This woman entrepreneur’s search for authentic Rajasthani papad led her to start an ecommerce marketplace for regional food

The State Plate, founded by Muskaan Sancheti and Raghav Jhawar, is an ecommerce marketplace that sources authentic and regional food products from various states and delivers pan-India. In 11 months, it has curated a range of 500+ products and successfully delivered more than 21,000 orders.
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During the lockdown in May last year, Muskaan Sancheti’s family ran out of papad.

“I am a Marwari and if you are one, or you know one, we are talking about a major crisis situation here. Now, the naïve may ask why one doesn’t get some regular papad from the nearby grocery store or order it online. We can’t just eat any plain papad, that’s ridiculous,” she says.

Muskaan got it shipped from the closest place where it was available, around 15 km away, paying Rs 200 just for delivery.

Soon, she realised that her family wasn’t the only one with this issue. Many of her friends wanted to source authentic, local food products, but didn’t know where to get them from as the market was too unorganised.

This realisation also led to an idea that she shared with her friend Raghav Jhawar, her classmate from college. And thus, The State Plate was born in August 2020.

Both Muskaan and Raghav are from the 2020 batch of BCom (Hons) from Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), Delhi University.

In their final year, they were placed in Auctus Advisors and Kearney, respectively, but due to the pandemic, their jobs got deferred. Now both are completely committed to building The State Plate.

Exploring the regional food market

Muskaan explains that because Indian communities are highly scattered, regional food is difficult to source and there is a lack of mass availability of these products.

“As the market for regional food is also highly unorganised, no single brand exists for many local staples, spices, pickles, snacks, etc. We are building a business model suited perfectly to meet the needs of the highly diverse Indian community, each with its own food habits, cultures, festivals, and traditions. We are both a curated marketplace for popular regional food brands, and a private label for many local Indian foods.”

Choosing Bengaluru as their base for a pilot, Muskaan and Raghav started building The State Plate to “bring a little bit of home back to people through their indigenous food”, and at the same time, celebrate the amazing food diversity the country has to offer.

Muskaan says what sets the marketplace apart is that you will not find some of the food products/brands anywhere else on the internet, and at the same time, the prices are market-competitive.

“We aim to be an A-Z for all things regional, authentic for Indian communities. We have iconic brands in products like Chitale Bandhu’s Bakarwadi, the famous Congress peanuts, Solapur’s famous Shenga Chutney, Karachi Bakery’s biscuits, and many more. Yet, you will also find products that are used in Indian kitchens on an everyday basis: Gobindobhog rice used by Bengalis or sambar powder for Tamilian kitchens,” she adds.

With more than three crore Indians living away from their hometowns and two crore living abroad, there is a mammoth $5 billion market for online packaged food, and Muskaan believes this is an unexplored sector with a huge potential to scale.

The founders want to expand the range to reach all 36 states and union territories so that anyone who visits the marketplace becomes a potential customer because they have some region/category that they are interested in.

Vocal for local

Muskaan and Raghav

While The State Plate does not charge any listing fees, it gets products at a discount and sells them at MRP, receiving a fixed percentage on all the sales it makes.

Its aim is to be “vocal for local” by associating with small vendors and traditional businesses so that they can have access to a large market online.

Muskaan counts Delight Foods, Food Memories, and Postcard as its competitors, but emphasises they are building The State Plate as a marketplace and private label, and focusing on staples and groceries as much as on specialties.

Starting with Rs 5,000, the marketplace has served more than 21,000 orders all over the country. Muskaan claims to be seeing a 70 percent month-on-month growth in less than a year since they began operations.

Some of their challenges include logistics, production halts, and transport delays owing to the pandemic.

“The other challenge we faced was creating automated systems and coordinating with traditional businesses, as most of the brands/stores we deal with are extremely old-school style businesses, not tech-savvy, and have their own methods and speed of doing business,” she says.

The positive impact during the pandemic has been the growing demand for online businesses, which the founders hope to cash in on.

As a woman entrepreneur, she believes the way forward is to simply “cut out all the noise about not being “woman” enough or toxic people who constantly make you feel lesser, less deserving, guilty or self-centered. My advice to all women entrepreneurs is: You go girl! Chase your dreams and build the world you want to live in,” Muskaan says.

Edited by Megha Reddy