‘Likla’, the brand name is associated with mineral water and other packaged products. It is one of the most popular local brands in the state. Imphal Free Press met the man behind the product, Thangjam Joykumar Singh, a successful entrepreneur, awardee and the managing director of the company for a short chat on his journey so far.
IFP: Could you mention a brief background of yourself ?
Joykumar: I was born to late Thangjam Birchandra and late Thangjam ongbi Maipakpi in a house at Sekmai. I was the 7th among ten siblings. My late father was a businessman, he traded in handlooms, fruits etc. and even went to Nagaland to conduct business. I did my schooling at Sekmai Neelpadma Higher Secondary School and finished my Pre-University Course (PUC) at DM College. I finished my Bachelor in Business Management from Mysore University and completed my masters in Economics from Bhopal University.
IFP: When did you start getting interested in doing business?
Joykumar: It was at a very early age, I was 16 then and studying for my metric exams. I decided then that that I would go into business, to start an industry was my only passion, I just didn’t know what to do then. We had a small grocery shop at Sekmai and I would help in selling the wares whenever I could and mainly after I came back from school.
I tried my hand in the readymade garment business first in the early 80’s after finishing my masters. I had decided in the flight back home that I would start business immediately. I started shop and it was located at Polo Ground and called Joy Junction shop. I also ran a saw mill and did some timber business afterwards.
IFP: How did you decide to start the food processing industry?
Joykumar: I saw Magfruit Industries and how they prepared the juice and bottling technique. I felt that I could do it too and Manipur has all the rich agri-potential to start and sustain an agro-based industry. Later,I started Thangjam Agro Industries back in 1991, my brothers helped me out in starting up the business. I started manufacturing soft drinks, candy and further diversified into making tomato sauce, jam etc. and sales went up really well.
IFP: How did you name your company Likla ?
Joykumar :As a matter of fact, naming things is not my strong suit. It was one late evening and I was chatting with my brother Dr. Nabachandra about naming the product. It was him only who suggested the name “Likla”, I guess it stuck. I started the mineral water packaging business then.
IFP : How is the new foray into the baking business doing ?
Joykumar : We had a small backery at Sekmai when I was a teenager. I also helped in making the bread and other items after learning it from migrant workers. I always wanted to open up a bakery and have a well modernized one now. I feel that the Likla bakery division is doing quite well. I have four divisions including the processed food division, 2 divisions of packaged water including the plastic bottle manufacturing unit and a bakery.
IFP: Which product would you say is the best seller ?
Joykumar: I would say my Likla juice, it has been one of my best sellers. The ready to serve (RTS) beverages including Nimbu Paani, Lichi flavor etc. are all doing well in the market. I have five flavours.
IFP: What problems have you faced in conducting your business?
Joykumar : I divide my problems into Internal and External. The Internal problems is within my capacity to solve and augment. The external ones are not within my ambit. I would say that electricity was a big problem as erratic power supply in the past was a main hurdle in maintaining the product line. The others are the bandhs , blockades and landslides. My materials which come from other states couldn’t arrive and I suffered a lot due to those external problems.
IFP : How many people do you employ ?
Joukumar : From 2010, my employment went up. I have 380 workers in the Industry and another 140 in distribution.
IFP: To whose hands are you leaving Likla ?
Joykumar : I have my son Jimmy and am presently showing him the ropes of the business. He did his graduation in the commerce stream and has finished his MBA. He is doing good and I know that Likla will progress more in his hands.
IFP: What message will you give to the unemployed educated youths?
Joykumar : We have virgin untapped resources, we need to tap it in a sustainable manner. I want the youths to come out and take the opportunity. There are many areas including medicinal plants and fruits processing etc. I have my limitations and a man can do only so much at present. There is a whole area of bio-resources which we can tap and market. I want the youths of the state to harness that potential.
Source: Imphal Free Press