What is the idea/story behind your business?
Kiran: The idea struck when I was having mixed fruits from a road side vendor. Fruits are healthy but it was being washed with yellowish water and there was so much dust around. I knew what I was eating was not that healthy at all.
Again, I was a little overweight those days and only exercising without proper diet was not helping. I consulted with my trainer and he suggested low calorie and high protein foods. At home, I used to cook chicken breast which was time consuming and tedious. Outside, I couldn’t find a proper meal that could fit into my diet plan. Then I learnt about salads which could be low calorie and high protein from an old pal Sugat Manandhar. He has experience preparing salads for the last ten years while working at Independent Grocers Australia (IGA). And that probably started our business.
Sugat: Being a salad lover and a salad chef for the last 10 years in Australia, I was really interested to serve it in Nepal as well. When Kiran came up with the business idea, I was all for it!
How difficult was it to start, and what kept you going through the challenges?
Kiran: For this business, the biggest hurdle was the Nepali momo – chowmein culture. Most Nepalese know salad as some sliced cucumbers, carrots and radish, although there are thousands of varieties of salads worldwide. Could we capture the niche market who already knows their salad? Would we be able to break the culture and introduce a salad trend in Nepal? Plus there were other problems like finding the right container size. Till date we are improvising on it. Lastly, the lack of skilled manpower.
Sugat: Salads itself is new here. So, coming up with a salad business definitely had its challenges. Plus we also wanted to introduce it not just as something to eat on a diet but as something to enjoy which also meant a change in eating behaviour.
One ‘Aha’ moment in the business
Kiran: The moment I got to know there was a huge gap between the demand and supply of healthy diets, it was like the ‘aha’ moment for me.
Sugat: An “Aha” moment for me was when we had our tasting event at a sports cafe. We were totally blank as to what would happen, but were super excited by the encouraging reviews and happy and satisfied faces of the people.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Kiran: During my MBA, I had a bank job but could not do it for more than three months. I simply quit my job and started other business ventures. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and contribute to society and the country. Today I have five ventures under my belt.
Sugat: Being a management student, I always wanted to start my own business. After returning from Australia, I started ‘Swagat Homestay’ with my wife Roshni, which is really doing well. I had also worked for other businesses for a long time involved in a supermarket’s deli department as a cashier and a waiter too. This helped me gather a bit of experience.
The one thing you absolutely love about what you do?
Kiran: I love to do new things, work on new concepts, and see if it works in the market or not. Overcoming challenges in creative ways keeps me going.
Sugat: I really enjoy my work because cooking is my passion.
What makes it worthwhile?
Both: In a short time, we have gained good, loyal customers who love our food and are actually achieving results. When we get calls or messages from our customers saying I have lost weight, I have controlled my cholesterol level, etc, that’s what makes all the effort worthwhile.
Both: We are planning to start a new outlet where people can hang out and enjoy healthy food. We will also be expanding our menu and experiment with other traditional foods that can be made low calorie and healthy.