Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 3rd 2017 Contents 2 | business in focus
September 3 . 2017
Karibbean Flavours to
When Ravi Sankar was in sec-
ondary school, he decided he
wanted to be a chemical engineer.
It was the early 1990s, oil was king
and all of his friends were moving to-
wards career paths in the oil indus-
try. He studied sciences in secondary
school and was prepared to follow his
peers in T&T's main industry.
However, immediately after sec-
ondary school, the teenager got a
job at his parents' company, Chatak
Food Products, and was sent across
the Caribbean to expand the com-
While travelling to different islands
and talking to different distributors,
Sankar was met with the same types
"They would ask why we didn't
carry this product or that product,
from fresh seasoning to ketchup and
barbecue sauce and I realised there
was a need for different things,"
Sankar said in an interview with the
Sunday Business Guardian.
When he returned home, it was
with the advice that his family ex-
pand the business to include different
His suggestion was shut down as
his parents felt they needed to focus
more on the products they already
The idea never left Sankar, and
when he started studying for his
Associates Degree at Roytec, he re-
membered his lecturers encouraging
entrepreneurship and he was inspired
to open his own business.
He already knew which products
he would manufacture and he had
an idea of which markets to target
In 1995, at the age of 23, he reg-
istered his company RHS Market-
ing Limited and started work on his
brand, Karibbean Flavours.
"I started looking at the brand and
what I wanted it to be. Karibbean Fla-
vours represents the Caribbean but
also appeals to foreign markets."
At the time, Cariri had a few short
courses in jam and jelly production,
green seasonings and pepper sauce.
Sankar took the courses and be-
fore long under his parents house
in Curepe, started mixing different
flavours to manufacture green sea-
soning and pepper sauce.
He used his savings to fund the
enterprise and would sometimes
get help from his mother.
"I started experimenting with
sauces and seasonings."
At the time, Sankar still had the job
with his family's business and was
using his salary to purchase local ag-
ricultural products and to purchase
bottles and labels.
"At the time it was reasonable and
in very short time I got my first order
from a distributor in Antigua."
Sankar had met the distributor
during one of his marketing trips
up the island.
His first order was for green sea-
soning and essences.
"The guy, I think because I was
young and confident, was impressed
by me and we ended up building a
very good relationship because he
kept giving me orders."
Before long, Sankar started getting
orders from Grenada and then more
and more distributors in more and
He now ships his products to Can-
ada, the UK and to the United States.
The three products he started man-
ufacturing in 1995, has expanded to
over 200 packaged products, spices,
more than a dozen varieties of pepper
sauces, kuchelas, anchars, mauby,es-
sences, all with the taste and smell of
a Caribbean kitchen.
Moving from underneath his par-
ents' house to a business which earns
40 per cent of its income from export
and employs dozens of people at it's
Frederick Settlement office didn't
It was also helped along by Sankar's
ability to spot opportunities and take
advantage of them.
When the Tourism Development
Company (TIDCO) began offering
to subsidise the cost for entrepre-
neurs to attend food shows where
they could showcase their products,
Sankar signed up.
It was there he made the connec-
tions which saw his business expand.
"That's where I got all the contacts
from to match with suppliers for dif-
While he says his products are
bought mainly from people in the
Caribbean diaspora, he said he had
noticed interests from other people
not connected to the Caribbean at all.
Last year, he launched Karibbean
Flavours dry seasoning mixes, in re-
sealable packages, ranging from poul-
try and fish seasoning to rib rubs and
fried rice mixes.
"What we try to do is make prod-
ucts that are recognised as Caribbean
by name and smell and taste."
One of the things Sankar is proud
of is the smell of his products, even
packaged, the seasoning smells as
fresh as if they were just picked.
"I just launched the spices in Miami
and I would go around to distributors
who would say all the seasonings were
basically the same. Then I would open
a pack and ask them to smell it. There
is no resistance after that."
Still, like all businesses, even one
that has been around for 22 years,
Sankar faces challenges.
"It's the raw material. There are
times the local farmers can't supply
enough so we have to import and if
something happens, like a flood, the
price rises and we have to absorb that
"We do a lime sauce and getting
limes became a challenge because the
Toco lime fields were all abandoned
so we have to import."
He said with the recession, the
company had also seen a decline in
revenue and due to the problems with
accessing US dollars, have had to stop
Even so, Sankar's eye is where it
was 22 years ago, when he worked
for his parents. He is set on exporting
his products to new markets, specif-
ically in South and Latin America as
he takes the taste of the Caribbean
Ravi Sankar, founder of Karibbean Flavours. PHOTOS: ABRAHAM DIAZ
Workers sort mauby mixture at Karibbean Flavours' factory at Frederick Settlement in Caroni.
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