From vendor to entrepreneur: Inspiring journey of Rita
Source: Chronicle News Service / Oinam Mission

Imphal, May 02 2022: The road to success is not a smooth path but once a person reaches that milestone while facing many odds, it becomes an inspiration for many.

Such is the journey of Nongthombam Rita, proprietor of 'Leimalen Foods', who has climbed the ladder of success after years of hardships and steely resolve.

In every locality, one can always see some women running small tea and snack vendors in order to support their families.

For some families, it is the only source of income and many of them end up doing the same thing for their entire lives.

Rita, a 45-year old entrepreneur, also used to live such life, running her family with a small tea and snack vendor opened near her gate.

Through her passion for producing delicious snacks and years of determination, she has now become a budding entrepreneur, who can easily inspire anybody.

Talking to The People's Chronicle in an exclusive interview, Rita recounted that she got married to Thounaojam Ibungobi, a farmer, of Top Makha Leikai, Imphal East district when she was only 19.They now have two sons.

Though they had enough food grains from their farm, they were facing hardships in trying to meet the financial requirement of their family and education of their sons.

In order to support her husband, she started running a tea and snack vendor near her house.

However, her husband got bedridden in 2007 following a BP stroke, after which all the responsibilities of her family fell upon her.

As her tea vendor could not meet her financial requirement, she came out in Khwairamband Keithel and started her vendor there.

In 2009, she participated in Chinjak Festival held at GM Hall with the help of her friends.

At that time, she was not sure if her participation could bring any changes in her small trade.

She sold 'Chengpak Singju' in the festival thinking that it could be a unique snack and she was able to draw substantial attention from food lovers.

The festival inspired her to participate in later editions of Chinjak Festival, Sangai Festival and other fairs.

One day, she came across Chak-hao Tal (bread) and it gave her the idea of making Chak-hao Gulla.

As a trial, she first sold Chak-hao Gulla in the 2014 edition of Chinjak Festival held at Pishum but she suffered loss.

However, she was honoured for her innovative idea of producing a new type of snack and it encouraged her further despite the loss she suffered.

In 2015, Rita got the opportunity of participating in a food processing training programme organised by the commerce and industries department and after completing the training, she started 'Leimalen Foods' on a small scale without any machineries.

She produced Gulla, Namkeen (Nimki) and Bhujia from Chak-hao rice and sold in Sangai Festivals where her Chak-hao Gulla gained exposure and popularity.

As she did not have any machinery, she used to supply her Chak-hao Gulla to Taret Foods and the latter marketed it as their brand.

In 2020, she hired canning machine from the state industries department and started selling under her own brand.

There was high demand of her product during Ningol Chakkouba festival.

She recruited 20 people and sold over 2000 cans of Gulla during the 2020 Ningol Chakkouba.

She also sold her products in fairs and exhibitions held in different states of the country.

Now, she has bought some used packaging machines and started production of other snacks such as 'Mixed Bhujia of Cassava (U Mangra) and Chak-hao', 'Chak-hao Bhujia', and 'Chak-hao Biscuit' apart from Chak-hao Gulla.

She is putting her best efforts to acquire more machines and expand her business in order to reach out to every nook and corner of the state as well as other parts of the country.

Except for some assistance from KVK Imphal East and industries department, she has not received any major assistance from the government.

She was selected for PMEGP loan in 2015 but banks refused to provide her loan till date, which is an unfortunate trend in the state.

Since then, Rita has given up the idea of applying for loan from any bank or any government scheme including the Manipur Start-Up scheme.

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