When someone outside the State thinks of Kerala, one of the first images in mind will be that of the tender coconuts. Hence, when K C Sijoy, a native of Kanjani in Thrissur, thought of a business after returning from Saudi Arabia following a stint as a mould maker, the business of tender coconut came naturally.
It was 2002. Sijoy had spent two years in Saudi Arabia after he left his place after finishing a Tool and Die Making course at the Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF) in Thalassery. Back in Kerala, after a setback as an expat, he wanted to start a business. It ended at supplying tender coconuts which is a natural nutritious drink, after peeling its hardcover.
“However, then the majority of the street vendors of tender coconuts on push-carts were spending a lot of manual labour in peeling the coconut. Hence the looks (of the peeled ones) were not attractive. There were some machines that focused only on tender coconuts and unsuitable for mature ones with a hard exterior,” Sijoy told News18.com.
The peeling of tender coconut has at least ten advantages from the supply point of view. They are:
1. uniform shape to coconuts
2. attractive looks
3. easy to pack and can store more number of coconuts
4. reduces the cooling load in refrigeration with less electricity charges
5. easy to transport more numbers
6. easy to use as the consumer could break open the top using a sharp knife
7. waste disposal at the source, which will be a great relief.
8. waste can be a digestive cattle food
9. waste after consumption can be used as a compost
10.The waste can be used as fire blocks
Sijoy rented an old workshop near his home and rented heavy machinery, including welding machines from the local Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) to design the prototype.
Sijoy, in 2005, with his technical knowledge, came up with a mechanical coconut peeling device. It was crude, in a sense. However, the machine will help to peel the tender coconut in an attractive shape in less than 40 seconds.
He explained how his machine works. The machine, called Koocos Industries machine, is powered by a 750-watt motor. “It has a lever on one end to hold and release the coconut, along with a rotating device on the other end, to revolve the coconut. A sharp knife is placed under the coconut, which is operated by a pulley system that moves left to right. Another lever can bring down two more sharp knives to slice the edges. The machine is equipped with 100mm blades that remove the entire outer covering within 40 seconds which means at least 60 can be peeled in an hour. The peeled coconut is placed on a cutting board attached to the machine to remove to the top and bottom. The coconut is left in a cylindrical shape, with a flat top and bottom, which makes it safe for transportation and easy for stocking,” said Sijoy.
In 2015, with one prototype, Sijoy applied for a patent and got approval for the same in 2017. Under a registered business named Koocos Industries, he partnered with a few supermarkets to sell the peeled coconut at Rs 30 each. The coconuts were supplied from a local distributor.
“It worked smoothly as I was able to peel 40 to 50 coconut in one hour. But I stopped distribution in a few months to prepare the machine for commercial-level usage,” he said.
In February, Koocos Industries was selected as one of the top three startups under the Agri-preneurship Orientation Programme of the Kerala Agricultural University(KAU), under Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RAFTAAR), which enabled 42-year-old Sijoy to receive a Central government grant of Rs 25 lakhs for developing his innovation.
“Sijoy’s machine is hi-tech and equipped to peel coconuts of all sizes and age in a faster manner. The grant will serve as a support to materialise his idea to make a factory for making the peeling machine,” said K P Sudheer, Head of RAFTAAR Agri-Business Incubator, the Department of Agricultural Engineering at KAU.
With the central grant, Sijoy is ready ‘to break even the hardest shells’ in the market. “After making the modifications in the machine, I will distribute a few models across the Thrissur district. I will monitor the performance for one year and will make changes if necessary before the commercial model hits the market," he said.
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