SHILLONG, June 03: Little did Wendarly Marwein know during his trip to the Garden City of India, Bengaluru, for his daughter’s admission in B.Sc Nursing will enable him to put up a new entrepreneurial venture back home in Meghalaya. Marwein is the proprietor of Marwein Group of Industries that produces umRupa – a packaged drinking water venture, which he started after his southern sojourn, based at Kynshibangla village, under Mawthadraishan Community and Rural Development Block in West Khasi Hills (WKH) district of Meghalaya. The idea behind this project is equally interesting.
Narrating his daughter’s education trip to the southern city, where he had to put up for some days due to the admission procedure, he had much time – which he wanted to utilize fruitfully – when he was taken to a government run mineral water plant by one of his friend. He had no clue then that the visit to the plant was going to be a game changer for him. He gained full knowhow about the production process and given his innate business acumen, he was determined to set up a similar one back home. Since then there was no looking back. His venture, the first bottled brand of mineral water in WKH, will complete one year this July.
As water is considered the most precious resource on planet earth, UmRupa, meaning “precious water” is not just an ideal name of this brand but also FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) compliant.
Marwein returned to his village, after admitting his daughter, and started working earnestly to set up the mineral water plant. He applied to the Single Window Agency, Department of Commerce and Industries, Government of Meghalaya for registration and subsidy, which turned out to be a very bitter experience for him and a nightmare. Narrating how he ran from pillar to post to give shape to the manufacturing plant, he said at his plant’s office, “I had fifty two meetings with the department of commerce and industries. After these, I was only given the permission to run the plant but no subsidy,” while pointing to a series of official documents to support what he went through.
The unbelievable number of meetings between Marwein and the said department is not only casting shadows on the intention of the state government in terms of promoting entrepreneurial venture, and that too, in a remote village of the state but also the claims by the department in question.
According to the website of the Commerce and Industries department, Government of Meghalaya, “The single-window system in Meghalaya is being implemented for trade facilitation. It will enable the individuals to set up their enterprise by submitting regulatory documents at a single location and/or single entity. The idea is to create a suitable environment for entrepreneurs to set up their units in a cost effective and time saving manner without any hassle with government authorities for obtaining the relevant clearance and permit(s). In a traditional pre-single-window environment, individuals had to visit and deal with multiple government agencies in multiple locations to obtain the necessary papers, permits, and clearances.”
Ironically, Marwein was “harassed” despite the whooping unemployment ratio in the state.
Battered and bruised by the step-motherly treatment meted by the commerce and industries department, he then decided to start the venture on his own. Today, his plant – which is manufacturing 900 cartons of packaged water daily, of various capacities – is not only a vibrant industrial unit in WKH but is also providing around twenty direct employment opportunities besides several dependent ones.
Ramesh Kumar, a descendent of the holy city of Gaya in Bihar, known for its rituals of last rites performed by survivors of departed souls in Hindu religion, who is the supervisor of the plant, said that they are unable to quench the requirements since mineral water is in high demand.
He informed that whatever daily productions are taking place in the plant, is pre-booked by parties and to increase production the plant needs expansion. Kumar, a seasoned supervisor, has worked with major FMCG brands earlier until he was tipped for this role by one of his former employer. He said that umRupa is presently concentrating mostly on the half litre bottle – which is in high demand and the plant is also manufacturing the 1 litres, 2 litres, 5 litres besides the glass formats, too.
Marwein, who has invested about Rs. 5 crores to bring up this plant, informed that he is eyeing expansion where he is also planning to put up a manufacturing unit for “use and throw” paper coffee cups.
While taking a round to his plant he showed how he sources the hill water from nearby hillocks which are processed, in three concrete tanks of 20,000 litres capacity each, and further canned inside the requisite bottles. The entire process from purification to packaging including labeling is machinated as the workers have to just caress and move the packaged lots to heaps on a bayside inside the plant from where they are transported in vehicles to Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi and Jaintia Hills, barring Garo Hills where the product is yet to set its foot. His artistic abilities can be gauged from the logo of the brand, which he has designed.
The different capacity bottles are enlarged from smaller cones in a designated machine whereas their caps are poured into a cork type inhaler.
His daughter, Jubilee Nongsiej, who has since completed her B.Sc Nursing, is now helping her father in his venture but unsure about pursuing a career in which she has graduated, when asked. His another son, Pipalde, has completed civil engineering from Chennai but is sure about his career and is not much interested in his father’s venture. Like father, like son, he has indicated that he would focus on his area and make a mark there.
Marwein, a former civil contractor, is concentrating more on his mineral water business, now. He had a humble beginning when he used to sell daily use items, such as, shoes, socks, clothes, copies, pen and such smaller items targeting the hill men and villagers. He even donned the hat of a tailor – a trade which is omnipresent in WKH.
He owns a stone chip and fine sand crushing unit at his village and is the proud builder of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Yojana Bhavan, at the main civil secretariat in Shillong. He has since stopped taking government works and has reduced his construction affairs to road works, alone. He is the proud father of eleven children and his effort in putting up this entrepreneurial venture is a quintessential example of what most businessman does, “expand and grow”.