What change can one person bring? Correction: What change can one woman bring? Hamsini is one such woman who can and did bring change and made a difference, a difference that few stalwarts in the coffee world would be able to emulate.
Married into a coffee planter’s family, Hamsini had a background in financial management. She had earlier worked in a stock-broking firm, managing investments and building portfolios; planning for the long term.
She put this talent to good use when she became a homemaker, living on the plantation for 4 years. As early as 1998, while the menfolk would be busy with planting, harvesting and selling the coffee to coffee brokers, she put her data management skills to use in an unusual direction. She started collecting data on the various fields, mapping their yield, analysing their short-term as well as long-term performance, and predicting where the best yield was likely to be. However, despite her efforts and predictions, all the coffee from the various plantations was still being sold to brokers and traders.
Hamsini’s dream was to bring their carefully nurtured coffee out of the oblivion and anonymity of bulk-traded coffee and give it an identity of its own. A few years ago, with encouragement from Mrs Sunalini Menon, she stepped into uncharted territory. No one in the extended family had ventured beyond established trading relationships. Hamsini travelled to Australia and built a partnership with “Five Senses”. After the visit, she was even more determined and convinced that she would succeed in marketing and branding the coffee. Once again, she relied on her computer and data management skills, but this time she extended the analysis to taste profiles. It also meant doing things differently on the ground, and processing various blocks differently.
The possibility that Hamsini saw resulted in the emergence of four different brands of coffee. Today, their coffee is sold in Australia, Korea and Germany under the brand names Veer Attikan, Mountain Trishul, Mountain Ganga and Mountain Vana. Today, Indian coffees have gained recognition in the world market, but this has happened only because women like Hamsini have been bold enough to make a change. A big step for her as an individual and a shift in mindset for her family resulted in recognition and pride on a world platform.
Today, she has buyers knocking on her door, booking the coffee months in advance. Some return with less than they had hoped for. With the additional revenue, Hamsini can plan to set up a roasting and blending unit. But it is education for the girl children on the farms that tugs at her heart. She sees their happy little faces, content with living in isolation, happy to let their brothers go to school while they stay at home and do the housework, the way it has always been. This has to change, thinks Hamsini. And knowing Hamsini, I am sure it will!