From home kitchen to a business one, these women started from scratch and are now perhaps the leading names in the food industry. However smooth the ride may seem from the outside, the girls reveal that there’s a lot that goes behind the scenes. From handling production, sourcing and management, they reveal a little about their work, the good moments, and bust the myths about women in the food business.
Apeksha Jain, The Gourmet Jar
For Apeksha creating an artisanal condiment brand name, one of the first of its kind and now a recognisable name across India started from a craving for banana jam. An instant hit amongst her family, she quickly realised the value of her experiments in the kitchen amongst consumers as opposed to the generic preserves commonly found in local supermarkets. But beyond the success story, Apeksha has managed to make it sustainable by sourcing from local farmers and also hopes to level the playing field by including a majority of women employees. “As a woman, and that too someone who is quiet and reserved, I feel a lot of people think I’m timid and can be influenced easily, but that's very far from reality,” she explains. The jam connoisseur feels that while people might think creating recipes is easy, building a large scale system of organised work, scaling up production, all while maintaining the personal touch people have come to know the brand for, is an entirely different ballgame, “That’s something I'm proud to have achieved.”
Mausam Narang, Eleftheria Cheese
If you’re looking for the real deal, micro creamery Eleftheria Cheese is perhaps one of the best in the game to try. In 2021, their Norwegian style brown cheese “Brunost” made them the first Indian brand to enter and win a spot in the top three at the World Cheese Awards held in Spain. The master brain behind these fresh, artisanal gifts of rich creamy Burrata and Halloumi cheeses is Mausam Narang, who wanted to provide international quality handcrafted cheese in Mumbai, after noticing that most restaurants and hotels were importing products from different states. “Initially, some industry people did not take my business seriously, dismissing it as a hobby. We now supply to over 70 restaurants across Mumbai and are present in Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Delhi,” says Narang. She confesses that while she loves her work, “Cheesemaking is 70% cleaning, scrubbing and sanitizing and 30% actually making cheese!”
Anjali Shahi, Matinee Gin
Anjali Shahi’s trip to the European continent brought her in the middle of a gin renaissance, which fostered a new dream of owning her own gin brand with co-founder Lavanya Jayashankar in India. Adding her own spin on the spirit, Anjali’s formula is created with locally sourced indigenous ingredients such as Nagkesar, Tefla and Kagzi Lime. However, the road to her success is hardly straight and narrow. “This industry is not geared towards small batch production and my persistence has helped me coax vendors to support our journey despite the small order quantities,” explains Anjali, who although comes from an entrepreneurial family background, is a newcomer to the alcoholic beverage industry. With some initial struggles, she’s braved her way into the fold, gaining the trust of retailers with consistent progress. Anjali finds that while cocktails might sound like a “sexy space” to thrive in, there’s a lot of work that goes into creating your space. “A huge chunk is dealing with production issues, excise regulations, ruthless retailers and people just asking for free booze.”
Kimaya Jaipuria, Ayamik Wholefoods
Bringing a flux of health into the majorly cholesterol-fuelled food space, Kimaya’s food venture offers a curation of delectable snacks from around the world, created using only the best of unprocessed ingredients. Stemming from the concept of slow living, Kimaya’s idea was to address hunger pangs with a combination of clean primary group ingredients like whole grains, superfoods brought into its final stage with healthy and slow cooking techniques. Contrary to labels that offer nutritious alternatives oftentimes foregoing the taste bit, she wanted to present a synchronisation of good taste along with nutrition in packaged snacks. The brand has now expanded to offer everything from guilt-free crackers, hummus, dips, pasta sauces, and vegan chocolate.
Carol Singh, Antidote Cleanse
Introducing a new way of life with healthy food practices, the founding sister-duo Carol and Nadia Singh wanted to offer cold-pressed juices with a slew of nutritional benefits while being a treat for the taste buds. The venture was an idea born out of watching their mother, a nutritionist, create cleansing potions with fruit juices. Having struggled with their own relationship with food, whether binge eating due to stress or just choosing unhealthy options, the girls found their way out of the vicious cycle with the help of cold-pressed juices. Though the idea was fairly new when the duo started, we now live in a time where clean eating –and drinking– is the new cool, giving their fledgling project the perfect audience and a rise to success.