People preferred ground spices in pouches rather than buying them whole and later grinding them at home. Judhisthir Chandra Dutta created a convenience for the consumers which they actually had a need for, even if they didn’t know about it. Judhisthir Chandra latched on to this new consumer behaviour and went a step forward to brand his innovation. Thus a phenomenon called ‘Cookme’ was born in 1958.The first branded spices to find a place in Bengali households.
Judhisthir Dutta held fort astutely while beginning to make a difference to the family business. The Second World War was over and a new era of industrialization has dawned on the whole world. India was free from the British Raj and was trying to rebuild her economy through industrialization. The Government put heavy emphasis on empowerment of women. The urban life started getting faster.
Judhisthir nurtured the idea of selling ground spices in small pouches to household consumers as an exclusive option. He believed that it will catch on as it will save a lot of time to the women in the kitchen. In those days such decisions were guided by sheer sense rather than suave marketing foresight.
Armed with his three-and-a-half decades of family experience in the spice trade, Judhisthir embarked on this new venture. Fresh dry spices of high quality were ground carefully so as not to let their aroma and freshness fade away, and packed in small consumer friendly pouches. His was the first shop which started selling fresh ground spices to the consumers. It became popular as ‘Kisto Dutta-r Mashla’. In the next five years it appears, the concept did pay off.
Things moved smoothly and Natabar Chandra conducted the business successfully. But in 1918 he suddenly passed away only to be survived by three very young sons. The eldest one, Judhisthir Chandra was only 9 years old when he had to take charge of the business. Luckily, his maternal uncles gave him support in conducting the business. Gradually the real story started getting unfold as Judhisthir Chandra gained experience slowly and steadily.
Spices arrived by the boatloads at the ghats of Kolkata from places as far away as Rangoon and North Bihar. This was the time when business deals were hooked, booked and cooked at the weekly haats, which were makeshift market places where buyers and sellers from different places met to do business deals. During this time, the spice business was gathering momentum. Years passed and Krishna Chandra grew old he handed over the business to his son Natabar Chandra who ably took over the reins of the family business.
A young spice trader from Adisaptogram in the Bardhaman district of Bengal (known as Burdwan district during the British Raj) had a dream… expand laterally, grow rapidly. Little did he realize that his vision would one day change the landscape of spice trade in undivided Bengal, as it was called then.
The young businessman, Krishna Chandra Dutta, left the village of his birth for Sutanuti, one of the three villages that early Kolkata comprised, to set up a trading base in the British capital of the East. His sole asset was the shine in his eyes and the ambition in his mind.
Hard work paid rich dividends. Krishna Chandra soon established himself at Darmahata, Sutanuti as one of the most promising spice traders of the city. Customers new and old came from far and near to Krishna Chandra’s shop for their recurring requirements.
At one point Krishna Chandra’s brother Kali Chandra denounced domestic life and worldly comforts at the prime of his life to assume sanyas. “l am leaving this world full of material gains. The path to salvation lies in the life of a sanyasi,” he said before he left. That was the last anyone ever saw of him. So, the entire burden of running the business fell on Krishna Chandra who had to single handedly assume charge of it.
Our founder father, Krishna Chandra Dutta, perceived the immense potential of top quality spices as a serious business venture around 1846. And so began a journey that has and still is, carving new paths to success for Cookme.
His son Judhisthir Dutta first launched the ground ready-to-cook spices as Cookme powdered spices and thus formed the brand Cookme.
Research, development and innovation had been the hallmarks of Cookme, since inception. What started as fresh top quality whole spices was packaged as ground spices in due time by Krishna Chandra Dutta’s worthy successor, Judhisthir Dutta. A step which took the hassles out of cooking, and yet which retained the flavours, freshness and aromas of the spices.
Then the oil based Curry Pastes were introduced to further simplify the cooking. Raw vegetables, fish or poultry were all that were to be arranged for a good cooked meal. Cookme ready-to-cook Curry Pastes did the rest. Today Cookme’s product list also has Mixed Masalas and Poppadums as well.
Whatever may be the style of cooking, the key role behind every culinary delight is played by the spices. And India has always played the most pivotal role in exploring the use of a wide variety of spices from time immemorial.
The history of spice in India dates back to the times of early Indian civilization. India had spice trade with the Mediterranean civilization and Indian spices were considered as high value commodity in the Mediterranean.
The Egyptian spice expeditions were recorded as early as three and four thousand years ago. In their daily activities they used herbs and spices, quite a few of which were from India.
The Romans started sailing to India from Egypt in the first century AD. They took back cargo of Indian spices to their homeland and increasingly became extravagant users of spices for perfumes, cosmetics, medicine and cooking.
In the seventh century AD the famous Chinese pilgrim monk, Xuan Zang (Huan Tsang) visited Afghanistan. In his book he described in details the trade route linking India with Balkh, through which trade in spices were carried on along with pearls, ivory and cotton.
At the end of the 15th century, Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese navigator led an expedition that opened the sea route to India by way of the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Spices from India were so much in demand in Europe that they were worth their weight in gold in Europe in that period. The new sea route facilitated the spice trade which would prove to be a major asset to the Portuguese economy.
India – the land of spices had thus played a significant role in the global spice market and is still an important spice hub. No country in the world produces as many kinds of spices as India.
The term ‘Indian cuisine’ is quite a general one and actually refers to the wide variety of cooking styles all over India. In reality, India hosts an even greater number of distinct regional cuisines than the entire European continent. Indian food is almost always prepared with fresh ingredients along with delicate mixtures of many different fresh and dried spices.
Ayurvedic tradition of cooking, which emerged in India is a complete holistic approach to cooking and teaches us about the use of spices in a manner which aids in good health and well being.
Presented by Cookme.