Shii'take Mushrooms? Well, I hadn't heard about them before these young entrepreneurs from IIM-Ahmedabad told me over mail. As it turns out, Shii'take mushrooms are a jewel of the oriental cuisine and are the second most consumed mushrooms globally. These flavorful Japanese wood mushrooms have high protein content and are rich in B complex Vitamins and dietary fiber. When consumed regularly, they reduce cholesterol and develops protection against multiple diseases. It contains an active compound lentinan, which helps protect against cancer and is an official adjuvant for stomach cancer in Japan. And they're now available in India, thanks to Srishti Shaw and Kanupradeep Subramanian.
Shrishti completed her Electronics & Tele-communication Engineering from Jadavpur University while Kanupradeep (or as people call him - Kanu) completed his Electrical Engineering from IIT-Madras. They both joined IIM-A right after graduation and this is where their paths crossed. "During the restaurant hops with our friends, we discovered a common passion for food and a deep ambition to start our own venture after graduating," says Shrishti. Both of them had previously gained international exposure in UK, Brazil and various South East Asian countries through their internships and personal travels. As they recollected their experiences with food in these places, they came to a realization- 'These countries had managed to engineer their food habits to better adapt to the indoor lifestyle, which comes with corporatization of workplaces. Comparatively, Indian diet still focuses on large intakes of starch and carbs that are suited for outdoor and physical labor.'
The duo felt that this is an important market gap and thus decided to set out to try and impact the way an Indian household thinks about food. "This acted as our motivation to build an enterprise that can provide healthy food products from across the globe to Indian kitchens," says Kanu. They have set up WIMWI Foods Private Limited to improve the awareness and access to healthy eating options in India. The first step- Shii'take Mushrooms under the brand name Le Gourmetz - the Foodies.
The company was formally incorporated on 31st March 2014. Most of the last 6 months were spent in setting up the international supply chain and developing the marketing strategy for the product. "We worked with a number of chefs and visited a lot of hotels to design the right recipe book that will suite the Indian palette," says Shrishti. They launched the mushrooms via Hypercity Chain in mid-November in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad. Recently, they have also started retailing through Ahmedabad based Fresh and Frozen food chain, Magson.
Being students of IIM, market research is in the DNA. The duo tells us that the Indian health food market stood at Rs 9,000 crore in 2010, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 per cent to Rs 22,500 crore by 2015. Currently it contributes to 10% of the overall Indian market compared to global average of 25%. The mushroom market itself in India is approximately 1000 crore and faces huge demand supply gap. The Indian per capita consumption stands at 40 gms compared to 11.6 kg in Netherlands and 1.62 kg in USA. As far as eating habits go, it is debatable if one should work towards having a better infrastructure to support locally grown food or procure the 'best' from outside but going purely by numbers, there is market.
WIMWI Foods is currently part of IIMAvericks Programme, a Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) and IIM-Ahmedabad Alumni initiative, which supports graduating students of IIM-Ahmedabad with a monthly stipend and active mentoring. They have also received a scholarship through the GC Mital Entrepreneurship Aid, supported by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni and disbursed through the Institute. The duo have started strong and want to be an integrated health foods company that brings healthier food choices and practices from across the globe into Indian kitchen.
Website: WIMWI Foods