Idli boy steals the show

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Idli boy steals the show
– Entrepreneur holds aspiring managers in thrall
from The Telegraph, Culcutta

Jamshedpur, Nov. 18: A packed Tata auditorium listened with rapt attention to Sarathababu Elumalai, who was here to share his rags-to-riches story during the XLRI annual Homecoming ceremony.

The youth from Chennai, an IIM graduate who refused a brilliant job to start a catering service, said: “I was born in a family of five children in Chennai and my mother worked with the government’s mid-day meal schemes. The money was not sufficient to sustain the large family, so she set up a small idli shop near our home in one of the slum areas of Chennai.”

The founder of FoodKing Catering Services, which today serves home-made hygienic food to offices in Ahmedabad and Goa, recalled how in Class IX his teachers had to persuade him hard not to quit studies.

From selling idlis on the pavements of Chennai to binding books for students, Elumalai had done it all till he reached BITS, Pilani. “I had never heard of the institution as we never got such an exposure. Someone told me that if I study there I will get a job,” he said.

After the engineering degree and a three years’ stint in the corporate world, Elumalai moved to IIM (A).

“The kind of salary and position an IIM graduate is offered is very difficult to turn down. But if I had not taken such a decision, I would have never been able to start my business,” he said.

The business, which started with a mere Rs 5,000 and a small kiosk at Ahmedabad, has today spread to over six branches employing over 175 people whose only job is to supply nutritious home-made food to corporates.

“It was an idea that I chanced upon during my internship at Pilani when I learnt that 30 per cent of the country’s population go to bed without food,” he said.

“More than working for somebody I wanted to give jobs to people like me, who did not have other means of livelihood.”

Soon his company would venture into other cities and provide employment to at least 15, 000 people.

And while Sarathababu surprised everybody with his stories, XLRI today too put its first step in the same direction. After almost three years of negotiations, the much talked about Social Entrepreneurship Trust (SET) was formed today.

Aimed at funding and supporting innovative social entrepreneurship ideas, the trust which is the first of its kind would also work for different tribal upliftment projects in Jharkhand and would provide scholarships to tribal youths for further studies.

While B.L. Raina, managing director, Tinplate is the founder trustee and chairman of the trust, XLRI director, N Caisimir Raj will be the director of the trust. In total the trust would have about seven corporate heads as trustees from, across the country including a few XLRI faculty members.

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