How this CA set up Rs 50 lakh food business with Rs 1 lakh investment

Jayashree Krishnamurthy is a practising CA and also an entrepreneur. Her healthy food startup Rasa Wellness offers 30 millet-based and gluten-free porridges, snacks, and other items across India. Founded in July 2022, it is doubling revenues annually

Riya Singh
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Jayashree Krishnamurthy, CA, set up Rasa Wellness Pvt Ltd in July 2022

Jayashree Krishnamurthy, CA, set up Rasa Wellness Pvt Ltd in July 2022

From humble kitchen experiments to a thriving food business, Jayashree Krishnamurthy, founder of Chennai-based Rasa Wellness Pvt Ltd, has travelled a long distance in a short time. What started as a quest to provide her 8-year-old son with a nutritious alternative to store-bought beverages has blossomed into a Rs 50 lakh enterprise in less than two years.

Fuelled by a desire to provide her child with a protein-rich porridge devoid of harmful preservatives, Jayashree, rooted in her vegetarian upbringing, crafted her own recipe using ragi, a millet rich in calcium, iron and protein. It received good feedback from her family and soon, Jayashree began preparing batches for her friends who had kids in the same age group.

From kitchen to healthy food startup

When demand for her products kept increasing, she transformed her kitchen solution into a full-fledged business venture. She started Rasa Wellness in July 2022 with a modest investment of Rs one lakh.

Also Read: Engineer couple builds Rs 2 crore laddu business with Rs 1 lakh investment 

A chartered accountant (CA) with over 13 years of experience, Jayashree also runs her firm Infini Consulting Pvt Ltd. “I wanted to start a venture with food because I love cooking and exploring healthy food options. One day, I thought, why not start it as a business,” says Jayashree, who continues her CA consultancy work as well.

“People usually take protein supplements, but I wanted to bring a product that is not only a wholesome nourishing breakfast but also high in protein without any additives, or plant-based proteins. So, I work with basic cereals, nuts, and spices,” she adds.

Jayashree's original recipe received an award in the innovative millet-based product category from Hospisource, an online platform facilitating connections within the hospitality industry. 

jayashree hspice
Jayashree Krishnamurthy with the Hospisource award. Pic: Rasa Wellness

To cater to all age groups, she launched it in vanilla and peri-peri flavours. Having started with just one product, Rasa now has over 30 high-nutrition products in its portfolio in various categories like – instant health drinks, healthy porridge, flour and instant mixes, laddu mixes, laddus, millet cookies and crunchies.

Explaining the idea behind instant mixes, she says, "Our goal was to offer nourishing food products that are also delicious."

"Over time, we discovered that convenience is equally important; if a product isn't quick and easy to prepare, customers may go for online ordering instead."

Also Read: How two MBA friends built a millet muesli business

Focus on health

Rasa incorporates as gluten-free flour, jaggery, pearl millet, foxtail millet, and more into its diverse range of offerings, including millet chocolate drinks, healthy porridge, snacks and laddus.

These ingredients have several health benefits. Millets, for instance, are rich in nutrients like fibre, protein, and essential minerals. Gluten-free flour caters to individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Jaggery is a natural sweetener, providing a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Hence, Rasa not only delivers delectable treats but also promotes a lifestyle rooted in holistic wellness.

The sweets crafted by Rasa are customized to order with a shelf life ranging from 15 days to 1 month. The shelf life of their cookies and laddus varies between two and five months. As for their instant mixes, it is between nine and 12 months. The company has a contract manufacturing unit in Hyderabad and outsources baking to a bakery in Chennai. 

Jayashree says her financial expertise as a CA has played a crucial role in the development of Rasa. 

"While the initial business concept is vital, effective financial management is paramount, especially when you are bootstrapped. Every penny counts," she explains. 

Managing two companies brought significant challenges for Krishnamurthy over the past two years. "Establishing a brand from scratch is no small feat, and it has certainly impacted my family time. However, my loved ones understand the additional responsibilities I've undertaken, and I've mentally prepared myself for the journey," the food entrepreneur says.

 Also Read: Banker turns entrepreneur to give the best to her baby; sets up zero-preservative healthy food business

sugar free rasa products
Rasa's preservative-free products on a retail shelf. Pic: Rasa Wellness 

Rasa works around the mantra that food can be either the most powerful medicine that heals you or the slowest poison that incapacitates you. The company delivers across India, facilitated by its own website and online platforms like Amazon, Vegan Dukan, and Vegan Mall, among others. The brand is also present across niche local organic stores in Chennai. 

Expanding business

Opting for organic growth strategies, Rasa primarily caters to demand from regions such as Chennai, Maharashtra, and Kerala. To promote their products, Rasa participates in pop-ups and exhibitions and benefits from word-of-mouth marketing. 

To expand the customer base, Rasa also collaborates with nutritionists and gynaecologists. Its black gram porridge stands out as a good option for adolescent girls' menstrual health, frequently recommended by gynaecologists.

Online sales are the primary revenue stream for Rasa, with retail sales gradually gaining momentum. Corporate gift orders also constitute a significant portion of the company's income. Rasa has worked with over 20 corporate firms so far.

Jayashree believes that creating brand awareness can be daunting and one could end up burning a lot of cash without a solid understanding of the market landscape. However, recent governmental initiatives promoting millet-based products have provided a significant boost to Rasa's endeavours. 

Also Read: From a daily wager to a food entrepreneur, how Assam’s Diganta Das set up a successful business

Giving examples, she says several branches of the State Bank of India opted for millet-based sweets over conventional ones for Diwali gifting in support of the government's campaign. This shift not only contributed to Rasa's success but also underscored the growing recognition and appreciation for millet-based offerings. 

Jayashree event
Jayashree Krishnamurthy at an event to promote her products. Pic: Rasa Wellness

In a span of two years, Rasa has witnessed significant growth. 

The company’s revenue has surged to around Rs 50 lakh for the current financial year, marking a substantial increase from the Rs 20 lakh recorded in FY23. This converts into over 110 percent annual growth.

Educating people about the benefits of healthy snacking has been a major challenge for Rasa. According to Jayashree, many individuals tend to intermittently embrace healthy eating habits. “People punctuate their life with healthy food. They eat healthy for one day and go back to junking for the next month. To bring it as a lifestyle change is very difficult,” the woman entrepreneur says.

She envisions Rasa beyond a food platform, aiming to transition it into a comprehensive wellness service. Recently, Rasa introduced the Rasa Energy Hub, offering strength training sessions and educational workshops on daily nutrition. By integrating exercise, nutrition, and their product line, Rasa aims to provide a holistic wellness experience. 

The company is also expanding its reach to ensure healthy food accessibility to a wider audience. Currently, Rasa is developing a cutting-edge vending machine capable of dispensing millet-based drinks with a single tap, catering to office canteens and other large establishments. Jayashree is also actively pursuing partnerships with hospitals, corporate offices, and college canteens to incorporate their products into breakfast menus. "We are focusing on institutional sales alongside retail, aiming to maximize our impact,” she says.

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, sustainability, education & women empowerment)

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