Moneycontrol PRO

Independent India is 75 years old. Old enough to have accomplished a lot, and young enough to be energized by new possibilities every day. We capture different aspects of the old and the new in listicles of 75 fun, inspiring, surprising and meaningful facts in this special Independence Day Series.

India@75 | 75 inspiring food stories from around India

India@75 | 75 inspiring food stories from around India
Mini Ribeiro
Mini Ribeiro

Ancient recipe and a quaint history are not the only ingredients of a good food story. Food as a means to help the community, innovation in the food business and even incorporating tech in food, make for inspirational contemporary food stories too. It is the people in the food creation journey, from the farmer to the grandma, the techie to the entrepreneur, who actually inspire us. Here are 75 such food stories.

Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad was started by 7, semi-literate, Gujarati women in 1959, with a loan of Rs 80, as a business from home, using their cooking skills. Today, 43,000 women are employed in this papad-making business.
In the 1970s, before vegetarian dishes became popular or even properly known worldwide, and cook books and shows about them were rare, Tarla Dalal, India’s most celebrated home-chef, simplified cooking.
Rajni Bector’s ‘Mrs Bectors Food Specialities Ltd’ is a home-grown biscuit-and-bakery business that started from her kitchen in Ludhiana in 1978 and is today listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Rajni Bector started the business from her kitchen in 1978.
‘Swati Snacks’ a small, eatery offering chaats and snacks, started In 1963, by Minakshi Jhaveri is managed by her daughter Asha Jhaveri after her death in 1979, with outlets today in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Jayaram Banan from Udupi has come a long way from washing dishes at a daily wage of Rs 18, to owning the Rs. 70-crore ‘dosa empire’ with Sagar Ratna and Swagath.
Kewpie’s Kolkata, a family-run restaurant since 1989, was a trail-blazer in converting an ancestral home into a restaurant, offering Calcutta’s favourite dishes based on family recipes.
Marrying ecommerce, travel and cuisine with his tech background, in 2015, Chirag Kenia started Urban Platter, pioneering the online sale of gourmet food products.
Fuelled by a desire to eliminate plastic from our food-chain, Puneet Dutta started Attaware Biodegradable Private Limited, which manufactures cutlery made out of grains and jaggery.
Shashank and Rajat Jain helped mothers lure kids to drink milk, with their ‘Strawfit’ straws. Filled with balls, these are replete with nutrients, colostrum and flavour, turning plain, boring milk into a fun drink for kids.
To ‘create a better tomorrow’, Wakao Foods, Goa’s first sustainable food brand, offers a, “no-preservative,” plant-based meat alternative, using the superfood - Jackfruit.
Crafted on the Core Principles of alternative ingredients, Fabcafe by Fabindia, a chain of casual dining restaurants launched in 2018, offers healthy food and celebrates all things Indian.
Using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients Epigamia launched premium, natural Greek yogurt in Mumbai in 2015, and has moved on to create healthy, plant-based snacking options like cheese, desserts and beverages.
Focusing on no-waste, Prachet Sancheti, Founder, Brown Koji Boy, a Goa-based entrepreneur, is wowing palates through chefs, with his unusual ferments.
Sachin Kumar of Madhubani, Bihar, propagated, the traditional protein-packed local drink of the masses, sattu, by packaging it hygienically as Sattuz.
Catering to the Indian taste buds, passionate cheese-maker Dhvani, Founder of Casa Del Cheese, pioneered artisan cheese in India since 2011.
Blue Tokai a ‘Farm-to-cup coffee’ offering an authentic coffee experience, by Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana, is now one of India’s largest and fastest growing specialty coffee brands.
Shivam Shahi, co-founder and COO, Blue Tokai.
To counter the coffee craze, two techies-cum-chai lovers, Nitin Saluja and Raghav Verma’s ‘Chaayos’ which started in 2012, elevated tea from tapris.
Set up six years ago and now with a global presence, Chef Saransh Goila’s single-dish cloud kitchen – ‘Goila Butter Chicken’ has dished out over 300,000 plus portions.
Having mastered the idli-dosa batter, ‘Batter King’ P C Mustafa and his four cousins started iD Fresh foods in 2005 and have become an unparalleled success story.
Silvassa-based, start-up My Fitness, launched India’s first natural protein-packed, peanut butter with 95 per cent less oil separation and offers a unique crispy variant with chocolate too.
Growing at a rate of 1.5 times per year, Mumbai-based entrepreneur Soumyadeep Mukherjee’s ‘Spice Story’ has treated Indians to their favourite ethnic Indian chutneys in a sauce form, packaged in easy-to-use recyclable bottles.
Ahimsa Food introduced ‘Mock Meat” to the country in 2008, with ‘Veggie Champ’ that offers the same nutritional, textural and taste components as meat.
Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives and food is no exception. Food-tech unicorn, Zomato, revolutionized the way people ordered food and how it was delivered, making it one of the most successful brands ever in the food start-up ecosystem.
Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal.
In its decade-plus existence, Rebel Foods has transformed from an ordinary QSR – ‘Fasoos’ to a cloud-kitchen unicorn that strikes the right balance between exquisite culinary craftsmanship and technological infrastructure.
From a functional kitchen selling freshly-made meals-in-a-box, Rashmi Daga’s, Fresh Menu in Bengaluru has metamorphosed into an online food-delivery service that delivers fresh meals across cuisines, within 45 minutes, through several kitchens.
Ruralnomics, an e-commerce and supply start-up was born out of a clear vision to transform the hyper-local, e-commerce, and fresh food space in Northeast India.
Agrarian food start-ups are thriving, as entrepreneurs collaborate with farmers, eliminating middle-men. Born in a family of farmers, Anushka Neyol has been successfully curating Indian speciality wheat flour at par with global standards under the aegis of Three One Farms.
With a view to bridging the market gap and promoting healthy snacking, Sucheta Bhandare’s Earth Poorna offers ragi ladoos, using ingredients purchased directly from the farmers of Maharashtra.
Millet Bank, an end-to-end enterprise is a collaboration centre for micro entrepreneurs related to millets and consumer-engagement through sustainable gifting and social engagements.
Pushpa Jha, Bihar started her journey as a mushroom farmer in 2010 with Rs 500 using balls of wheat husks and rotten hay to grow mushrooms and now provides training in mushroom cultivation.
Chhattisgarh-based microbiologist Razia Shaikh uses the Mahua flower as an ingredient in a variety of value-added products like ladoos, cookies, nutri bars, thus uplifting rural women in Bastar district.
Viji Sreekumar from Kerala runs AVS, a healthy food and organic venture that sells payasam mixes and different value-added products made of bamboo rice.
Turmeric grown in his hometown, Salem, made Kiru Maikkapillai, launch The Divine Foods in December 2019, to sell organic Curcumin rich Turmeric products, developed in collaboration with farmers at a fair and fixed price.
‘Wellness farming by women entrepreneurs’, is how Nina Patil, Umrani Farms, prefers to describe the raisins grown in her farm in Sangli, using natural farming processes.
Bon Fiction, a home-grown ‘Tree to Bar’ chocolate, boasts of cacao that is hand-picked from farms in the Godavari region of Southern India where they work closely with farmers.
Lesser-known cuisines across India are occupying centre stage, thanks to some dynamic entrepreneurs. Goan chef, Deepa Awchat popularised Goan food in Mumbai with ‘Goa Portuguesa’ in 1988. Apart from successful restaurants, she has authored cook books, and launched masalas.
Lack of Assamese food in Mumbai made Joyee Mohanta and Priyangi Borthakur start- O’Tenga, a delivery kitchen, bringing the best of Assam's local flavours to Mumbai.
Oliver Fernandes and Crescy Baptista, The Goan Kitchen have come together to preserve Goa’s culinary heritage and run a delivery kitchen, manned by an army of local women from villages following traditional recipes.
Home-cook Mumtaz Pawaskar Kazi and cousin Sameera Gawandi, from the fishing village of Harnai in Ratnagiri, have popularised their Kokni Muslim cuisine, under Kokni Dastarkhwan in Mumbai since 2017.
The Bohri Kitchen, or TBK, was founded by Mumbai-based Nafisa and Munaf Kapadia, a mother-son duo, who made Bohri cuisine popular by inviting strangers to their home on weekends to enjoy home-cooked Bohri food from a thaal.
A meal by The Bohri Kitchen, Mumbai.
An expert on Moplah cuisine, as well as its culture and history, Abeeda Rasheed, is a storehouse of traditional Moplah recipes. Encouraged by her foodie husband, she has been popularising Moplah cuisine.
In 2016, after winning the tribal cuisine cooking competition, for her Santhali dish, Aruna Tirkey, a Rural Development professional, decided to revive her indigenous was tribal cuisine by starting Ajam Emba, her restaurant in Ranchi.
Sisters Ramya and Shwetha Ravi started a food-delivery brand, RNR Donne Biryani, during the pandemic, serving naati-style Karnataka biryani, and today, have 14 cloud kitchens and a restaurant in Bengaluru.
Giving back to the community is part of the Indian ethos and some entrepreneurs make it their focus. Coimbatore-based Prabhu and Brindha launched TABP Snacks and Beverages, selling a variety of sodas and snacks to marginalised communities at Rs 5 and Rs 10, across Southern States.
Ajay’s Takeaway Food, by Ajay and Jaideep Solanki, two Gujarati brothers, aiming to provide employment to locals. From a single outlet in Navsari in 2014, it now has 111 franchise outlets.
From selling idlis in her village in Lalitpur district, Uttar Pradesh, today Sunita Kushwaha runs an all-women Prerna canteen at the District Collectorate office, 20 kms from her village, providing employment to several women.
One of World’s Largest Food Drives FEED during Covid-19 lockdown, was seamlessly, spearheaded by Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in Bengaluru, strives to eliminate classroom hunger by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Programme to children in Government schools and Government-aided schools since 2002.
