"We need to process 6 Tons of Lakadong Turmeric per day." That was the challenge Kimbretta gave Teddy Kharpuri. Zizira's sales were soaring. The farmers would start harvesting Lakadong soon. The plan was to start processing on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2021. But that's only a part of the story.
How would Teddy get this enormous ASK of processing 6 tons of turmeric a day when they didn't even have a processing plant. All Zizira had was a barren plot of overgrown land in the village of Saphai. That meant Chillibreeze needed to build a processing unit from the ground up. The goal was to start on December 17, 2020, and start processing on February 14, 2021. Teddy is always up for a challenge. Could he do it? He needed a team. He needed a leader with grit. That's how he would get it done.
We started from scratch. The land Zizira had leased had no electricity. The local SDO said if we wanted to get electricity to the land, we needed to pay for a new transformer. He wanted us to pay 8 to 10 Lakhs. This high amount was way beyond our budget. The amount was out of the question. Instead, the team figured out a better way to get the 3 Phase electricity after multiple trips to government officials and long waits. A solution evolved to increase the power of an existing transformer. This solution cost less, and the upgraded transformer in the village brought electricity to many more village households. In the end, the government officials were quite surprised to see the solution we implemented.
The land had no access to a water supply. Teddy said, "We had to dig our own well. We needed good continuous water for processing the turmeric." These gaps amplified as the team was outsiders; they didn't know the people or the headman.
This is the barren land Zizira had leased. Wild and overgrown before the team began to clean it.
There was no place to stay!
The team got to work fast.
They needed to work fast out of necessity because there was no place to stay.
The team assembled a Tiny Cabin in one day for creating an office. Tents were used for sleeping. Makeshift kitchen sheds set up for cooking.
The Zizira challenge needed a person with grit and determination. That's why Teddy selected Rishan Rymbai. A bonus was that Rishan speaks the local language, Jaintia, and Teddy knew this would help them coordinate the team get the job done with the local people. It wasn't going to be easy.
Rishan was born and raised in Madanrting, Shillong. Had passed his board exams from St. Anthony's Higher Secondary School, completed Class 12 from Shillong College, and completed a bachelor's degree in Arts from the same institution.
As a young boy with six siblings, he often dreamed of joining the Meghalaya police force. He saw this job as a way to contribute to the state's welfare. Little did he know that he would create jobs and lead local teams in his state of Meghalaya one day!
Rishan remembers the day he heard about a demanding job at Chillibreeze. He knew if he got the job, it would be a different experience from the everyday home/work life. He spent lots of time with his mother, who stays at home and operates a grocery store, and his father, who works as an accountant at the National Cadet Corps Office, located in Laitumkhrah, Shillong.
Rishan said when his friend David Syemiong told him how Chillibreeze provides numerous opportunities to anyone willing to give their all, he was ready to make sacrifices and be dedicated to the job. He recalled Babit and Nafissa telling him about working late when there was a need. Rishan said, "I was desperate for work, so I assured them I would give my heart and soul. I also recall Nafissa asking me several questions about my willingness to perform cement work and heavy physical labor, and my answer was always yes. When Nafissa asked why I said yes to all of their questions, I said I would not be chosen if my response was no, and they laughed. After a week, I received a call from Nafissa informing me I was selected. I recall being overjoyed."
After joining Chillibreeze, reality hit. Rishan expresses the sacrifice he faced: "I did work late hours, and we did not have holiday leave due to the deadline of completing the building. We were only free on Sundays. I had to make numerous adjustments to have free time for everybody. I care about everyone on my team.
life, so knowing that I couldn't make time for them was heartbreaking. When my family members are sick, I don't always have time to be with them, and seeing my parents suffer is excruciating. I must make time for practically everyone on Sunday, which has been difficult to adjust to. But the company has also tremendously benefited me, and I now understand that winning is not easy. Sacrifice is one of the most important things that I will never resist. With God's grace and strength, I have been able to face another day. This is what motivates me to keep going."
Sacrifice with Vision Creates Meaning
The biggest challenge came to Rishan when he had to tell his family he would be moving to Saphai to work on a new job. His parents were concerned because they heard the people out there are rough and different. Rishan quickly learned that these thoughts are rumors and discovered firsthand that the local Saphai people are good. Rishan knew their local language and considered he was fit for the job. He found it hard to say yes. With a mindset shift, I saw that I could do it. Rishan had to believe in the project and know that what he built there with the team would impact. It would take a four-hour drive one way to reach, and he wouldn't be able to come home every weekend. There could be months on end that he would be away from his family and friends in Shillong.
A small team from Chillibreeze arrived in Saphai on the 23rd of December 2019. Little did Rishan know that he would soon be looking after the entire project. He and Wonderful would soon be leading the team of local boys. They divided the responsibilities between construction and processing. He learned how to rally the guys, create a daily plan, buy things, manage the cash. There were new obstacles and sometimes big problems every day, like pump motors breaking. Along with the team, they lived out the Chillibreeze belief of "Turn Lemons to Lemonade." Today Pynhoi is a go-to person for repairing electrical gadgets. Rishan has become valuable to the people of Saphai.
Success Beyond Success
Rishan says, "I have never been a leader in anything before. Now I have returned to Shillong, and I am sourcing for Zizira. Before joining Chillibreeze, I was really, really shy. Getting an opportunity to lead a team improves me, and now I am talking to farmers and interviewing people. If I had not sacrificed to go to Saphai, I wouldn't call up farmers after living in the village today. I know more about the farmer's them. I know their lifestyle, what they do for a living, the problems they face".
Most of the farmers I meet with are older than me. Some 50 years old. I think it is because I can understand them that they respect me.
Beyond the farmers, I am speaking to the parents of the team members working with us in Saphai. These young men come from low-income families who have difficulties. Their life is hard. When we selected their sons to work in Saphai, the parents were grateful. They showed their gratefulness by giving us food or killing a local chicken. They would even buy and provide us with meat, which was a huge gesture of love.
We employed 11 young men. Some stopped when they had to go to school.
Today two of the guys, Pynhoi and Eddie, are staying at the Zizira processing facility. Since then, they have planted Ing Makir and chili, and they are looking after collecting stinging nettle for Zizira tea and spice products.