Microbiologist Foodpreneur - Ms. Vishakha of "SWAD KAA SAFAR"

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This monsoon, our guest in the interview series - "What's Cooking?" is Ms. Vishakha of “SWAD KAA SAFAR”. She was trained to be a microbiologist but found her calling in food business. She started as a home baker but now her product portfolio consists of traditional sweets, namkeen mixtures, premixes, prasads etc.
Vishakha gives credit to her  mother and daughter for her interest in cooking. Let's learn from her about her journey!

Petpuja: Welcome to the blog Vishakha. We would love to hear about your journey as an entrepreneur.

Vishakha: My mother was a working woman but since she was fond of cooking , she used to  make all kinds of sweets, namkeens , farsan, snacks and  prasad for big religious family functions at home. Being the eldest child, I started  helping my mummy and I used to be very happy working with her in the kitchen. While assisting my mom, I never realised that I was learning everything by doing. In our neighbourhood, my mom's cooking skills were appreciated a lot. In those days, during festive season, neighbourhood women used to help each other in making festive sweets and namkeen etc. Such community cooking sessions are very common in small towns even now. My mother was always leading these social cooking sessions. I have very fond memories of those  cooking sessions. They were fun. 

After my wedding, I came to Ahmedabad which is a bigger city and has lots of eating joints where one can buy things of choice. But as my daughter was allergic to food colours, eating out was out of question. My little one loved cakes and hence I learnt to bake cakes for her. This is how I got initiated in baking.



Petpuja: As happens with most of the home bakers, her cakes were relished first by friends and family. First few orders were placed by them. Word of mouth publicity did wonders for her and the there was a continuous flow of orders. As orders were increasing and with family support, she finally started her food venture - “SWAD KAA SAFAR” . 

Vishakha: I am lucky to get all the support from my inlaws and parental family as and when required. Though I am the face of the enterprise, it's a family enterprise in the true sense. 

After celebrating the success of my cakes, I added traditional sweets, which were the forte of my mother.  Under her guidance and support from my daughter and bhabhi, I was able to increase my product portfolio. 


Petpuja: Did you ever feel butterflies in your stomach before going commercial?

Vishakha: Not exactly as my growth was slow and steady. Also, when I started it was not meant to be a business and I was happily baking for my extended family, friends and neighbours. The transition was smooth and I never felt any goosebumps about scaling up my operations. It just extended from my kitchen. Although while moving into the industry and expanding the venture we faced many difficulties but what would be the success if it is not measured by the hurdles in the journey?

Petpuja: What is the unique selling point of your products?

Vishakha : I make almost everything myself. As I am adding premixes etc. to my portfolio, I make everything from scratch so that ingredients are pure and fresh. For example - I make my own peanut butter and fresh cheese cream . I make quantities enough for the orders and do not stack  or store. So my USP is that I make everything fresh and  from pure ingredients.

Petpuja: Is this your first venture or have you tried hands in other businesses also?

Vishakha: Before stepping into the food industry, I was into the textile industry and was doing a booming business. My motto was - "Best out of Waste".  The basic concept was to reuse sarees which are not being worn by women so often. But sarees have emotional values and no one wants to throw them. So, I offered to design quilts and several other useful items which can be used  on a daily basis. Just as I was getting settled in that business , my husband got transferred to Muscat. After coming back, I found that my workers have moved on to other places and industries. So, I dropped the idea of reviving that old business. After setting up my home in Ahmedabad, the itch to do something of my own started again. I wanted to do something which can be done from home.  My daughter had grown up and I had enough time to pursue something of my own. I finally zeroed in on home baking as I am happiest while baking. 

Petpuja: Covid 19 has impacted almost all the businesses. How do you see the impact on your business?

Vishakha: If we talk of the pre covid scenario, people did not value home bakers much because even though home bakers could deliver fresh items. But the order had to be placed well in advance and it was always much easier to get ready made cakes from bakery shops. Just in 3 months now, I see a vast shift of customers towards  home baking because it has become difficult to trust the hygiene of the shops. They are also concerned about the preservatives and added food colors used in bakeries.

Moreover as people are becoming health conscious, they prefer fresh and healthy food. Even in cakes we have been having an amazing response for wheat based cakes. So in my opinion, the basics of baking and cooking will change towards more healthy  and quality products.

Petpuja: What are the most popular products from "Swad Kaa Safar" ?

Vishakha: Few of our popular items are cheesecakes, thor and gujiya in sweets, peanut butter granola in healthy snacks.  Our gundar pet, gundar sukhdi, adu pak  are most popular in winter .

Petpuja: What are your future plans?

