November 12, 2015
Coimbatore and entrepreneurship are synonymous. It has seen a variety of entrepreneurs – children who have followed the footsteps of their elders and have taken over their family business, friends who have joined to start a business, or life partners who have also become business partners. But A. Manikam, though an entrepreneur, does not fall into any of these categories.
Because, to begin with, he did not even have a home. Orphaned at the age of three, Manikam eventually made Don Bosco Anbu Illam in Coimbatore his home. Today he is the founder and owner of Sri Lakshmi Jute Bags.
This 34-year old entrepreneur is originally from Tirupattur. “My older sister was taken care of by one of my uncles and my younger brother and I worked in a cigarette manufacturing unit. I developed tuberculosis and was unable to meet my medical expenses. The company where I worked shifted both of us to Don Bosco Anbu Illam in Ukkadam,” Manikam recalls. The year was 1999 and this probably was the turning point in his life.
Don Bosco Anbu Illam home sponsored Manikam’s treatment and once he was fit and fine, the home taught him to make products from jute. He continued to remain an inmate of this home. As someone who had no exposure to the world apart from the cigarette manufacturing unit where he worked, the sight and sounds of machines fascinated Manikam.
“I was so happy and excited to see the machines. I observed how they worked. I learnt how to make various products from jute at this home’s in-house unit. I made up my mind to become someone,” Manikam says.
From 2001 to 2003 Manikam made products from jute that was sold by Don Bosco Anbu Illam. The home had opened a bank account in his name where it deposited his earnings for the work he put in every month. In 2003, he had to his credit a savings of Rs. 40,000.
By the end of 2003, savings turned into a business investment for Manikam and it was with this Rs. 40,000 that he purchased three machines and set up Sri Lakshmi Jute Bags in Ukkadam.
“With the blessings and good wishes of the Father of this home, I started my business. My younger brother is with me and he lends a helping hand in my business,” Manikam says. In 2006, the manual machines were replaced with fully automated machines and today his unit has four power machines that are used to manufacture products from jute.
It has been 12 years since Manikam started his business. Today, he manufactures a wide range of products from jute, for retail and wholesale. He makes and sells visiting card holders, file holders, wallets and purses, handbags, etc. His products are sold in many retail stores across Tamil Nadu. His eco-friendly products have a few takers in Kerala as well.
Manikam, even today, takes pride in introducing himself as a product of Don Bosco Anbu Illam. If not for the home he says he probably would have even lost his life battling tuberculosis several years ago. He married Nandani in 2010 and they have a four-year-old daughter.