CHENNAI: The boiler whistles at 5 am sharp. The heady aroma of filter coffee draws walkers and joggers at the neighbouring Tower Park into Srivari Sweets opposite Ayyappan temple in Anna Nagar. After all, they have built their appetite for this morning cuppa to be downed with vada and sambar.
Srivari Sweets is a 15-year-old homegrown brand. V Thirumavalavan, owner of the shop, welcomes us into their godown in SIDCO Nagar, seats us comfortably and offers us a plate of ribbon pakoda from a freshly prepared batch, before he begins narrating the journey of his venture. “I hail from Kurumbalur village near Tiruchy. I moved to Chennai in 2003. I come from an agricultural family, but I wanted to try my luck in the food industry. We began with simple homemade snacks prepared by my mother and wife with an assistant in our kitchen. The menu had basic snack varieties like poli, kozhukattai, murukku, laddoo, adhirasam, and pakoda. Srivari Sweets started out as a small 70-sq-ft store at Mahakali Amman Temple Street in Anna Nagar. A day’s sale used to fetch us `500. It gradually increased to `1,000 and `1,500 in a span of a few months and gained popularity through word of mouth,” he says.
Thirumavalavan opened another shop at Shanti Colony in 2005 and one opposite Ayyappan temple in 2008. “I have 70 people working under me. This includes employees at godown and those attending to customers at the shop. I ensure my presence is felt by customers and always lend my ears to their feedback. I can identify the regular customers by name. I’m grateful to patrons who’ve been coming to us regularly. We also have three generations of customers from the same family,” he says, as he walks us around the two-storied godown where the day’s stock is being prepared and shipped to shops in containers.
Spices and snacks
All the packaged products are stacked on shelves for delivery on the ground floor. As we move towards the other floors, we’re enveloped by the aroma of freshly ground powders — idli podi, chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powders. On the other end, dosa and idli batter is getting prepared. The sweets are made on the first floor. A man kneads the dough, rolls them into perfect balls with ample portions of ghee and arranges them on a plate. The assorted mix of laddoos made of millets, ragi, wheat, rava, and maida is a treat to watch. Simultaneously, another employee flips the jangiris gently. It’s doused in the sugar syrup for a few minutes. “My wife Pushpa takes care of the menu. Our badusha and chandrakala are customers’ favourite picks. We also courier savouries and sweets in bulk to patrons abroad. Sales peak during the festive season,” he says.
Drooling over the variety of sweets, we move to the section where spicy vadas and savouries are being made. A group of ladies meticulously peel the skin of vegetables, chop them to even slices, flip them in the masala batter and toss them in oil. Crispy vazhaipoo vadas are ready to be devoured.
“Anna Nagar has a cosmopolitan crowd. While there are many shops that sell north Indian sweets, we wanted to keep it traditional. We cannot afford to compromise on quality in this competitive market. I’m particular about having limited standalone stores to monitor daily progress. Our next outlet will be in Mogappair,” he says.
The shop opposite Ayyappan temple has a new chat counter. “I’m not sure if the next generation will enjoy these snacks. It’s high time we stay updated to find their likes. We’re constantly improvising our menu with new items. Having said that, this generation is going back to the roots. Our patrons come to us for the originality and consistency in taste,” he says.
The store is located near Anna Nagar Tower Park, opposite Ayyappan temple.