Musthafa PC was born in a remote village of Kerala. His father, a daily wage worker, was not well educated himself and dreamed of educating his children – but Musthafa says he decided to drop out of school after failing Class 6 to join his father on the farm. “We barely earned ₹ 10 in daily wages. Eating three meals a day was a distant dream. I’d tell myself, ‘Right now, food is more important than education’,” he shared with Humans of Bombay in an interview published Monday.
It was the intervention of a teacher that helped Musthafa PC return to school – a move that would eventually help the farm worker’s son land a well-paying job and later start a fresh food company that is today one of the most successful of its kind in the country.
In his interview, Musthafa PC, CEO of iD Fresh Food, said that a teacher convinced him to return to school and even tutored him free of charge. Because of this, he topped his class in math. Encouraged by this, he went on to become the school topper. When the time came for him to go to college, his teachers paid his fee.
“When I got placed and earned my first salary of Rs.14,000, I gave it to papa,” Musthafa PC told Humans of Bombay. “He cried, ‘You’ve earned more than I have in a lifetime!'”
Eventually, Musthafa got a job abroad, earning well enough to pay off his father’s loan of ₹ 2 lakh in two months.
But despite having a well-paying job, he says, he wanted to start his own business. The idea of iD Fresh Food came about when Musthafa’s cousin saw a supplier selling idli-dosa batter in a plain pouch. The customer was complaining about the quality of the product. Musthafa’s cousin called him with the idea of creating a “quality batter company” – and that led to the birth of iD Fresh Food.
Initially, Musthafa PC invested ₹ 50,000 in the company and let his cousins run the show. They started in a 50 square foot kitchen with a grinder, mixer and a weighing machine.
“It took us over 9 months to sell 100 packets a day,” says Musthafa. Along the way, they made plenty of mistakes and learned from them. Once, they had to go back to the drawing board when their batter over-fermented and caused a blast in a store.
“After three years, I realized our company needed me full-time,” says Musthafa. So he quit his job and invested all his savings into his business, assuring his nervous parents that he could always get a new job if the business failed.
For years, the company struggled and faced severe losses. There were times when they could not afford to pay their employees. “We promised our 25 employees that one day we’d make them crorepatis. They laughed it off, but we gave them shares from our company and said, ‘Be patient!'” recalls Musthafa.
After struggling for eight years, the company’s fortunes changed overnight when they found investors. “Overnight, we became a 2000 crore company. Finally, we fulfilled the promise we made to our employees; all of them are now millionaires!” says the CEO of iD Fresh Food.
According to The Hindu, iD Fresh Food ended FY21 with ₹ 294 crore in revenue.
Musthafa has one regret – he could not share his success with his childhood teacher. Today, he honours his legacy by speaking of him every chance he gets.
“When I returned home, I learnt that he’d passed away. I was heartbroken and thought, ‘If only sir could have seen what a laborer achieved because of him!’ Now, I speak of him every chance I get; to honor his legacy,” he says.
In 2018, Musthafa PC was invited to speak at Harvard and thanked both his father and his teacher for his success. “I first told them of the teacher who didn’t let me give up, and then of my father, who still works in his farm diligently, every day,” says Musthafa. “These two men taught me that where you come from doesn’t matter- if you work hard, even a laborer’s son can create a million dollar company.”
“Today, iD is a 100 million dollar brand,” he said in his 2018 speech, a video of which was shared by iD Fresh Food on YouTube that same year. According to Bloomberg Quint, in 2017, the firm raised $25 million from PremjiInvest, Azim Premji’s family office, valuing the company at about $100 million.
Musthafa PC’s inspiring journey from “school dropout” to CEO has earned him much admiration on social media.
“I have used iD products couple of times and I did know that it was a venture started by few professionals but didn’t know it had a very inspiring backup story! Kudos!” wrote one Facebook user.
“Awesome story! You’ve made your parents and teacher proud and you persevered to keep your promise to your employees…” another commented.