattu. I was turned away, abused and shouted at by shopkeepers many times. Some people spread the rumour that Swastik Sattu was of the worst quality. This made things all the more difficult for us,” said Agrawal .

“First success came our way after Dashmesh Kirana near Veena cinema (which is still present in the same are) bought some packets of sattu. The shopkeeper agreed after I pleaded to the shopkeeper, a sardarji, for over a month to try our product for over one month,” said Agarwal.

“Gradually, I convinced some more shopkeepers like Patna Kirana on Station Road, Kirana’s on Frazer Road (which is closed now) and Lal and Sons on Frazer Road. Today, the plant has grown in size and production. Many families, including mine, are dependent on this business for their livelihood,” said Agrawal. Today, Swastik Sattu sells suji, besan, dalia, maida and also Swastik Gold Tea. The brand has become a household name in Bihar and Jharkhand and is gradually gaining popularity in other states too.

Agrawal has won two awards for his innovative business idea — National Quality Excellence Award and another quality excellence award by R.S. Gavai, former governor.

At present, Agrawal is running the company with his uncle Vinod Agrawal.

Agrawal’s acumen is inspirational for many. With his far-sightedness, he turned sattu, the “poor man’s staple diet” in Bihar, into a flourishing business worth over a crore within a span of 25 years.

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