MAPUSA: Vilma Fernandes, the dynamic owner of Mapusa-based Savi Fun Foods based in Mapusa, exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship, resilience, and a vision for national recognition. Vilma's journey, spanning two decades, reflects a story of determination, overcoming challenges, and aspiring to position her company as a force
to reckon with in the national market.
Around 15 to 20 years ago, Vilma and her husband Savio found themselves at a crossroads, facing financial hardships. They were seeking a source of income that would not only sustain them but also allow them to rise above societal expectations. Despite limited resources, lack of external support, and no established business background, the couple forayed into a franchisee venture for a kulfi brand, guided by an agent who ended up duping them. “We had no business acumen and were taken for a ride by the franchisee agent. Our investment of around Rs seven lakhs, arranged in desperate times, resulted in a loss as the business idea failed,” Vilma recalls.
Undeterred, Vilma and Savio shifted their focus to curd production, and the tide began to turn. In the initial phase, Vilma, essentially a one-woman show, handled production, distribution, publicity, and all aspects of the business. The profits were meagre, and the lack of funds to pay salaries limited the hiring of additional staff.
However, they were determined to push forwards and as time progressed, Savi Fun Foods became a household name, competing with established players in the market. Specialising in frozen dairy products like curd and lassi, her brand focused on providing healthy and high-quality foods to customers. With profits soaring, the couple were able to hire ten employees and even invested in new machinery.
However, when the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed, production was hit, prompting the Fernandes couple to reevaluate their path.
The lockdown dealt them a blow, leading them to realise that they had deviated from their primary goal—building their brand. Recognising the need for a strategic shift, they rebranded their curd as ‘Kelan Joshi’, a move that required courage and risk, considering Nutripik, their initial brand, had been in the market for 13 years.
While navigating challenges post-lockdown, including faulty machinery and a business crash, Vilma and Savio chose not to succumb to setbacks. “First it was the unscrupulous franchisee agent, and now the faulty machinery – we were devastated as we had spent so m uch time, effort and money. We could not look back, it was perform or perish,” says Vilma. Despite facing issues with machinery technicians, they decided to work manually, determined to uphold the quality and integrity of their products. The decision to fortify their products with vitamins and maintain a focus on health paid off, gradually gaining the trust of consumers.
With a renewed sense of purpose, Savi Fun Foods has reported a significant increase in sales in the last three months. The products are now available in major towns of Goa and most parts of Bardez. Vilma, undeterred by the financial setbacks, plans to invest in modernised machinery to process 1,000 litres of milk daily, a substantial increase from the current 200 litres they process manually.
While lamenting about the red-tape and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in seeking support from government agencies or banks, Vilma remains committed to the idea of establishing a national presence for her Goan brand. She emphasises
the importance of tapping into local Goan dairy farmers and forming a collaborative team to meet their national aspirations.