As the world grips to term with the consequences of the pandemic where job loss, unemployment, and business failures have occupied most headlines, the successful entrepreneurial story of a few youths in Manipur, a tiny state in the North-eastern part of India deserves to be told, heard and emulated.
“Paipeh Team” or P4 which is famous for its Thadou-Kuki comedy video series called ‘Lutpu Paipeh’ was founded by Mr. Lenchung along with 4 main actors. The founder, who had won the coveted Kuki Idol-a talent hunt competition in Manipur, has several Kuki hit songs to his name as a singer and composer. But the first Kuki Idol would soon realized that ‘singing’ as a career is not sufficient to make ends meet. Not one to be bogged down easily, Mr. Lenchung devised a new strategy to utilize his creative mind which then heralded the birth of ‘Paipeh Team’, and their hit series‘Lutpu Paipeh’. The team met instant success among the Kuki Community with their YouTube channel garnering more than 50k subscribers and an average view of 2 lakhs per video. They have attained the status of a small-town celebrity with local medias interviewing them even as their fan base grew by the day. Meanwhile, though the team had devoted most of their time for the making and production of their new episodes of the series, the revenues were not sufficient to fully rely on as a livelihood. Mr. Lenchung then felt the need to be more than a successful singer and director.
The success of their comedy series notwithstanding, the pandemic has resulted in the absence of any alternative livelihoods to make additional income. After much deliberation, P4 came up with the idea of attending to the demands for food. While pondering over viable options, they zeroed down to fruit juice as two of their team members have Pineapple farm and they have learned that many farmers have resorted to burying their farm produce as there was no demand; as markets were closed. The thought inspired them because, not only would they be achieving their goals of setting up a start-up, they would in the process be helping many farmers who otherwise would have their farm produce go wasted.
According to Lenchung, once they contemplated the idea, there was no looking back. ‘It took us only a couple of months to strategize our plan and implement it. We made a partnership with an established enterprise named ‘Joyfood’ and the rest as they say is history,’ he added.
Launch of the 100 % organic fruit juice ‘Donlip’
In the month of August 2020, the people of Churachandpur town witnessed history unfold; a business start-up has been inaugurated by a rebel leader. ‘Donlip’ a juice with 100% organic Pineapple fruit was launched officially by Pu P S Haokip, President of Kuki National Organisation- one of the two umbrella organisations of Kuki militants having tripartite talks with the Government; it was groundbreaking, considering the fact that militancy has been attributed to the lack of business avenues and dismal economic growth in the region. Gone are the days when any business setup would be allegedly subjected to ransom demands. All that seems to be history now as business prospects dawn in the erstwhile militancy infested state. Part of the credit should go to the Government for engaging the rebels to talks as the Hills of Manipur, long excluded from business and development stories finally made its mark.
The plan was to produce 5000 units per month initially with a gross income of 1 lakh and to increase the unit according to the demands. But in the first month itself, due to huge demands, P4 ended up selling 2,000 units per day. ‘With a humble investment, we break-even in the first month itself. We have not even started investing in the promotion of the product but everyone is aware of the products and we have received supply orders from all corners of the state and beyond,’ said an understandably excited Mr. Lenchung.
He further added that the orders for September are even better, more in units compared to August 2020. ‘At present, sales are not just good but overwhelming. We want to make sure that these good vibes continue by maintaining quality standards,’ said the proprietor of P4.
As P4 launch their product, it has overwhelming support from the public. The success of their comedy sequels has a huge impact as the team has thousands of dedicated fans already. Buying the product was considered a trend with many fans uploading their selfies with ‘Donlip’. ‘It was beyond our expectation. We believe our fans will buy the products out of love and charitable cause. But we never thought it would make a trend to pose with our products as is presently witnessed. Now our customers are the promoters themselves,’ said the proprietor. ‘Well, Paipeh team are stars. So, when I saw my friends uploading pictures of themselves, I too was tempted because it was trending,’ said Mr. Chochon, one of the many fans who uploaded their pictures of themselves drinking Donlip. Of course, many bought the products out of compassion and love and their attachment with Paipeh team. ‘once I learned that Paipeh team is launching a fruit juice, I’d asked my son to get a cartoon of the product in support of the team. I have heard of their humble backgrounds and I am an ardent fan of their work in Lutpu Paipeh series. I feel this humble initiative of mine, buying their products, is my way of saying thank you for the beautiful memories they have given,’ said Nu Nemvah, a 62-year-old woman, who said she had never missed the 20 episodes of the P4 TEAM ‘Lutpu paipeh’ comedy series.
The Road Ahead
According to Mr. Lenchung, proprietor of P4, the team is confident that the product would initially make a mark for itself locally and then they’d venture into exporting it to neighboring states and beyond. He said, ‘ a region like North East India, with its rich flora and fauna, is home to varieties of fruits. Strangely, we import among all things, fruits and fruit juices. We will work towards making P4 into a successful venture, which caters to the juice demands of North-East and beyond and give livelihood to at least a hundred person.’
As for concerns on the possible decline in the demands of their products, if and when the hype and excitement of the newly launched ‘Donlip’ waned, the team is all prepared to diversify its products; the team, according to the proprietor, has a plan in place to introduce other food items including ‘Soft Drinks’ in collaboration with Joyfoods ltd.
The success story of P4 tells that COVID- 19 can be an excuse for many but for those eyeing to make a mark and be a change maker, there is just no excuse. Apart from fruits, there are other avenues like organic farming, animal husbandry- piggery, fishery, handicrafts, and setting up micro and small scale industries that can be adopted. Already, tens of thousands who have returned from different cities to the region are rendered unemployed. With proper skill development, the ambitious project of #VocalforLocal will be a successful hit in the region. And with the right mindset, zeal, and hard work, we will have many more successful entrepreneurship tales to tell from the North East region and India.
T S Haokip