Vishakha: I am planning to write a book on the pre and post delivery food specially recommended for pregnant ladies. A new mother needs special food-combinations during pregnancy and after delivery for the her and baby's well-being. The traditional prenatal and postnatal foods are being forgotten. I want to revive and document them. India is a vast and diverse country and the food given to the new mother varies a lot. My idea is to come up with a book listing the diverse foods of all the states and cultures for pregnant women. This is going to be a great treasure in the times to come. They are based on genuine experiences and wisdom passed through generations. 

Petpuja: How do you create healthy baking products ? Do you see an increase in demand for such products?

Vishakha: It is now that people are getting health conscious. But I was aware about the unhealthy practices earlier due to  my daughter's allergy to food colours. I have always avoided things like artificial colors, flavors, emulsions, essence. I use natural sweeteners like dates, jaggery, maple syrup, liquid jaggery as much as I can in all my products.

In my cakes, I use the paste made directly from the fruits to bring the colors. Also the chocolate used in my cakes is not compound chocolate but real chocolate. Although the cost increases by a bit, I believe in delivering fresh, healthy and safe food items. Food is the basic necessity and should be made with the best practices. In our healthy snacks, we use sindhav (sendha) salts and our traditional sweets are made in pure ghee. 

For my premixes the onion powder, garlic powder, amchur powder, ginger powder, kasoori methi, mint powder, palak powder, all are dried and made at home under proper hygiene.


Petpuja: Would you like to share some interesting incident or a great compliment which you have received?

Vishakha: I remember a very funny incidence. It was when we had just started. I had a gujiya order and we delivered freshly made box in the evening. Next day I got a call from her saying they didn't have dinner last night. I got perplexed and asked why ? She burst into laughter saying that they had the gujiya for dinner. They loved it so much that they finished all the 1 kg of gujiya at one go. And she placed another order  immediately.


Petpuja: How do you take critical comments from clients?

Vishakha: For any growing business, criticism is of utmost importance. We at SWAD KAA SAFAR take critical feedback very positively and try to improve our services.


Petpuja: It will be great if you can share a few easy to follow recipes with our readers.

Vishakha: I am sharing recipes of Oreo cheesecake and papad poha. Very easy to make and very tasty to eat. 

1. Oreo cheesecake:

Ingredients 

Oreo biscuit 250 gm

Unsalted melted butter 80 gm

Icing sugar 35 gm

Whipping cream 250 ml

Oreo crush 100 gm

Cream cheese. 100 gm

Castor sugar 3 tbsp

Vanilla extract ½ tbsp

Recipe

  1. Blend oreo biscuit.

  2. Add butter.

  3. Oreo and butter should be mixed till the batter is hard enough to make a tight layer for the base for the cake. Freeze for an hour.

  4. In a bowl add cream, cheese and sugar. Beat till a smooth batter is formed. 

  5. Fold whip cream and oreo cookie crush.

  6. Cover with clean film and freeze it for 8 hours.


2.  Papad Poha


Ingredients:

Poha, Udad papad, Peanuts, Daliya, Green Chilli, curry leaves, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, coconut pieces, Oil, mustard seeds, powdered sugar.

Recipe:

  1. Heat oil. Add mustard seeds.

  2. When it starts crackling, add green chill, curry leaves and turmeric.

  3. Saute for one minute. Add peanuts, coconut pieces, sesame seeds.

  4. Add poha. Saute for 5-10 minutes.

  5. Add salt, powdered sugar and fennel seeds.

  6. Add deep fried papad pieces and mix well.

And lo, your tasty poha papad namkeen is ready to eat. 


Petpuja: Have you taken Fssai ?

Vishakha: Yeah, I have my FSSAI in place.

Petpuja: How is your family supporting your enterprise? 

Vishakha: My family has always been very supportive and always keeps encouraging me morally as well as financially. Everyone in the family  has always been a great help. Sometimes when we have an overflow of order, my seventy plus years young mother-in-law pitches in to cooks the family meals. My daughter , an engineering student, has been my technical support. She is working on my website and handles all the social media platforms.Whenever she has time, she helps in packaging orders etc. also. 

My gujiya orders are completely made by my mother and bhabhi. Last year on diwali I, my mother, my sister, my bhabhi, all of us did around 35 kgs of ghughra /gunjiya in 6 different flavors. My whole family is at my back and supporting in whatever way they can.  

Petpuja: What is your message to women, who may be exploring home baking as a business.

Vishakha:Many women hesitate to step out thinking what if it does not work. But I would advise them to think the opposite.The learning and the different experiences would be better than just sitting at home watching the daily soaps or just scrolling social media. And what is there to lose even if something does not go as planned. The recipes learnt would be of use to self at any point of life.

Petpuja: What a positive attitude! We wish Vishakha a great success in her venture "SWAD KAA SAFAR '' !

Rise and shine lady !

Vishakha can be contacted on these numbers -

9925010646 or 7490037990.



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