Employing several hundred local women, Sarmista Sheth Catering, run by an octogenarian, has been providing delectable Gujarati food at weddings and other occasions for the last three decades.
Entrepreneur Rizwan Zaman started Chefrome to empower women by engaging them to monetize their cooking skills, by supplying home-cooked meals to corporates. In 1964, home-maker Pushpawati Khaitan, founded Nari Shiksha Kendra (NSK) to help local women earn a livelihood. Their pure, hand-ground masalas and traditional pickles, began to be sold online under the brand name Aamra, by Jaya Bajaj in 2017.
Entrepreneur Jayashree Thilak, harnesses the culinary skills of homemakers with Shero Home Food, enabling them to earn a livelihood out of their kitchens.
Psychologist Harshit Sahdev, after seeing his village in Uttarakhand, devastated by floods, started Himshakti, a company producing salt, to stop the migration of villagers, enabling farmers to earn.
28-year-old food scientist, Kirti Kumar’s initiative with regional self-help groups (SHGs) has helped over 1000 women to become independent food entrepreneurs and collectively witness a turnover of over Rs 1 crore.
Feeding the hungry and needy, as well as the frontline staff in hospitals, patients and their families, during Covid 19 lockdown, ‘Happiness Dabba’ by Ronita Ghosh has evolved into a regular practice under her Jikoni Foundation.
Trying to preserve India’s rich food traditions is something, many are striving to do. A kitchen mishap with plastic cookware, made Jagadeesh & Madhumitha Kumar of Chennai, develop The Indus Valley, a healthy cookware brand, with a special focus on reviving cast iron.
Wajid Ali Shah’s great-great-granddaughter, Manzilat Fatima, through her home-diner Manzilat’s in Kolkata, serves home-style Awadhi delicacies, using recipes from her family kitchen.
Suman Dhamne, a villager from Maharashtra’s You Tube channel, ‘Aapli Aaji’, started by her 17-year-old grandson, Yash Pathak, showcases her cooking prowess, sharing recipes.
Anubhav Sapra, Delhi Food Walks, has been showcasing the Delhi food culture to tourists, enabling them to get a slice of indigenous Delhi cuisines, through curated food walks since 2010.
Heirloom recipes from the royal kitchen of the palace of Thanjavur are being preserved and popularised by Prince Abaji Rajah Bhonsle, the younger brother of the present king Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, and his wife Dhanashree Raje, working closely with chefs and even chronicling these.
Meenakshi Meyyappan, turned her family property into a heritage hotel, The Bangala in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu and offers mouth-watering authentic, Chettinad cuisine, which draws tourists in droves.
On a journey to revive traditional Kashmiri drinks, Ruhaab Mir has re-introduced - Shahi Sheera, a 100-year old drink with several health benefits and has created 4 variants too.
Padma Shri Prof. Pushpesh Pant, a noted Indian academic, food critic and historian is one of India’s leading experts on Indian cuisine, painstakingly preserving and documenting it.
'India: Cookbook' by Pushpesh Pant.
Women have successfully run many businesses and food is an area, they are extremely astute at. Authentic Bengali food at affordable prices, cooked by women self-help groups, with a view to rehabilitating women after Partition, gave birth to Suruchi Restaurant in Kolkata in 1969.
Manjari Singh and her mother-in-law Hiranmayi Shivani, took it upon themselves to popularise Bihari food in Gurugram and started The Chaaunk.
Hachi & Reggie, plant-based cloud kitchen in Kolkata, by Sandra, a dog-lover and vegan, aims to veganise traditional meat and dairy dishes. Much of their proceeds go towards feeding and medicating the street animals in Kolkata.
The fear of eating food that might spike up their sugar level, led Seema Pinto, a diabetic, along with her husband, Manoj, to start The Diabetic Food Trail that works with chefs to serve diabetic-friendly food at restaurants.
Naani Ki Matthi – started off as a voluntary social service to help two urban girls fund their education. Today, their philosophy is that all staff, should educate their own children or contribute to educate another child.
Keerthi Priya and her mother Odapalli Vijaya Laxmi, started Nurture Fields, that aims to reduce food wastage by working with farmers, offering a wide range of dehydrated vegetables and fruits.
Entrepreneur Zakietsono Jamir, considered as the Coffee Lady of Nagaland, started Farmer Square Café, the only cafe in Dimapur district, Nagaland.
Radha Daga’s Triguni Eze Eats, a ready-to-eat packaged food company, wows palates on flights and trains with home-style flavours.
Nonagenarian Harbhajan Kaur’s entrepreneurial success with besan barfi, reinforces that a business can be started at any age.
Queen of Kokum, Pune-based Lalita Khaire produces 12 tonnes of kokum sharbat and ensures her brand Kokanraj, stands for quality.
In a state with hardly any woman entrepreneurs, Yade Dujom shines with Arunachal Pickle House. The venture has helped her, as well as a group of housewives, with financial difficulties to become self-reliant.

*Listicles in this series are comprehensive, not exhaustive