“If the plantain chips come from Guyana, then it packaging somewhere else” was the conclusion of one side as a group of friends debated the origin of the best tasting plantain chips available in New Amsterdam. A glance at the labelling soon upturned that belief: “Maya Hot and Spicy Plantain Chips, product of Guyana”.
The $500 at stake over the bet was quickly handed over. Sampling soon began and a further debate commenced, this time over the type of spices used.
Navin Hansraj, the manufacturer of Guyana’s ‘number one’ plantain chip, had no idea that his product caused such a heated debate but would have been proud its international quality was recognised.
However, Hansraj did not have plantain chips in mind as the business he wanted to get involved in when he returned to Guyana, as he was hoping to invest in the water business.
Hansraj said he returned to Guyana from the US in 2011 and invested $7 million in the water business: $5 million to set up the factory and $2 million for the equipment. In addition, Hansraj spent a further US$7000 to purchase other equipment, labels and bottles from a company registered in China.
Unfortunately a few weeks after sending the US$7000 to the Chinese company for the equipment and bottles, the company took down its website. “It was just a company set up to scam persons and I was tricked; it was a hard hit because it was the money I had worked for and saved to come back home and do something,” he said.
With just the factory space and a few pieces of equipment, the young entrepreneur made a slight adjustment and started producing five-gallon bottles of water, but the competition was stiff and the business only lasted for one month. “I was thinking what to do, because I had the space and one day I saw a packet of plantain chips being sold at a local shop which was imported from a Caribbean country and that is where I got the idea from.”
Hansraj said it was troubling to see so much plantain on the local market and foreign plantain chips on the shelves of shops. “So I got the idea and wanted to get into the business, because I realised that it has the scope. I did not want to do it like the other people and just fry plantains and put them in a bag. No one was doing this at an international standard.”
To start the process, he set up MMH Enterprise, the name coming from the initials of his two daughters; Miley Maya Hansraj and Marian Maya Hansraj. Together with his wife, Priya Ramjit, he ventured into plantain chip making, but soon realised that just frying the plantain chips and packaging them was not going to take the market by storm and he decided to add flavourings. Now, you can buy Maya Hot and Spicy, Regular or Ripe Plantain Chips in Guyana and Trinidad.
“We have a secret recipe which we use,” he revealed. None of his nine employees has the knowledge to duplicate the recipe, which was created by his wife.
MMH Enterprise has since grown and today produces coconut oil which has a shelf life of one year, and several other products, although like any other business, it had been hit by challenges which have hampered further expansion. However, the businessman intends to press ahead and introduce Maya Sweet Potato Chips and Maya Breadfruit Chips during the second half of this year.
The young businessman of Canje, Berbice is encouraging others to think carefully before taking up a business venture. “I didn’t just wake up today as a successful business owner. I’m where I am because of every day I’ve worked until now. Every decision I’ve made and every small step I’ve taken has made a big difference toward achieving my long-term goals. I told my wife one day, ‘Let’s quit our jobs and move to Guyana.’ We accomplished this goal because we saved our money (making many financial sacrifices along the way), so Just do it…” (Guyana Times)