The year 2017 turned out to be a life-changer for Bengaluru-based Akash K. Sajith after both his parents were diagnosed with cancer. It came as a shock to the 30-year-old as his parents strictly followed a healthy lifestyle. They attended yoga classes and went for regular walks as well. They neither smoked cigarettes nor consumed any meat.
A year later, his father passed away and his mother moved in with his brother in the US for treatment. As he dealt with a major turn of events in his life, Akash furiously looked for explanations in medical journals, WHO guidelines and even interacted with academicians who helped him link food and climate change as factors that could have led to the fatal disease.
“A report estimates that 51 per cent of food commodities are contaminated with pesticide residues in India. The figures were eye-opening but more than that I was surprised to see how inaccessible fresh and organic food was to the common man. Microgreens play a huge role in boosting our immunity but very few people are aware of it. Like many, I too never paid attention to where my food came from. To bridge all these gaps, Living Food Company was started in 2018,” Akash tells The Better India.
The two-year-old food venture works on the principle of ‘farm to fork’. Sourced from the growers, they deliver freshly harvested vegetables, baked bread and more to people’s doorstep in Bengaluru.
At present, the firm offers 15 categories of food items including microgreens, vegan desserts, salad essentials, natural oils, bread, superfoods and spices.
It has more than 12,000 customers spread across the city and around 12 certified vendors that grow or make food without using any chemicals or preservatives.
Akash mentions that there is no room for storage in its supply chain, “The vegetables are harvested at 3 am and reach a customer’s doorstep by afternoon. Meanwhile, the bakers will bake a fresh batch on the estimated day of delivery.”
Living Food Company has an online presence and it sells almost everything, from microgreens such as kale, broccoli, radish, spices such as smoked paprika and Ceylon cinnamon, vegan cheese, moringa powder, organic capers, butterhead lettuce, lemongrass to toasted sesame oil.
“Being an analyst by profession, I barely knew how India’s food distribution channel worked and what people’s needs were. So, I channelised all my resources towards establishing a strong network of farmers and food growing companies. My first customers were my friends and relatives,” he says.
However, before tying up with others, the company first introduced its product, microgreens as they have cancer-fighting benefits. They started their indoor climate-control hydroponic farm and sowed USDA approved non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds.
This helped Akash build trust and credibility among the customers who now had different varieties of microgreens delivered at home that contained essential nutrients like vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and folic acid.
He introduced a subscription model that delivered four boxes in a month. This not only helped the company gauge the quantity demanded but also got customers habituated to nutrient-rich food.
As near and dear ones helped publicise the company through word of mouth, it also helped in acquiring more customers. Within three months, the bootstrapped company had a wide range of customer base from food bloggers, chefs, social media influencers to middle-income households.
“People started posting pictures of fresh microgreens and tagged us. Their genuine reviews increased our followers and helped us scale our production,” says Akash.
The overwhelming response encouraged Akash to get other products on board. He tied up with Sour House, which specialises in naturally fermented bread, Vegan Cakes, Madhavi Farms, among others.
The regular additions of categories is one of the reasons behind the steady growth of up to 40 per cent every month. Despite the pandemic and overall economic slowdown, Akash is witnessing a rise in demand. They hope to launch 10 more variants by the end of this year.
For Anisha Padhee, who is an environmentalist at heart, Living Food Company was the perfect one stop shop to source organic food. Intrigued by the new concept of microgreens, she made her first order in January, 2019. Since then, she has been a loyal customer of the brand.
“I order microgreens, Kombucha (a fermented and sweetened black or green tea), sourdough, and more recently their cookies, crackers, croissants, vegan butter, olive and tomato tapenade. I love the quality of everything ordered from Living Food. I love that they give information about nutrients with their greens and microgreens, so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. Also, their packaging is 95 per cent plastic-free,” she tells The Better India.
Meanwhile, Arjun, founder of Life At Work Breweries, has benefited financially through the sale of Kombucha on Living Food Company’s website. It gave him the platform to market this healthy drink, and within a year, sales were boosted significantly.
“From 100 bottles per month to 3000, our association has been very fruitful with the Akash. I am happy more people are coming to know about the health benefits of Kombucha,” he says.
What started out of concern for his and parent’s health has now turned into a full-fledged win-win venture, where both customers and vendors are reaping benefits. As for Akash, he hopes to take Living Food Company to other cities like Mumbai and Delhi soon.
All images are sourced from Akash.
You can get in touch with Living Food here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao