When I heard about a successful salad business in Ahmedabad, I knew that I have to cover this in my series " What's cooking".
Ahmedabadis are foodies by heart and salad is not considered as part of the maincourse food. So how this idea has survived? When I came to know about the lady behind the enterprise, her name apperaed to be familier. After little scratching, I remember that we had met in a local event for women enterprenuers almost half a decade back. :)
I remember Vidhya as a petite delicate young lady with dreamy eyes. Her physical appearence was deceptive and does not convey the inside strength this lady had. She calls herself a geek but sagely foodie at heart. She is the face of the food-tech enterprise crowned as- "LoveForSalad" .
And an idea was born !🤔
The softeware team, of which Vidhya was a part one day thought of having salad lunch and that decision was the seed of starting a food enterprise. The five members of the team were brewing this idea in their spare time. They worked on this idea for almost an year before the launch. Doing extensive research and trials , they finally came up with the LoveForSalad - An Online Salad Bar by Geeks !
A software engineer is reborn as a foodprenuer.
Her grandfather had been in and uncles had stints in the food business.With her husband Ashish's enterprenuerial idea of being part of people's everyday life and her love for sagely yummy food along with some managerial and business skills inherited from her parents set the stage for LoveForSalad. The bunch of five young engineers were not afraid to venture into a totally new field and were bursting with ideas, energy and passion to do something unique and bring a diffrence to people's life. Ashish was a great leader and everyone wanted to make an outstanding product, a great company and the learnings it will bring.
Let's learn about her enterprenural journey from Vidhya herself.
Petpuja: Welcome to the blog Vidhya! We feel delighted to share your journey from being a software engineer to foodprenuer.
Vidhya: I was just an year old college pass out with some tech product experience when we had started working on LoveForSalad. I gave one long year of experimentation, gaining deep knowledge, doing dry-runs, framing the products, little tech work, setting up the supply chain, delivery, market realization, pushing to the market, designed overall product look and feel, engineered packaging in a way that minimizes waste from the standard sheet making a beautiful, classy box. From conceptualization to realization, every day of work was like a shot called for the ecstasy of building something beautiful.
An entrepreneur was emerging as I took up tasks which the remaining team didn’t focus on and deep down I felt, I can do it. We were a great team. Everyone let the other person do what they were good at, wanted to learn, and still raced their efforts to bring out the best to share.
Looking out for and hiring manpower, getting them to work with us, training them for an altogether new concept, making them follow what we want from a small place was a huge challenge.
Taking a 24-25 year old girl as their boss was not a convention for most of the staff.
The biggest move of shifting to commercial market place of Prahladnagar with a professional setup got me a great deal of learning. Directly dealing with the kitchen and delivery staff, call operator, hospitality team, customer interaction, branding, overall look , investor talks, approaching corporates, tough experiences of negotiating business sales, wrong hires all these contributed to evolve me as an enterprenuer. The geek mind and body were immensely stressed out with the heavy duties of operations, multitasking , squeezing every possible bit of you, and your time for your brand. Those who have worked on a startup can breathe themselves here, I guess. But it all felt worth with our customers’ satisfaction and happiness and the warmth we received.
Breaking even after 18 months slowly getting to profit-making was keeping us hopeful. However, our take-home pay was difficult. The good thing was we were the point of interaction with our customers which helped us connect to them very well and they loved us for our offering and efforts. Had it not been for the passion and our customers’ love, we couldn’t have survived.
Next, we had to work on delivery and systematization.I strongly believe- ‘When you are on a noble path, the Universe sends you small gifts and signals the path ahead. Meeting and having some great mentors from our customers was like it. Self-made food tech entrepreneurs needed lighthouses while they were churning themselves hard every day to establish a new trend, to make a healthy difference to society.
Whilst I mostly drove operations, branding, customer interaction, I learned and implemented process standardization also. Then there came opportunities to write healthy recipes, judge cooking competition, conducted healthy eating campaigns and motivated students for entrepreneurship and empowering India.
Vidhya: We started serving salads in a multigrain taco bowl with Indian taste. Eat the salad and then eat the bowl with the tasty chutneys. The entire concept of having salads for meals, accompanied with a filler, juice and nuts while you read a nice one liner has been a unique concept.
Petpuja: Have you ever dreamt of ending into a foodprenuer while being in colllege?
Vidhya: When I was in the last year of my college I once wrote a poem imagining how I would be after stepping into the professional world, poised and learned. God had better plans for me - building a remarkable product from zero, validating it with public love and national-international media, having a story to tell my grandkids 😃 The entrepreneurial journey with LoveForSalad has crafted me a very different being. I pray I could give the world more amazing products, ideas, be useful with my existence.
Petpuja: Making salad popular in Ahmedabad is commendable. Though healthy foods are becoming popular now. What is your client base?
