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Business of sweet- making not so sweet!

by Surekha Galagoda

Chitraratna Kaluarachchi 

Many of us love eating sesame sweets, but the story of making these sweets is not sweet at all. It needs cleaning, washing, roasting and pounding to make it to get the correct consistency.

Hardworking Chitraratna Kaluarachchi who earlier worked at a tea estate wanted to start a business of his own and supported by his wife Lakshmi and a friend P. Sugathadasa. He started making sesame sweets in June 1999 with an initial investment of Rs 280 .

This was the birth of Ratna Prabani Confectionery. " During this time we went on a trip to Kataragama and on the way visited Kathy Reach International (a Centre which trains women in self employment projects) I persuaded them and received a training on three occasions. Each training was of five day duration, " he said.

E. L. Abeysekera helped me to print the labels and attended to the paper work and the business was registered in January 2000 as a partnership with five other persons. The partnership ended after a few months because we had to face many difficulties.

"This time Indrani Ratnayake gave me twenty Kilos of sesame on credit. I brought it home and with the help of my wife started making the sweets once again," Kaluarachchi said.

It was hard work as the sesame had to be washed, cleaned, roasted and pounded for nine hours. "Initially I pounded it using the mortar and pestle but now we have managed to buy a machine which saves a lot of time and energy. By using the machine the sesame can be pounded in one hour.

We did not give up and courage kept us going, he said. Initially he got a loan of Rs 5000 from Hidogama Samurdhi Bank, which he paid back and got a loan of Rs 10,000. For a week we make sweets out of 100 kilos of sesame.

There is a demand for my products but I cannot improve my business due to lack of finances.There is no provision to mortgage my land to obtain a loan since we do not have a deed. The maximum amount that I can take as a loan without mortgaging a fixed asset is Rs 25,000 this is not sufficient to improve my business. I hope that the authorities concerned will look into my problem and come up with a solution.

Sweet being packed

This will help improve my business and permit me to give employment to more people in the area. At present I have given employment to two persons, Kaluarachchi, said.

The other problem kaluarachchi has is the lack of a machine to shape the sesame mixture into balls. "At present we do it by hand. Since it has to be shaped into balls while it is hot a machine is most welcome and it will help us improve the hygienic standards as well," he said. Sesame is a locally grown healthy food and we don't add any food preservatives.

In the event I have the necessary finances and the machine the sky is the limit for my business as there is a good demand for my products," Kaluarachchi a father of three children, said.

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