How this woman-led organic brand aims to democratise good food while building a community of women
Anamika Pandey’s father was a businessman, and growing up, she closely witnessed how each generation was involved in making people’s lives better. Her grandfather fought for the rights of teachers; her father was making education affordable across Eastern UP.
Having spent most of her childhood across Lucknow and Gorakhpur, she discovered there was a big divide between men and women. She was the first girl in the family to step out of the city for graduation. After completing her graduation from NIT Warangal, she worked with BigBasket before deciding to start, a food brand that offers organic cereals, condiments, and beverages.
The pain point was simple but the main aim was to change mindsets and bat for inclusivity of women in every way. And that’s why the name.
Naario combines the essence of two words - naari (woman) and opportunity - and aims at democratising good food while building a community of women who are more than ready to tie their creative talents to their identity.
Anamika explains: “I grew up believing in people and their power. I had multiple internships with startups during my college days, and this allowed me to get a hang of the culture. While I was back home, celebrating my birthday in December 2019, I asked my mum a very simple question over chai – ‘Why do you not launch your Lucknowi masala as a product? I see people getting crazy about homemade food these days.’ My mom crushed me with her reply, ‘Log kya kahenge ki ab Pandeyji ki bahu ko paise kamane ki zaroorat lagi hai (What will people say? Pandeyji’s daughter-in-law now has to work to earn money?)”
This problem statement that led her to start Naario from her hometown, Gorakhpur.
Marrying health and taste
Anamika says she wanted to marry health and taste in everyday food items, and amid COVID it had become all the more imperative to follow a healthy lifestyle.
She got together a bunch of women, including her mother, and ran a small workshop in Gorakhpur at the end of January 2021 to understand what they had to offer. Six homemakers turned up with different products, out of which four were a major hit.
The next step was to start a small Facebook group to connect with like-minded women. This led to a business model where women who were passionate about food could launch their products under Naario and others who liked the thrill of business could head distribution in their respective localities. All this would contribute to financial independence.
Naario’s products range from breakfast cereal and beverages to condiments and are priced from Rs 100 onwards.
“Every product is pioneered by a different woman/ homemaker and has exactly the same ingredients as it would if my mum or yours were to make it. No chemicals, no preservatives; just healthy, tasty food,” she says.
The product might be a 200-year-old rose sherbet recipe or a very rich and cultural take on muesli. The team brainstorms with a large number of people to understand what they actually need in a product, what should the packaging look like, and more. The manufacturing process on ground involves more than 70 percent women while the packaging pays homage to Indian heritage by focusing on varied textiles and fabrics.
The spices are made by women in Kashipur, Uttarakhand, the jaggery powder and 9in1 flour in Lucknow, and the muesli and filter coffee in Tiruchengode, Tamil Nadu.
Naario’s target audience in Tier I cities is anyone between 18 and 60 years of age, people who understand that health and taste can go hand in hand.
The audience in Tier II cities, however, are mums, young and old. These are women who take ownership of their family’s health and wellbeing. Their identity is very closely linked to what they cook and feed their family, and who in some way are trying to create their own identity.
Beyond financial freedom
Naario’s impact is not just aimed at financial independence of women.
Anamika elaborates, “Recently, a Naario partner lost her husband. She was a homemaker from Lucknow. We took her on payroll as a business development manager because of her consistently great performance. If Naario, as a brand, is able to bring this impact to women’s life where they don’t think they are alone after a major setback in life, half my work is done.”
“I can also see my mum, taking her first-ever solo flight because of the confidence she has gathered in the last few months. I can see families sitting together having breakfast or an elderly couple sipping a cup of masala chai because they know jaggery befits their health. I read about people with no stomach problems and feel proud not just of the products they are consuming but also of the mini revolution we have created,” she adds.
While competition in this segment is intense, Anamika believes in collaboration over competition.
The solo founder chose to go the angel investments route for funding of Naario in the pre-seed stage. She claims the brand has been growing consistently since its launch with a monthly growth rate of 25-30 percent.
“The future seems bright for anyone who is betting on their own health, right? We are looking to expand our product subcategories and our presence across the country, and also start listings on multiple platforms so we are there when and where our consumer decides to buy Naario,” Anamika says.
Edited by Teja Lele