How this woman entrepreneur went from starting a Facebook group to building a marketplace for plant-based, vegan snacks
After the premature birth of her daughter, Kirti Yadav struggled with health issues. She had gained weight, her cholesterol and blood pressure levels were always high, and medication for it, in turn, caused many side effects.
Tired of visiting multiple doctors and after trying out several medications in the hope of regaining her health, Kirti took matters into her own hands and started researching on how she could treat her health issues naturally.
“People say accha khao sehat acchi hogi (eat good food and you’ll be healthy) but who cares about eating a proper healthy balanced diet every day. It was the same with me. But when I started my research on this and talked to various people, everybody would say, ‘change your lifestyle’. That’s when I thought, as I’ve tried everything else, let me give this a shot too,” says Kirti in a chat with SMBStory.
Today, Kirti (38) is a certified nutritionist and the owner of Bengaluru-based, a marketplace for plant-based vegan snacks, foods, and essentials.
The company was started in January 2021, and within seven months, Kirti claims to have earned Rs 14 lakh in revenue, despite being bootstrapped. She even introduced her label with six ready-to-eat products including classic dry fruits granola, premium nuts and seeds trail mix, organic ragi laddu, dry fruit laddoo, baked wheat crackers/mathri and organic peanut butter.
Asked how she got here, and Kirti is candid enough to say - “I realised from my own experience that every food on our plate matters.”
Creating the awareness
Kirti’s search for healthy food began when she decided to switch to clean eating.
“I started exploring snacks that are plant-based, but it was a real struggle to find options that did not have preservatives and emulsifiers,” Kirti narrates.
She spent hours in the supermarket trying to figure out wholesome food, but in vain.
“Most of the vegan products are inspired by the West, and do not necessarily suit Indian taste buds. There is also a general lack of awareness on how to effectively use the vegan products we purchase from the market. So, while buyers spend a lot of money, they get eventually disappointed, and the experience leaves a bad taste (literally!), further dissuading them from repeat purchases,” Kirti says.
Necessity is the mother of all inventions, and Kirti started experimenting with recipes to make delicious and healthy food for herself and her family.
And just like that, in a few months, Kirti started to witness drastic changes to her health. Her cholesterol and blood pressure numbers dropped to normal levels, and she also saw her weight reducing. This was the eureka moment for her.
“Thankfully, I was going back to being normal, but in the meanwhile, I also understood that the real struggle today is the absence of a healthy diet, which is the root cause of all the health problems. People fear switching to healthy food thinking it would be boring,” Kirti says.
KuKClean product range
To burst this myth, she created a Facebook group in 2019, where she invited people from her friends circle, and started posting pictures of healthy and delicious food she cooked at home. The emphasis was always on plant-based food, and she was soon joined by other ladies who would also share their healthy recipes.
One thing led to another and Kirti started getting collaboration offers from small entrepreneurs to launch their vegan brands on her group. The group also made Kirti organise various workshops and corporate wellness events to promote the way she adopted a healthy living style without compromising on taste.
With more than five thousand active members in the group, Kirti was on the brink of a business opportunity when the pandemic hit India in 2020.
“All the corporate wellness programmes came to a sudden halt, and none of the brands offered collaborations. I thought about offering personal nutritional courses but I wasn’t a certified nutritionist and that was a roadblock. Thus, during the pandemic, I completed my nutritionist course,” Kirti recalls.
While the lockdown restrictions were gradually easing, it occurred to Kirti to make her recipes reach people in the form of products.
“The struggle to find trustworthy sources of nutritious, chemical-free, preservative-free, sugar-free food products is real, and the products that I was making had no unhealthy ingredients. I started approaching my group members and others, asking if they’d need vegan snacks, and to my luck, I got a few orders,” recounts Kirti.
Kirti started developing healthy snacks at home and delivering them personally. To her surprise, within a month, she started receiving orders in abundance from across Bengaluru, and all through word-of-mouth.
Building a marketplace from a Facebook group
While Kirti was busy preparing for orders and deliveries around Bengaluru, she thought to get together with other homemakers who were also into similar ventures.
“I came across people in my Facebook group who were doing some really good stuff and I wanted to empower them while also helping people get plant-based healthy food. I saw this as an opportunity to create a marketplace for plant-based vegan products,” shares Kirti.
She then onboarded local vendors, adding more products like sugar free jam, ragi bread, pomegranate chocolates, vegan butter, and more to the online store.
Kirti along with her husband Akar Misra and daughter
According to a Redseer report, increased awareness of lifestyle-related disorders has led to value-seeking, health-conscious, tech-savvy individuals, who are constantly seeking various types of food products ranging from plant-based, organic, oil-free foods to protein-rich, healthy cereals, weight-loss, and low-cholesterol foods. The plant-based food industry is growing in India, and will boom in the next 5-10 years, the report further states.
Kirti’s husband Akar Misra left his job and joined the business full time. The duo now sell KuKClean’s products beyond Bengaluru, with its online platform seeing demand from Delhi, Pune, etc. Kirti also incorporated the company as KuKClean Foods and Consulting Pvt Ltd in July this year.
The accidental entrepreneur also provides personalised lifestyle and nutrition counselling under her company for individuals, corporates, schools, and colleges to spread awareness about healthy living and clean eating, which also falls under her revenue stream.
A place in the market
“Food should give you pleasure, not guilt,” quips Kirti. And adding to that is the company’s efforts towards sustainability. KukClean accepts used brown bags and empty bottles to reduce waste and promote a culture of recycling.
With a strong influencer marketing strategy and social media presence, the startup is seeing traction in its profile, and has also recently started supplying to the US and Europe through collaborations.
It also aims to widen its reach across India and other countries in the next few months. Kirti also plans to onboard more vendors who match the company’s requirements on clean products, and increase the product range as well.