By Tejaswi Subramanian
Us millennials, we are a funny bunch. We are walking contradictions in that we are living in the most globalised state of the world, and yet, we are digging deeper into our roots and identity to make art that we can truly relate to. Us millennials, we are reading far and wide, but at the end of the day we are the reason that experiential learning is a buzzword among 21st century educationists. We are hashtag wanderlusting, IG-traveling, and being footloose than any generation of explorers that came before us, but at the end of the day, our secret longings are all about a sense of home and hearth.
We talk to our friends and lovers about our memories of our grandmother’s recipes, those pungent savouries that would make us press our eyes shut in delight, the sweetmeats filled with desi ghee that would threaten to disintegrate and melt in our mouths before we could truly taste their flavours, the pickles that we would gorge on in the summers, and the fruits that would grow in our aangan and would eventually be made into sweet-and-spicy jams or dissolved into sweet yoghurt. The sherbets, the rich milk sweets, the spiced-dal powders that can transform a bowl of plain rice, the home-ground masalas, the painstakingly-made coconut milk… these are the foods that an Indian millennial’s soul is made of.
In fact, just earlier this year, a survey carried out by CBRE covering over 1,200 restaurants in the NCR, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, found that while Indian millennials eat out more than three times a month, their palates were still dominated by Indian cuisine, which carved itself a lion’s share of 24%. Close at its heels was multi-cuisine at 22%, pointing towards a tendency to explore and experiment through food.
The choice in cuisines might seem paradoxical, but they make sense. Having also grown up on a steady diet of English sitcoms, international popstars, and the hand-me-downs of a two-century-long-colonialised culture, us millennials, staying true to our contradictions, love it when Indian recipes come with a twist. Schezwan dosa, quinoa biriyani, pani puri shots – the popularity of these re-created favourites is a testimony to our quirky taste in foods.
How Vinay Kothari went Desi
I caught up with Vinay Kothari, a marketing maverick who turned entrepreneur with his confectionery brand, GoDesi. Given his deep experience with FMCG-giant ITC, he has been right on the mark when it comes to identifying the market. However, it was his personal experience in creating the first product that caught my attention.
“I was on a trek in the Western Ghats during my sabbatical in 2016. On our descent, we stopped by at a tapri for chai, and chanced upon these delicious jackfruit bars. Taste buds aside, they also gave us a quick shot of energy. I started wondering why I couldn’t find one of these on a departmental store aisle in Bengaluru. It was healthy, natural, and free from all sorts of preservatives, and I had every reason to want to eat it again.”
The flavour left such an indelible mark on him that upon his return to the city, Kothari would often find himself talking to his friends and family about it. “One of my friends helped me trace down the people making these jackfruit bars so I could procure them. We found out that they were made by farmer producer organisations, who do such a great job with the product, but unfortunately lack the retail market access. That marked the beginning of the GoDesi journey!”
Coupling his marketing expertise with these tasteful recipes which have survived the rigorous user-testing of generations of Indians, Kothari created a business model that paid the farmer-producers and self-help groups 30% of the MRP, effectively tripling their revenue from its sales.
GoDesi goes to IIM-Bengaluru
GoDesi is currently being incubated at IIM-B’s prestigious NSRCEL. “This opened up a bevy of opportunities for the brand, giving them access to product tests at retail stores like Lumiere as well as the IIM-B canteen! As a startup in the F&B space, this is a crucial form of support as we have to compete with established giants for shelf space in the retail chains and departmental stores,” said Nagaraja Prakasham a.k.a. Naga, who is the startup’s mentor at the incubator, and an established agri-entrepreneur himself.
“Professor Bringi Dev’s sessions on refining the pitch, were by far the most important intervention which helped us articulate our ideas better while presenting to various stakeholders,” remarked Kothari, when asked about how the incubation had helped him and his brainchild.
Lemon chaat and jackfruit bars are two well-loved examples of traditional recipes that GoDesi has chosen and re-packaged in a manner that appeals to its next-gen buyers. Talking about the importance of the presentation of GoDesi’s products, mentor Naga said, “One of the flagship products, Imli Pop, is based on a candy made using tamarind and jaggery. It is a traditional candy enjoyed by people of all ages in North Karnataka. We made it into a lollipop and the flavour is a big hit among children! I tested this by giving Imli Pop as a Halloween treat instead of chocolate, and it worked! The kids loved it.”
Tejaswi Subramanian is a senior sub editor at Qrius.
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