[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Why Axia’s Jasmin K Shaikh decided to innovate in food science
In a conversation with HerStory, Jasmin K Shaikh talks about why she started Axia Foods, a plant-based food startup, and affordable innovation.
Jasmin K Shaikh has been a food scientist working in food R&D for more than 14 years. But when she first took admission in a food science and technology course, many were under the assumption that the subject was either a part of home science or hotel management.
“After completing one year of astrophysics after Class 12, I thought of foods in space, and that is where my obsession for food science and technology started,” Jasmin says.
Hailing from a family that understood the importance of healthy foods and fitness, and being an athlete, Jasmin knew food and nutrition were crucial.
During the third year of her course, Jasmin started working on plant-based research. In 2019, this led to the launch of her own startup, Axia Foods.
“Axia means value in Greek, so it all started with being valuable for people,” explains Jasmin, stating that the startup focuses on a personal connect.
But the Axia journey started in 2014 when Jasmin’s father began having renal problems and had to go for dialysis twice a week. He had several health issues and restrictions.
“I knew protein is an important aspect of every meal for every individual, and that muscle mass decreases as a person ages…this makes protein extremely important for [the elderly]. I started with developing some products for my father - almond and cashew yogurts,” she says.
The next step was creating different kinds of diets for her father. With time, the number of dialysis sessions reduced. Seeing her success, the nutritionist asked Jasmin to create products for other patients undergoing dialysis as well.
“This was in 2015, and I continued with it as a side gig. In 2019, my father and I started discussing the importance of plant-based foods and diet, and how climate change is actually impacting the world around us,” she says.
Her father encouraged her to start up, but unfortunately passed away three months after Axia was launched.
By this time Jasmin was working at Epigamia and was in a dilemma. “My father actually gave me five minutes. He knew that I shouldn’t overthink this and should focus on building plant-based food products.”
Axia Foods is one of the first Indian brands to offer plant-based probiotic yogurts. “We are focused on a clean label at a price point that is affordable and balanced.”
However, building the product came with its own set of challenges. Getting the right ingredients that ensured complete nutrients and worked well was tough. But Jasmin’s food science and technology background helped her find the right base and build the initial set of products.
Today, Axia’s products are sold online and offline in Pune.
“For me, innovation has to be affordable and accessible. It is only then can you make and create a significant impact. It has to have a mass impact and push,” says the founder, adding that the team will continue building newer products and growing.
Jasmin advises all women entrepreneurs to be “obsessed with your journey and what you love” and “don’t be afraid to be the first one”. “Start with your own strategies,” she says.
Edited by Teja Lele