The Vice President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu, who is in Vizag on a four-day visit, seems to have fallen in love with millet idlis made at the ‘Vasena Poli’ stall. This is run by a young agri-entrepreneur, Chittem Sudheer, in Visakhapatnam. Sharing his joy over his delicious breakfast experience, the Vice President took to Twitter and wrote “With a rich flavour and taste, such millet-based food offer a healthy and organic alternative to our diet”.
Such innovative efforts by our youth to go back to our traditional diet & lifestyle are commendable.
This little act by the Vice President has left the 28-year-old Sudheer elated. In a chat with Yo! Vizag, he shares “a few people had come in the morning to the stall to take breakfast for the Vice President. I didn’t know that Mr Naidu would talk, or tweet, about it. When I got to know of the tweet from the Vice President, my joy knew no bounds. I’m also glad that he liked it and wanted to talk about it to promote healthy and organic food consumption”.
For Sudheer, who is a graduate in MA Economics in Agriculture, this is another milestone in his endeavour to serve organic, healthy, and hygienic food. Sharing his journey, he says “I was introduced to millets in my native place; Guntur. I brought them home and asked my mother to cook for me. Little did I know that it was also the first time my mother was seeing millets in her life. I’ve known my mother as someone who cooks well and knows a lot about dishes and recipes. When I realised that even she hadn’t tried cooking millets, I endeavoured to work in this space.”
For the next three months, Sudheer cooked nothing but millet idlis, bought no other ingredients home but millets, talked and dreamt about nothing but millets, and eventually ate nothing but whatever experiments he had tried with millets during the day. “It went to an extent that my mother used to scold me – ‘you have done your masters and what is this, you spend all your time making idlis.’ In spite of repeated failures, I just knew that if I made a soft – healthy idli, it would sell”.
In about a quarter of a year, Sudheer was rolling soft – organic millet idlis and serving them in his unique and hygienic style in Guntur. His friend encouraged Sudheer to move to a bigger city to serve a bigger market. “In September 2018, I started with a stall in Vizag and named it ‘Vasena Poli’ – a Telugu native word for idli. By the time I used to wrap idli batter in a cone-shaped Vistaraku leaf, to keep it in a pot on the stove, I already had customers waiting. I welcomed this response and made a chart for wider adoption”.
In a very short span of time, Vasena Poli had a regular customer base. Sudheer had his own ways and it helped him succeed. “I personally believe that if you have a good offering, people will come. Not only will they come but also spread the word and invite a few others also.”
Talking about the uniqueness of Vasena Poli’s millet idlis, Sudheer says “we have defied all the practices that are followed to make idlis in Vizag. Firstly, I don’t use my hands to pour idli batter, I use a ladle. Then I use a Vistaraku leaf to steam the idlis. I chose to serve on this leaf because it is anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and contains antioxidants. These leaves hold great health benefits and due to this reason, even the Annavaram Temple serves prasadam on these leaves. Even after the idlis are ready, I don’t use a hot-box to store them. In fact, we don’t have a hot-box at all in the stall. Even after the idlis are made, the idlis continue to be on the light flame until they are served. With this process, the customer or the person who is going to have it is the first person to come in contact with the idli”.
Today, without any active marketing, and through word of mouth, Vizag’s health-conscious people have been drawn to the stall. One thing led to another and today, Vasena Poli is no longer a small portable stall, but a permanent millet stall near the Government Bungalow in Vizag.
Chittem Sudheer is happy with how far he has come and hopes to serve more areas of the city in the coming years. Signing off on a welcoming note Sudheer says “for the past three years I have only made millet idlis in Vizag, now I have started making millet dosas too. Next time you are in this area, come over to the Vasena Poli stall and let me know how it tastes”.
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