Vidhya: The client base is varied from decision-makers, top-level managers, conscious corporates and fitness freaks, taste lover youngsters as well as homemakers too to our surprise. Healthy eating senior citizens have also loved us though they are in minority.
Petpuja: "Salad as complete food" - What is your take on it?
Vidhya:Most of us have a sedentary lifestyle these days. With the current lifestyle, we cannot keep on feeding the bodies heavy meals, oily junk food available easily outside twice a day.
Getting maximum nutrition from the sagely salads and juice, essential micronutrients and power from some nuts and seeds and limiting carbs at least once a day or 3-4 days a week is a good deal for a healthy body.Our perfect figure, glowing actresses, leaders, decision-makers, fitness enthusiasts know the importance of clean, good food and have welcomed our concept, quality, and offering of salads for meals as a boon.
By the way, did you know that our Padmabhushan actress and classical dancer, Mallika Sarabhai has been on salads for 18 years until I had a conversation with her 4 years back.
Petpuja: How do you react to critical comments from clients?
Vidhya: With utmost sincerity, being all ears! The critical customers are in reality, ‘The PUSH customers’. They are tightly bound to our products, brand, and the way we perform and hence bring these comments. So, their comments are critical checks on our business operation.
Petpuja: What are your future plans?
Vidhya: I plan to revisit my business plan with changing times.
Petpuja: We would like to share some of your popular recipes with our readers.
Vidhya: While most people cannot yet take up the concept of salads for meals concept yet I have 2 cheat ways to get you eating salads well. :)
In the form of Indian chaat and small salad portions with meals.
For babies, kids (and all above ages too)-
Boiled, salted pigeon peas with a drizzle of groundnut oil and some chopped coriander can go like a quickly prepped evening snack or salad dish.
Cut apple, dates, and spread some honey or honey-lemon mix (equal proportion) over.
Tomato-cheese mix (3:1) drooling with basil-infused olive oil and few drops of balsamic vinegar. Alternatively, you can add finely chopped basil leaves, pinch salt, pepper, and vinegar or lemon drops. This is so simply a heaven...you got to try it to know it!
1) My favorite super sprout mix- High in proteins, vitamin B, C, E, calcium, and zero cholesterol salad everyone would love.
PREP TIME: 8 hours soak time, 15 mins boiling time, 5 mins chopping and grating
MAKING TIME: 1 MIN |
½ Cup boiled mix sprouts of your choice. I love to have moong, moth, chana, soybean
1 tsp chaat masala
¼ cup grated carrot, ¼ cup coconut, ¼ cup chopped coriander, 1 tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp black pepper powder.
Mix boiled pulses, the veggies, and masalas. Toss, and enjoy!
Believe me, the simpler and tastier you make healthy eating, the more you’ll go for it.
2) When 32% of the Gujarati population is diabetic, I beckon this healthy recipe made by naani; they call it- “methi nu kachu”. Diabetic-friendly, made of fresh green fenugreek grown near rivers- one with white stem, small leaves, and tied in smaller bunches. Highly fibrous and nutritious- this fenugreek is super tasty and mind it….not bitter! Yes..you read it right! So go for it now... ☺
1.5 cup fenugreek leaves including some good white stem before roots
A little less than ¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1-inch ginger, 3 small green chilies, 3-4 cloves of garlic, pinch salt
Chop and wash the fenugreek well and take it in your salad bowl. (No need to add salt while washing.)
Add the green paste and oil and mix well with your hand. Marinate for about 5-10 mins.
That’s all..! Enjoy this fantastically healthy and tasty salad with Indian bread or just like a salad. Boom..!
Healthy eating is sometimes so simple and awesomely tasty too…says this Fenugreek salad ☺
Petpuja: Would you like to share some memorable experiences with your clients?
Vidhya: We know most of our customers personally and have innumerable memories..to cherish, learn from and even share with our generation :)
Our first official customer before launch, the Honorable Dean of Gujarat University, Hindi Dept then, Dr. Ranjana Argade and a Sanskrit teacher, Mrs. Preeti gave us the opportunity to serve them daily for a couple of months and tune the salads and recipes into the more natural form for preservative conscious indo-taste lovers.
The first online customer happened to be a post-graduate IIM student interacting with whom we found was a friend’s friend. (It was not a referred customer though). He got a couple of party orders at IIM- our first experience in outdoor catering. He later showed interest in holding a stake in LoveForSalad.
We didn’t know the "LoveForSalad" was going to be an angel investor firm too. It impressed Sandeep Shah who got interested in getting angel funds for LoveForSalad.
Over the years we got some very elite hands who willingly blessed us with their mentorship- Dr. Ranjana Argade, Shri Himal Parikh, Shri Sunil Handa, Mr. Nipun Patel, and few other customers turned guide, well-wishers close to the heart.
One of my fondest memories has been serving the Lord in ISKCON temple on His birthdays (Krishnajanamashtami).