It was cheese that did it for Shradha Aggarwal. A blob of 30 kg of fine cheese lay in front of her, sweating and melting under the harsh studio lights. “I wish I could learn more about food so that I could treat food better,” the young TV producer thought wistfully way back in 2010. “Food should be respected – not kept like this.”
A couple of years later, the media professional had launched Miss Chhotees, a range of ready-to-eat, all-natural snacks that “reimagine international flavours for the urban Indian.” And the journey has been as sweet and spicy as the sauces, dips and chips she is famous for.
By the time she had completed her graduation in media studies from The New School, New York, Shradha had already worked a variety of jobs – from reporting for a newspaper to interning with a Hollywood firm.
The 2008 downturn made sure that the Delhi-born Modern School alumna moved back home, where she joined Discovery channel. The next four years were highly educative for the bubbly young girl, as she learnt all about branding, team management and – most crucially – an insight into the changing consumer mindset.
Soon after she’d watched the cheese being tortured at her Delhi workplace, Shradha was on a holiday to Goa when she came across a quaint Italian restaurant. Impulsively, she applied for an apprenticeship.
“You’ll leave your glamorous TV career to work in this little restaurant in Goa?” the owner asked her incredulously. But Shradha persisted, and he eventually gave in. That’s how Shradha started on her food education, learning on the job as she went along.
Over the next couple of years, Shradha worked with the Lite Bite Foods chain of restaurants, The Table, and the Four Seasons hotel in Mumbai, understanding kitchen politics, R&D, quality assessment and customer relationship management.
It was while she was working in Mumbai the idea of Miss Chhotees struck her.
“I’d come home tired and in no mood to cook something elaborate, yet my palate craved fresh gourmet food,” she says. The idea bore fruit in 2012, when she set up her home-business in Delhi with her family’s help.
She offered a variety of preservative-free, low fat, baked, vegan snacks – including peri-peri dips, pesto sauce, kale chips, and beetroot and spinach lavash – to nearby gourmet-food stores. Things moved quickly from then on.
The product line kept evolving with the consumer’s tastes, and her packaging and design won global awards and recognition. The Oberoi Group-run Ananda in the Himalayas consulted her to develop preservative-free foods, and her startup was shortlisted for incubation by NITI Aayog.
“Being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey,” admits the 32-year-old. “But it’s your own vision, so you have to just motivate yourself and keep reinventing the curve.” The big game has begun. Say cheese, Shradha.
First published in the June 2018 issue of eShe magazine