Lalita Khaire: A homemaker turned entrepreneur who scaled a small idea into a multi-crore business

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In recent times, many Indian homemakers have broken the age-old notion of staying behind the four walls, found their calling, and turned into entrepreneurs, putting their best foot forward in the market. In a country where women are still looking for avenues to launch their careers and opportunities to grow, Lalita Khaire, a resident of Pune, has created a name for herself in a short span of time.

Konkanraj, a drink made out of Kokum
Konkanraj, a drink made out of Kokum

When Lalita Sanjay Khaire decided to start her own business making kokum sharbat nearly two decades ago, she had no idea what she was getting into. But today, she is hailed as “the queen of kokum,” while her company, “Kokanraj,” makes more than Rs 2.5 crore a year.

Here’s looking at her journey

Lalita began her venture in 1992, just two years after her marriage. Her only option at the time was to start her own business, as she had no desire to work at a regular job. She ventured into oyster mushroom farming to kickstart her career, but it incurred huge losses. Moreover, they needed a Farmers Producer Organisation (FPO) license to do mushroom farming, which wasn’t an easy task. The couple had to eventually sell their house and had no choice but to move into a rented place.

Lalita had a difficult time persuading her service-oriented family members. It was only her husband, Sanjay Khaire, who stood like a rock and supported her. Together, they started a small business, producing tomato ketchup.
In the year 1995, the couple decided to calculate their risks and ventured into making kokum sharbat. They named their business “Kokanraj” after the sharbat they created. The company’s expansion took four years as it was conceived after Khaire had to liquidate all of the assets. Soon Lalita became pregnant and gave birth to her second child, and the business was shut down for a few months.

According to Khaire, they sold 500 kilogrammes of sharbat in their first year of business. However, all of the stock was taken, leaving them with nothing. The couple returned to work in the second year, and compared to the last time, they sold for about Rs 20,000 more. The company’s third year ended at break even.

Sanjay Khaire and Lalita Khaire
Sanjay Khaire and Lalita Khaire
The smooth sail after hitting rock bottom

Today, the company produces nearly 12 tonnes of kokum sharbat daily, all made in-house by the company’s 40-strong female workforce. These women work for only three to four months out of the year and produce stock that would last for a year. This allows them to look after their families and spend time with them during major holidays and festivals.

We start in February and close that part of the business by the first of May.” We’re now thinking about using the space for something else all year, perhaps kothambir Vadi and aloo vadi.”

Lalita Khaire

Over the years, the couple has built a large network of distributors across the country. These distributors buy the sharbat in bulk and pack and sell it in the market. Big Basket, Reliance Fresh, D-Mart, Big Bazaar, Dorabjee’s, and Star Bazaar are among their distributors.

What are the benefits of consuming Kokum juice?

Kokum has multiple advantages, including providing immediate relief to those suffering from acidity and digestive issues. It is also high in nutrients and minerals such as Vitamin C, B3, A, iron, calcium, folic acid, and acetic acid. Not only is kokum plant juice refreshing and delicious to drink, but it also has numerous health and nutritional benefits.

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