Indian businessman loses millions, works at tea shop in Dubai

At age 24, Nijeesh Sahadevan had his life work entirely in his favour. Nijeesh is the former owner of SVR Agro Products, a company that manufactured natural fertilisers in Thrissur, Kerala, made decent profit, and ran a workforce of 462 employees.

Today, Nijeesh, 32, has lost his millions, and works as a cook and delivery boy at the Eranojli Moosakante Chayakkada, a tea shop and restaurant in Karama, Dubai. Overnight, due to a complication that arose from the Indian government’s demonetisation drive in 2016, Sahadevan went from riches to rags. “I cook porotta (Indian bread), make tea, and do deliveries for the restaurant,” he said. However, thanks to his generous childhood friend, Sahadevan now has a job. The Malayalee shared his story with Khaleej Times.

After losing a couple of Gulf-based clients he had invested heavily in, and in a matter of months, Sahadevan had to sell his manufacturing unit in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, fire all his employees, and even sell his ancestral home. “I had to sell the land where my father was buried to repay bank loans I had taken to grow my business,” he explained.

Business thrived during good times

“I launched the business when I turned 18. My product was an extremely effective algae-based green fertiliser that could be used on plants, roots, leaves, and vegetables. I still own the patent for the product. That is all I have left,” said Sahadevan.

After completing his Bachelors in Technology (BTech), Sahadevan decided to turn an entrepreneur when he discovered the benefits of his product. The fertiliser combined humic acid with botanical nutrients, marine protein, and animal protein which lead to optimum crop output.

“I started my business as an SME programme with help from the Kerala government with an investment of a few hundred thousands. A single bottle of my product used to cost Rs500 (Dh25.45) and could be used on 2,000 plants,” he explained. Sahadevan’s product was embraced by the farming community, helping him expand the business by establishing manufacturing units and employing 250 staff. Sijin, the former CEO of SVR Agro Products said, “The product was fantastic, hence, it sold very fast.”

Tough times

Thanks to a generous commission system for his sales staff, SVR Agro products thrived. “In 2016, I took a loan of Rs3 crore (Dh1.5 million) and opened five more factories. The new Gulf-based clients agreed to buy for me ordered several tonnes worth of the product,” he explained. Calculating large profits for the next 10 years, Sahadevan began aggressively expanding his business.”

“My entire life came to a standstill in November 2016. Overnight, the clients backed out. I had all these products, a massive manufacturing set-up, and no one to sell it to,” he added. When payments to banks began suffering, Sahadevan started the slow and painful process of selling everything he owned.

Childhood friend comes to the rescue

After a bitter divorce with his ex-wife, Sahadevan’s childhood friend Abdul Rasheed, a Dubai-based businessman, reached out to him and suggested that he move to Dubai. Rasheed had plans to expand his businesses into the food and beverage sector. “When he saw my plight, he hastened the process and set up this tea shop for me. Rasheed is like my God. If it weren’t for him, I would not be here. He took me in at my lowest,” he said. “Today, I’ve cleared my loans and I have a house for my aged mother.”

So much so, Sahadevan has even saved Rasheed’s name as ‘God’ on his iPhone. The six-month-old restaurant has gained fast popularity for serving piping hot tea, snacks, and Kerala’s Malabar cuisine. Rasheed said, “I’ve wanted to launch this business for a while. With everything that happened to Nijeesh, I decided the time is right.”

Now, Sahadevan hopes this tiny tea shop in the alleys of Karama will grow to become a successful brand in the UAE. He also aspires to turn his life story into a movie. “I write movie scripts in my spare time. I want to become a film producer someday,” he added.

Source : Khaleej Times


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