CHENNAI: Life, as we know it, can sometimes be unpredictable, unfair and unfavourable. But for transgender couple L Preethisha and G Premkumaran, this isn’t new. For, the number of roadblocks the couple has tided over in their three years of marriage cannot be numbered. Yet, persevering through hardships, the duo always turned adversities into reflect ive moments to find opportunities.
Wheeling troubles away
If humanity has learned anything in 2020, it is that breakdowns precede breakthroughs. Like in the case of Preethisha and Premkumaran, who after years of dabbling multiple jobs, saving and borrowing money from well-wishers, set up their tea-cum-snack shop in March 2020, in Virugambakkam. Just when they were seeing light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic struck. With subsequent lockdowns, zero sales and no savings to spare, their dreams began crumbling, once again.
“It would’ve been a milestone for us had our idea worked. But we couldn’t pay the rent and electricity bill that came up to Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 a month. We had already incurred a loss of Rs 3,50,000 from the business. Those few months were a rocky patch filled with sleepless nights. Constantly worrying about our mounting debt took a toll on my health and I was bedridden,” shares a teary-eyed Preethisha. Unwilling to rest her resolve, she shifted the focus from the problem to finding a solution.
Starting July, she woke up at the crack of dawn, made two big cans of tea and filter coffee, and rode on her scooter to Koyambedu to set up her mobile tea shop. “I was making decent money and the idea received a good response from customers. That’s when it dawned on me that a mobile tea shop is a sustainable and affordable model.
I pitched the idea to Prem and a few people from the trans community. With their support, Prem and I shut our brick-and-mortar shop in September. We decided to give ourselves another chance. The rest is history,” beams Preethisha, who sold tea on her two-wheeler until the first week of January.
Copious cuppas of hope
With their enthusiasm and enterprising spirit back in form, the couple relaunched their business — a mobile tea store called Magizham on January 14, 2021. “The mobile set-up with machinery and interiors cost us Rs 6 lakh. All the important people in my life such as director Samuthrakani, IAS M Rajendran, screenwriter Lenin, silambam master Power Pandian Aasan, entrepreneur Swetha Sudhakar and master Jayarao graced the occasion,” says Preethisha.
The shop offers filter coffee and 15 varieties of tea, prepared in-house. Preethisha and her husband take turns to run the shop. “We started the shop near Ashok Pillar but right now we are parked opposite Koyambedu bus stand as the area attracts a better crowd. I’m still awaiting permissions from local authorities to sell inside the bus stand. We can run the shop peacefully only with their support and protection. The business is slowly picking up.
We sell 60-70 cups of tea and coffee. That hardly gives Rs 500 to Rs 600 a day. Only when we earn a loyal set of patrons will the earnings shoot up to Rs 2,000 a day,” shares Preethisha, who has registered with Milaap to raise Rs 2,00,000 to clear her debts. Preethisha is also a passionate theatre artiste and social activist, who uses art to spread awareness about the challenges faced by the community. Her latest web series called Vadham is currently streaming on MX Player.
Alongside, the actor is busy with theatre productions and a few film projects. “In my absence, Prem manages. I have also trained two trans women, who will be joining soon. The point of starting our venture is due to the absence of trans-inclusive workspaces and lack of equality. I do realise that being an entrepreneur from a minority community is not easy because the environment is not conducive to growth yet. But Prem and I feel that the number of failures we have battled in the past has put us on a path towards growth. We have a long road ahead. I hope I set an example for the others,” says a hopeful Preethisha.
Step up and help
To help, visit: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/supportpreethisha-premkumaran? Or call: 9952524400