How 6 next-gen startups are disrupting India’s plant-based industry

From plant-based meat options to improvised artificial tissue models, six startups put animal welfare on the map for a team of investors on the pitch day of the second edition of the Humane Entrepreneurship Program.
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The Alternatives Market is estimated to reach over $47.57 million in value terms by the end of FY2026, as per Research and Markets. The investments in alternative protein companies have also skyrocketed globally, with venture capital and private equity investment reaching $3 billion last year. With this current growth spurt, both big and small brands are trying out sustainable alternatives across categories. This shift isn’t just restricted to food. The global, cruelty-free cosmetics market is projected to reach $14.23 billion by 2030.

In a continuing effort to accelerate the growth of early-stage businesses in the sectors of new plant-based, fermentation-based and cell-based proteins, next generation materials that replace animal, and non-animal testing methodologies, Humane Society International/India recently concluded their second annual Humane Entrepreneurship Program with a pitch day.

Their latest cohort displayed various innovations, right from lab generated tissue for cosmetic testing, bovine milk made from microbes, plant based meat, plant based paneer, plant based egg to cruelty free men’s fashion accessories. The startups were BioDimension Technology, Phyx44, ProMeat, Naya M!lk, Ethik, and Plantish Foods.

The need for a sustainable tomorrow

One of the major causes of global warming, intensive animal agriculture, contributes to at least 16.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and leads to significant environmental degradation - right from loss of biodiversity to deforestation. This contribution is greater than that of the entire transport sector. About 92 percent of freshwater in the world is used for farming purposes and one third of it goes into rearing livestock and manufacturing animal products. Apart from creating a huge carbon footprint and playing a key role in global warming, livestock farming also subjects animals to conditions that are stressful, unsanitary, and cruel.

Speaking at the event, Alokparna Sengupta, Managing Director, HSI/India said, “The Humane Entrepreneurship Program, which started in 2020 and is in its second addition, is very close to our hearts. We have successfully delved into the startup ecosystem to create unique and significant impact for farmed animals that often suffer the most. ” Through the Humane Entrepreneurship Program, the team aims to bolster the ecosystem of technology-driven solutions, which replace the use of animals in food, material and laboratory systems.

Humane Entrepreneurship Program Pitch Day

HSI/India aims to create a humane and sustainable world for animals, including people through education, advocacy, and the promotion of respect and caring.

In tune with that goal, the team follows a multi-pronged strategy to touch upon the lives of all animals. Their aim is to care for animals in crisis, build a stronger animal protection movement, and end cruel practices. And they do this through education, awareness, direct care, policy development, and capacity building of in-country partners.

A sustainable, kinder future is a critical need, but it requires collaborative efforts from policymakers, financial institutions, businesses, communities, and stakeholders of the global food systems in food, materials, fashion and science to come to fruition. And that’s what HSI/India is doing through their Humane Entrepreneurship Program by giving a platform to businesses that are innovating viable, cruelty free alternatives for meat, milk, dairy, leather, fur, silk and much more. Contributing to a plant-based, animal-friendly ecosystem as they slowly gain momentum across the globe.

A sneak peek at the startups:

BioDimension Technology

Co-founded by Ranjith Kumar Velusamy, BioDimension Technology is a tissue engineering company that develops artificial tissues to eliminate animal-based experiments for testing cosmetic ingredients by cosmetic companies. Their technology eliminates animal usage in the drug discovery process. Their vision is to redefine research in a more humane way with their improvised artificial tissue models. “We are currently focusing on developing 4D printed tissue which mimics human skin and eyes,” revealed the team.

Phyx44

Founded by Bharath Bakaraju, Phyx44 is working on creating bovine or cow milk and milk products by working on nature-identical, microbe-created proteins and fats for human consumption. This process uses new age technology to enable microbes to create the proteins and fats required to make a whole cow milk. They aim to commercially launch their precision fermentation derived milk components by 2024. “With a 15 billion dollar market up for grabs in the APAC region, our current plan is to sell in Singapore, India, US and Europe,” said Bharath.

ProMeat

Founded by Pranjuli Garg, Debabrata Das and Sugriv Gupta, ProMeat offers healthy and tasty plant-based meat products with high protein content, great texture along with a delicious taste - all by using indigenous crops. Their aim is to be a catalyst in making people switch to sustainable proteins. Debabrata said, “We are looking to aggressively market ourselves as a price competitive nutritionally sound product that can stand out in the established market of plant based meat alternatives in India.”

Naya M!lk

Founded by Jai Khandelwal and Aditya Shah, Naya M!lk is a plant-based dairy company with a focus on developing alternatives to value-added dairy products. These are created from novel indigenous crops. The team’s current focus is on plant-based paneer that has the same sensory and functional properties as dairy-based paneer. “We have gotten great feedback from restaurant owners and chefs who find our products to be significantly better in terms of taste, texture and sensory profile than other alternatives to paneer,” said Jai.

Ethik

Founded by Pankaj Khabiya and Bharat Ranka, Ethik is India's first recognised brand for producing high quality premium non-leather products. The company focuses on men’s footwear and accessories. Their aim is to save billions of animals and the environment by creating an ecosystem for sustainable materials and offer consumers cruelty-free fashion made from vegan leather. “We are a designer brand and our material sourcing and finishes are our USP,” revealed the founders.

Plantish Foods

Founded by Sushil Kumar Gehlot and Ishu Bindal, Plantish is a food-tech company working on solving the problem of food insecurity due to a highly inefficient animal-based food system. They are developing sustainable plant-based egg alternatives which can be used to make various egg dishes without compromising on taste, price, and nutrition. “Our product cooks and tastes like egg all while offering a strong nutritional profile which gives us a significant competitive advantage” said Ishu.

If you are interested in joining the Humane Entrepreneurship Program network or if you are a humane startup looking for further information about the programme,


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