If you decide to follow a vegan lifestyle in India, you are probably going to face many challenges — not just with explaining the concept to people, but also with eating vegan in a nation that’s obsessed with dairy.
Being vegan is a choice, just like being vegetarian or a meat-eater. Millennials are familiar with the concept and many of them are giving it a shot (for dietary/health reasons, or simply to eat clean). Even so, there are but a few restaurants catering to vegans and fewer stores selling vegan products.
To solve this problem, millennial entrepreneur Kinjal Darukhanawala founded Wegan Foods — a range of plant-based, dairy-free products. Her venture also received funding from the royal family of Sharjah.
In an interview with indibeat, Kinjal spoke about her startup and her take on veganism in India. Excerpts:
IB: Both, you and your husband, are vegan. How long has it been?
It has been a couple years since we turned vegan. It has been a fun and adventurous journey.
Eating outside and socialising has definitely become tricky! But our friends and family are now fully aware of our quirky (read different) eating habits. In fact, they help us figure out what to order when we are out.
IB: How did the idea of Wegan Foods come about?
After becoming a mother, I was on sabbatical for a year and a half. When I decided to resume work, getting back to my old digital marketing business just didn’t feel like the right idea. And I had just turned vegan around that time.
After a lot of brainstorming and contemplation, I decided to do something totally new, and after several experiments in my kitchen, Wegan Foods came into existence.
Wegan Foods aims to make clean eating (following a plant-based diet) a possibility in India. So anyone who wants to give up dairy for health or any other reasons should be able to find the right products.
IB: What products can we look forward to?
Our first product is Nooch — Nutritional Yeast, which has a brilliant nutritional profile and also a cheesy flavour. It looks like powdered parmesan and you can make the most amazing nacho “cheese” sauce and dairy-free mac and cheese using it as a base ingredient.
It is a great source of protein and vitamin B complex. It is also gluten free! It can be used to sprinkle on kale chips, popcorn, soups and stir fries. You can also add it to your hummus or pesto and make it more power-packed.
Next, we are working on a grain-free pasta, which can actually be a great post-workout meal. Our team of food technologists are also in the midst of cracking a high-protein plant-based milk (soy and nut free), which can serve as a great beverage for kids and can also be used in tea and coffee.
IB: Do you think, in an economy like India, which has a huge market for milk and milk products, a market for vegan food can thrive?
Absolutely! Once a trend picks up pace in India, it snowballs in no time. More and more people are ditching dairy and eating more plant based. Lifestyle diseases and hormonal imbalance are plaguing the youth in India, and plant-based eating is definitely the answer.
IB: How important is it for a local brand to enter the vegan food market in India?
Very important. The international brands are not available everywhere. Also, they are out of stock from time to time. And the nut-based international products can be rather steep. People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to eat better!
IB: What’s your advice to the millennials aspiring to start their own food business?
It is imperative to have a vision and business strategy in place. Remember, you will not have all the answers before starting out. Do your research, have a plan of action, and be realistic. Most importantly, don’t fear rejection.
Read more about Wegan Foods on their website.
Image Credit: Kinjal Darukhanawala