Bullied at her workplace and forced to quit, this woman entrepreneur decided to start up in the food sector
When Aditi Mishra resumed work after her maternity break, she was in for some rude shocks. The management had recruited another person in her place as they didn’t expect her to come back.
“Suddenly, everything changed. I was asked to write down whatever I was doing, they started finding fault with my work, and from an exceptional performer, I had become an ordinary dispensable performer,” she recounts.
The bullying continued for seven months and when she couldn’t take it anymore, Aditi decided to quit in July 2018 with an aim to build an organisation where more than 50 percent of the staff would be women and their efforts and hardships would be celebrated.
And Noida-based Platano Foods, her venture into sustainable food solutions, was born.
However, this was not only the only big challenge Aditi had faced in life. She was raised in a joint family, where though women were given the best education, they were not encouraged to work. Her parents had to consistently hear comments like “don’t educate her too much”, “don’t delay her marriage”, etc.
Undeterred, and with the support of her parents, Aditi went on to do a BTech in biotechnology and an MBA in marketing sales. She worked with organisations like the Organising Committee, Commonwealth Games, Jaypee Group, and Subros Pvt Ltd.
Aditi started Platano Foods as a sustainable food solutions startup that aims to minimise the wastage of agricultural produce by converting it into nutritious and delicious food.
“Currently, we are retrieving green bananas rejected by cold storage facilities before ripening. We collect and scrutinise them, do quality checks, and then make nutritious green banana flour, which not only increases the shelf life of raw bananas but also has a lot of health benefits,” she says.
“When we buy fruit we always pick the one which is perfect in shape, size, and colour. But does nature produce such kind of fruit? Sadly, the answer is no. Food grows in the soil, is dirty, and comes in all shapes and sizes, yet we’ve been trained to believe that everything that is pristine is perfect. People think what looks good also tastes good, but that is not the case. We are trying to minimise such kind of wastage in the supply chain,” she adds.
Green is the flavour
Platano Foods’ core product is flour made with green bananas. It is known as a superfood, which is low in glycemic index, helps in weight loss, maintains blood pressure and cardiovascular health. It is also high in dietary fibre, and contains other essential vitamins and minerals, including zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese, which give bone strength, and muscle strength.
According to Aditi, it’s also easy to use, gluten-free, fat-free, and has a shelf life of one year.
The startup also mixes the banana flour with traditional millets and seeds to make nutritious cookies. “The cookies are made without using any preservative or emulsifier, and are free from refined flour and trans fats,” Aditi says.
Her investment into the startup was Rs 20 lakh. In the last three months, Platano Foods has generated a revenue of Rs 5 lakh. The startup was also part of Amity Innovation incubator.
Aditi hopes to target health-conscious professionals between the ages of 25-55 who are prone to lifestyle diseases, and new mothers who are willing to spend on quality products. Sales are both through B2B and B2C, and major clients include institutions, hotels, corporate offices, retail places, events, and online sales.
The product is currently available on Amazon and at a few retails stores in Noida, Ghaziabad, and Gurugram. The flour sells at Rs 150 for a 200 gm pack, the cookies for Rs 125 for a 150 gm pack. The ragi banana flour cookies are priced at Rs 99 for a 150 gm pack and the flax seed-bajra-banana flour cookies at Rs 99 for a 150 gm pack.
Banking on research
Aditi started her journey as an entrepreneur at National Banana Research Centre, Tiruchirappalli, where she went to “take the technology transfer of banana flour cookies”.
“The toughest moment I faced in my entrepreneurial journey was when the scientists at the research centre told me that it was not possible to make cookies or biscuits from 100 percent green banana. According to them, only 30 percent of banana flour could be used and the rest had to be the regular refined alternative,” she explains.
“I did not lose hope and started my own research. After four months of extensive research, I was able to make cookies from 100 percent banana flour. I further worked on refining the product with different ingredients and flavours. Today, we have one variant of cookies that is completely grain-free, salt-free, and is made out of banana flour,” she adds.
Aditi faced her biggest low when the company’s cash reserve drained out and she did not know what would happen. But due to her determination to face challenges, she overcame this one too.
The startup’s future plans include increasing its presence in the Indian market through an intensive distribution network.
“We also plan to enhance our brand awareness through local media partners and social media. Apart from this, we also plan to diversify into other food products made from banana flour such as bread, pasta, pizza base etc,” she says.
“Once we successfully mark our presence in the domestic market, the next agenda is to launch this product in the global market by adapting the product offering to local tastes and flavours,” Aditi adds.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)