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Churning hot parottas, dosas for Indians abroad

Europe, especially France, has a large sub-continental population but at present most of India's ready-to eat exports to Europe are routed through Britain.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 22:17 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

The Pillais who live in London must have their Ceylon parotta on New Year's Eve and their days are incomplete without appam.

When the Cherians gather with their friends and family in New York for Christmas and New Year, they must have their plum cakes from Kerala.

Catering exclusively to the growing demand for such ready-to-eat Tamilian and Malayali foods in the US and Britain are small enterprises in India.

And the demand invariably goes up around festival time.

Chennai-based Orion India, with an annual turnover of $100,000, specialises in exporting not only the Ceylon parotta but also the Malabar parotta and the Kerala parotta - popular among the large expatriate Malayali community around the world.

"Ours is a labour intensive industry and our main clients are the large Sri Lankan Tamil populations settled in Britain and other European nations," says Orion chief M.G. Nair.

In the US, it is the large volume of IT-industry expatriates from southern India whose demand for "home-made food" has to be met.

Orion has an industrial kitchen in Kerala and exports ready-to-eat masala dosa among other things.

The idea, Nair says, is that an "Indian working and living abroad should be able to pick up Indian choices from corner stores, take a masala dosa home, unwrap and just put it in the micro-oven to warm, and eat it, like an American does with his burger."

He and other entrepreneurs in the industry use deep freeze technology to preserve these very Indian dosas with stuffing, parottas, utthapams, upmas that one can eat by just warming up in the oven.

The orders are shipped a month ahead of requirement dates so as to reach clients on time.

Thiyal, unniappam, neyappam, aloobonda, pongal, a variety of vadas and ready-to-eat sambar - all packed into nearly 25,000 packets, each weighing half a kilo - leave Indian shores every year for Los Angels, New York, London and places in the Middle East.

Kuwait, with a huge expatriate Indian population, is another market to which Indian ready-to-eat food companies have begun exporting.

"Australia too has a growing demand for typically southern Indian delicacies," says Nair, but at the moment the "Indian community in mainland Australia gets its ready-to-eat idlis from Malaysia and Singapore".

There is great scope, he says, to market ready to eat "ethnic foods". The market is even beginning to open up in India.

Europe, especially France, has a large sub-continental population but at present most of India's ready-to eat exports to Europe are routed through Britain. Direct export to European countries is not yet happening, Nair says.

Northern Indian foods and pickles are mostly prepared by Gujaratis in Britain, but southern Indian ready-to-eat meals are beginning to be bought from stores only now, says Nair whose company is about 15 years old.

There is also a great and growing demand for Indian vegetables like tiny sambar onions or bitter gourds, Nair says.

"The concept is to make rustling up an Indian meal easy, especially for the large Indian student community and working people abroad," Nair points out.

Orion also cleans, cuts into small pieces, freeze-processes and exports drumsticks, a tropical vegetable Indian housewives all over the world love to put into sambar.

Small Indian companies help provide employment to dozens of people in India to do the job for them on a regular basis. Orion has a staff of about 25.

First Published: Jan 03, 2004 00:00 IST