The festival of lights is never complete without the crunchy goodness that murukku has to offer. Strapped for time and looking to purchase some online? Madam Murukku is the newest e-store selling the traditional Indian snack and it’s spearheaded by a pair of 28-year-olds.
Madam Murukku is an inter-generational and multiracial enterprise co-founder by Suraj Upadhiah (above, left) and Baldwin Ng (above, right), both 28. We can sense that you are raising your eyebrows at the notion of a murukku store run by a pair of millennials. Fret not, for Madam Murukku herself is an Indian lady from the pioneer generation who has been manufacturing traditional Indian snacks for nearly three decades now.
She has been singlehandedly supporting her family and her ingredients are handpicked weekly to ensure that the delicious snacks she churns out are always fresh. Each and every snack of hers is individually handmade as well. Well, you know what they say – old is gold!
“When Suraj (he’s also the CEO of Air Amber) found her, he felt it was a great opportunity to bring her locally made snacks to a larger audience,” explains Baldwin. “He then approached me who incidentally had just left my job at Groupon after six years to expand my own horizons. Together, we combined our passions and skills to work towards garnering support for brands or products made in Singapore. We wanted to be living examples of different generations and different races working together.”
Here at ChutneySG, we are always curious about the behind-the-scenes of any venture that involves spreading cheer and positivity (and also, food). We caught up with the pair of gentlemen for a chat on Madam Murukku as well as entrepreneurship!
What’s the inspiration behind starting Madam Murukku?
Suraj: It came about with friendship. It was not so much about the food industry as it was about sharing in the spirit of diligence and passion for a particular craft, in this case it was for producing the highest quality Indian snacks. I have been personally inspired by how these snacks were made locally and it brought me such joy that it just had to be shared with a larger market. People simply did not know about the story behind these snacks and I say it as a mission to spread it. Baldwin and I also nurtured a strong friendship at Anglo Chinese School (Barker Road) which formed the bedrock of our values in pursuing such ventures.
What are the products currently available for sale at Madam Murukku?
Baldwin: Suraj started out with only 2 flavours (Original and Spiced) and when we went online, we decided to add a variety of a sweet one. It’s not a murukku. Affectionately known as Kway Rose among the Malay & Chinese communities, we renamed it the Sweet Crunch to give it a little more zing. Interestingly, the shape of the Sweet Crunch forms four hearts and looks like a clover as well. It’s uniquely different from the Kway Rose some might be familiar with.
Suraj: The great thing about our supplier is that she has such a wide variety of snacks and they all come in different shapes and sizes. We definitely have plans to make these varieties available on the website.
What were some initial challenges you encountered while starting up Madam Murukku?
Baldwin: Getting the brand out there to a wider audience and to create a habit to buy traditional snacks online isn’t as easy as it sounds. Creating an online store is no magical solution to products flying off the shelves. We are very new but the game plan is to bring together and grow the community of Indian snack lovers to join the cause of #MadeInSingapore products and services.
Is this a part-time or full-time venture? Are there plans to expand the business?
Suraj: Every venture for me is full-time and with a wholehearted commitment to the vision set out. The decision to embark on a venture always lies in the compelling nature of the vision and for me it has involved impacting people and communities.
Baldwin: I’ve just called an end to my time at Groupon Singapore after six years to embark on my entrepreneurial journey. My other projects are still in development so my mind is solely on Madam Murukku. Whether my time is split into three businesses or focused on just one, the mission is always the same – to expand and bring the story or value of that business to a wider audience.
What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?
Baldwin: Being an entrepreneur is like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. That’s not to say that if you fall, you can never get up but that feeling of taking a risk pushes you out of your comfort zone and into survival mode. So there’s no excuses.
Suraj: The ability to pursue the passion for people relentlessly and wake up in the morning with a skip and smile because you are in a position to work and make a change.
How are the products sold at Madam Murukku made?
Suraj: The products are all made in a small factory with approved licenses issued by the mandatory authorities. Our supplier handpicks her ingredients weekly and each snack is handcrafted by her. A lot of love and passion is put into the process of making them.
What makes Madam Murukku’s products stand out from the crowd?
Baldwin: There are many different types of snacks and most, from what we understand, are imported from Malaysia. Also, they are mostly found in Little India. What makes us stand out is that our products are #MadeInSingapore and they are very crunchy! Once you start, you truly can’t stop!
How are Madam Murukku’s products priced?
Suraj: 550 grams for $18. They are priced for freshness! Our pricing philosophy has always been to reflect the value of the product. We have sought to ensure the ability to increase accessibility to a snack like this beyond just the Indian community.
Will there be a physical store or a pop-up store in the near future?
Baldwin: We are not ruling anything out, but it depends on the objective as we go further into this venture. If we do start a pop-up store it will be to bring together all #MadeInSingapore products and brands for a collaboration.
What do you think is a factor that causes people to hesitate when it comes to business ventures?
Suraj: I have found that business ventures need to come from a clear place of conviction and an earnest desire to offer value. If you are not convinced of the value you are offering, it will be difficult to take big risks and take bold steps to bring fruition to an idea.
What’s your top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Baldwin: Sell a product or service to add value to your community. Nothing else. Basically, always start with the customer.
Suraj: Make sure you are having fun! Your work should be making you smile.
Complete the sentence: “People should buy Madam Murukku’s snacks because…”
Baldwin: they are the crunchiest snacks you can find to munch on while you are chilling with Netflix or having a beer with your buds or girlfriends!
Suraj: you would be sharing in the celebration of passion, love and hope!
Now, now, we know those pictures of freshly made crunch-tastic murukku have tempted you into ordering some. Go right ahead –> www.madammurukku.com. It’s Deepavali in two days’ time afterall!
The team at ChutneySG wishes Madam Murukku success as sweet as kway rose in all her future endeavours. Oh, and here’s wishing all our Hindu readers a blessed Deepavali!