In Conversation With… Krishnaa Kantthawala, Founder, Smart Foods
Can you please help us know your professional background?
I am a professional marketer with fifteen years of experience in Integrated MarComm, Brand Strategy and Business development. I’ve worked extensively in the Luxury Retail industry and before starting my venture, I worked as a global brand manager for a luxury-tech company based out of Singapore. I’ve been part of the core-team in four of my professional assignments, wherein we were conceptually launching something new. This includes a Satellite Radio with 52 music genre stations, a dedicated Interior-Exterior Home décor mall, an exclusive high-end antique jewelry brand and an eco-friendly lab grown diamond brand. This gave me tremendous confidence that if you believe in a concept or an idea that can positively influence or simply help the society, there is nothing wrong in giving it a shot and starting from scratch. You never know, it could turn out to be a huge phenomenon tomorrow.
Can you please tell us about your venture ‘Smart Foods’?
While marketing eco-friendly diamonds in Singapore, I often kept wondering that what possible difference can an eco-friendly diamond create as against an eco-friendly food initiative and that’s when I decided to pack my bags and move back to India to start my own health foods venture.
‘My Smart Millets’ offer millet-based wholesome nutritious foods that tastes terrific and satiates hunger; these are offered in convenient food forms like noodles, pastas, cookies, etc. Hence, one can eat them guilt free, anytime, anywhere. Our products cater to the pressing needs of urban Indian and International consumer, who are short of time but wish to eat healthy without compromising on their taste buds.
Millets fit the current biggest global health food trends i.e. gluten-free, super food, ancient grains, low glycemic index and good for losing weight, thus having the potential to expand in the global health food market. We’re working towards making My Smart Millets a leading global health foods brand that would be loved by one and all.
Currently my startup, Smart Foods has been incubated with the Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad under the Government of India’s RKVY Raftaar program that supports agriculture, agritech and allied business entrepreneurs.
What is the problem you are trying to solve with your venture?
My Smart Millets envisions to provide a range of healthy foods made with traditional & contemporary ingredients, that promotes nutritional and responsible eating, which is good for your health, good for the planet and good for the farmer.
Health disorders – Wrong food habits are causing hazardous diseases like eating disorders (over 31% urban Indian women suffer from anorexia [www.kheljournal.com] ), & over 14.4 million Indian children suffer from obesity [www.indiaspend.com]) amongst urban dwellers, which can be resolved by including nutritious millets (jowar, bajra, ragi) in their daily meal. But the urban Indian consumers are short of time and hence My Smart Millets resolves this issue by providing foods that can be quickly prepared, satiate hunger and come in convenient food forms like noodles and pastas made of millets without any oil, preservatives and maida.
Global Food Crisis – The world faces a crucial question as to how it will feed 9 billion humans in the near future with limited vegetation. Millets i.e. small nutricereals like Ragi, Jowar, Bajra, etc. have been looked upon as the answer to the resolve this crisis. Since they grow in harsh drylands needing very little water, they’re regarded as climate-conscious crops and also marginal farmer friendly since they don’t need much fertilizer and maintenance.
What is one thing that you would like to change immediately about your venture ‘ Smart Foods’?
Currently, we’re outsourced our production to contract manufacturers which doesn’t help us control the costing of the finished product. Once we get the right funding to scale up, we shall have our own set-up that shall help us control the quality and pricing of our products.
What impact did covid-19 pandemic have on your business? How do you plan to overcome it?
The past 8 months have been extremely challenging for me as for most other startups. Our plans to get into Export and B2B (Corporate) were completely marred due to the pandemic. So currently we’re reworking the strategy to launch our products in post-covid era. We plan to focus on e-commerce FMCG platforms to maintain the sale and once offline channels like Modern Retail Trade and Corporate selling functions normally, we shall launch our brand with extensive distribution and in-store marketing to reach out higher number of customers.
What is your vision for your venture ‘Smart Foods’ in the long run?
We wish to make My Smart Millets a leading global millets brand that habituates people into eating millets at least thrice in their weekly diet, replacing food habits that challenge the environment and their health. Our plans include exporting our Millet based RTE/RTC products globally supported by seasonings/ sauces/ flavors that are locally relished to ensure maximum consumer satisfaction
What have been the most challenging times in your journey so far?
As I mentioned earlier, the pandemic has created lot of challenges for startups such as ours. Apart from that, FMCG is a capital-intensive industry so one of the on-going challenges is always to maintain a strong cash flow. As an FMCG startup, one has to create a strong confidence in the consumer and investor mind in the initial years. Once you sustain that period and build a successful brand, investments shall flow in automatically and help to scale up the business.
As an entrepreneur you must be having a lot of pressure and stress. What works best for you to handle the pressure and stress?
I am a devotee of Lord Krishna so I meditate upon his name and feel his presence with me. That keeps the stress away. When we believe and have faith in the supreme energy, we realize we’re not fighting our battle alone, but are protected by a higher energy and that gives us immense strength to face every situation with confidence.
What is your message for any aspiring entrepreneurs?
We have a saying in Gujarati, that says, ‘if you wish to be an entrepreneur, be ready to eat home food for at least a 1000 days’. It simply means that one should have the capability to persist for at least 3 years before you taste success in your business. If you have that kind of readiness and sustenance to face multiple challenges while you’re hustling to build your business, you shall definitely reap the fruits of success for all the efforts, both physical and mental that you’ve put in to build your dream life.
*All views are that of the interviewee. UdyamGyan does not promote or endorse any claims.