At the age of 18, when I saw my baby niece for the first time I would curiously look at how she would smile with her eyes, cry her heart out when hungry and cackle when the first drop of water fell on her body while bathing. I would even take note of the products that went on her and that’s when I heard about ventha velichenna (virgin coconut oil), carefully prepared by my mother and rubbed on her whole body before a bath.
Unlike normal coconut oil, there is a long process to make even a small portion of ventha velichenna. Nevertheless, a mother and daughter from Malappuram, Kerala, decided to sell the mixture made with traditional methods under the brand Purvina in 2020. They claim to sell cent per cent natural products.
Jaya and Parvathy Avanoor co-founded Purvina for many reasons. Jaya and her husband had many businesses like pharmaceuticals and machine manufacturing. However, the COVID-19-induced lockdown halted most of their work which resulted in plenty of free time for Jaya. Parvathy, on the other hand, was working as a digital marketer but was looking for a break.
Both of them felt this was the right time to get into something interesting.
Why ventha velichenna?
The Avanoor family has a good amount of farmland, maintaining which has been a struggle due to high labour costs and lack of time. They grow turmeric, pepper, paddy and more. Jaya would distribute the spices among family and friends. Grown organically, they were of great quality and some of them even started asking Jaya if she could turn this into a business.
But the idea of virgin coconut oil didn’t appear until much later. “My late grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease and an Ayurveda doctor suggested giving him traditionally prepared ventha velichenna twice a day to reduce its intensity. It worked and since the disease is hereditary, me and my father too started consuming 15 ml of oil every day. While amma (mother) was all set to start a business with organically grown spices, we thought of adding ventha velichenna too to the list,” says 32-year-old MBA graduate Parvathy.
The duo employed staff from their other production units on a part-time basis and began the preparation. “The process is not easy at all. Only 10 litres of oil can be extracted from almost 250 coconuts,” shares Parvathy. “But we never compromised on the process. A huge traditional uruli is a must-have for the process. The major tasks include cutting coconut, shredding it, turning it into milk and boiling it.”
Purvina’s manufacturing unit is located in Anamangad, Malappuram, near their house. While Jaya carries out all duties related to production, Parvathy markets, white labels and carries out online sales. “Around 90 per cent of our workforce are women. But there are some tasks which they can’t perform. The hot oil in the heavy uruli is to be moved to another container for which we have installed a small machine. There are some men in the team to help in this and other similar laborious tasks,” explains 56-year-old Jaya.
The coconut needed for the oil is collected from their own farm and from the farmers of their locality. “Coconuts are collected from our farm and the rest are sourced from others. We make sure that all of them follow organic growing methods before the purchase,” she adds.
The oil, which is a best seller on Amazon, has a shelf-life of one year. “Absolutely love the products of Purvina. You will immediately notice its purity and authenticity. Definitely would recommend everyone to try them out once. You will never want to buy from another brand again,” wrote Rupambika Khandai on Amazon.
The brand sells about 250 litres of oil per month.
When opened, the oil lasts for three months and is priced at Rs 445 for 250 ml. “The product is 100 per cent edible and I’ve been giving this to my baby since the eighth day of her birth. It is an excellent non-greasy moisturiser, makeup remover, and wrinkle preventer and can even be used as a salad dressing. You can have it raw to avoid digestion issues and ulcers,” Parvathy claims.
Other than the hot processed oil, which also comes as baby oil and generic oil for all purposes, Purvina sells turmeric powder, tamarind paste, black peppercorns and banana porridge mix. “Next up is edible nipple crack oil, which is developed from my own experience as a mother of a one-year-old,” says Parvathy.
Regarding sales, the co-founder says that the products are not widely available in retail shops due to the lack of distributors. But they are present on all major e-commerce platforms and are also sold as products of companies like BabyCare and BabyButtons. “People may find the products overpriced but it’s not. This becomes expensive as it undergoes several processes. Our margins are low and we haven’t touched the break-even point yet. But the sales are growing, as are our hopes,” shares Parvathy.
Palakkad native, Priya Subramanian, says, “I have been using ventha velichenna right from my childhood. Now as we stay in Kochi, I take help from a maid to collect and prepare the oil traditionally while visiting home. However, two years ago when I couldn’t do this, we went to an Ayurveda store and the owner suggested Purvina. It amazed me that the same quality, taste, smell and colour of homemade ventha velichenna were spotted in this brand.”
She also added that price has never been looked at as a problem because this is part of a healthy routine. “In the case of homemade oil too, a similar or more amount must be spent as the process is long and tiring. I am sure that our family’s habit of having this oil will save thousands of rupees from being spent on hospital bills,” adds Priya, who even went ahead and got in touch with one of the founders to share how good the product was.
Most of Purvina’s customers are from Jammu & Kashmir, Telangana, West Bengal and other parts of the North East.
“Other than simply selling the product, educating people about the benefits of ventha velichenna is our dream. And of course, we want to build Purvina as a synonym of this magic oil,” says Parvathy.
Interested in Purvina’s products? Buy them from their website or Amazon.
Edited by Yoshita Rao