KAMPUNG Kacang Putih is known throughout Malaysia. People from all walks of life throng the area during festivities or weekends to buy their favourite snacks.
But not many people know, how the village came about.
In the 1920s, 10 people from India started a small business making two types of Indian snacks, known locally as kacang putih, in a settlement located near a limestone hill in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh.
The business flourished but things changed after tragedy struck the area in early 1970s.
Part of the hill collapsed into the squatter colony, killing about 40 residents there.
Due to the danger from the hill, the state government allocated a piece of land in Buntong so the residents relocate and conduct their businesses in safety.
And that was how the Kampung Kacang Putih came into existence. More than forty years later, some of the small businesses are flourishing and some of them have set up factories to cope with the increasing demand.
One unusual fact about the village is that all the families involved in the kacang business are related to one and another. Four generations of the Thirunelvelli Nadar clan have run their businesses in the village.
According to S. Sathish Kumar, 25, head of one of the kacang putih companies in village, the Thirunelvelli Nadar clan from Ettayapuram in Tamil Nadu, India, are known for their prowess in making muruku and nuts.
He said his ancestors were brought into what was then Malaya by the British to clear land. To supplement their income, the original Thirunelvelli Nadars started making five to six varieties of snacks to sell.
One of them, C. Ratnasami Nadar, 70, followed his father to Malaya and made snacks near the the limestone hills of Gunung Cheroh.
“I was 10 years old when I came to Malaya. At the time, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps.
“We started small at first. After 60 years in the country, together with my son R. Arumugam, we are now able to export snacks to Australia and Singapore,” he said.
A few metres away from Ratnasami’s business is the DNS Kacang Puteh shop, run by Sathish, Ratnasami’s nephew.
Sathish runs DNS with his father, T. Sangkaralinggam Nadar. Sangkaralinggam named the business DNS after the intials of his three sons Devakumar, Nirmal Kumar and Sathish.
“I have been the managing director of this company since 2008. I first started doing this when I was 12,” says Sathish.
“I used to follow my father to stadiums and shops to sell kacang putih. It was tough at first but we persevered and now we have opened our own factory in Meglembu.
“Previously we produced five varieties. Now, we have 120 varieties of snacks. People from all walks of life come to our shop. It is great being part of this business,” said Sathish.
When asked what inspired him to continue in the business, Sathish said the movie Thavamai Thavamirundhu, a Tamil movie that depicts father-son relationship, made him want to build on the foundations set by his grandfather and father.
“I am the fourth generation and I want to continue it. We are now exporting to many countries and soon we will go into Brunei. Now I want to make it bigger and make my father proud,” he said.
In another shop, K. Ponnuthurai, 55, was doing his accounts and monitoring his staff, who were cooking and also packing snacks in his shop.
Also related to Sathish and Ratnasami, Ponnuthurai said although they are part of the same clan, there is a healthy amount of friendly competition as they are in the same business.
“Who says there is no competition? What separates us is the recipe. Simple as that! Different customers have different taste. We have our regular customers and DNS have theirs.
“Nuts are the same, but for the muruku and other snacks, the taste varies. We are family but business is business,” said Ponnuthurai who has been in the kacang putih business for the past 25 years.