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The Dilemma Of Snack Boxes Led To Payal Srivastava Founding Kalchi

Payal Srivastava is the Co-Founder and Director of Kalchi. The company makes ready to eat curry spreads that can be spread on to chapatis or bread. In conversation with Explocity.

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in Bhilai, a steel plant in Madhya Pradesh, where my father was posted during my birth. We moved to various cities all through my early childhood as my father was employed in a public sector organization and had a transferable job. We moved from one place to another every three years and lived in cities like Kanpur, Patna, Bhubaneswar and Delhi. I did my high school and secondary education in Delhi and then moved to Nashik for four years where I studied Civil Engineering. Then again back to Delhi for masters in HR and then got married and lived for another five years in Delhi. Our corporate career made us move to Mumbai for another five years and finally arrived in Bangalore three years back to set up our business venture.

What led you to this line? 

Being a working professional and a mother of two young children, what to put in the lunch and snack box  was a daily dilemma after waking up. Preparing 3 -4 meals in a day becomes a challenge with life getting increasingly busy. Looking around, and after talking to friends we realised everyone has busy schedules and everyone was looking for convenient food options that were tasty and healthy. None of the FMCG brands have addressed this pain point. And that’s where Kalchi comes in to fill the gap. Kalchi offers convenience to lives of consumers who love Indian food but are unable to put in the efforts due to various reasons. Kalchi beautifully marries maximum taste with minimum effort. All the products are free from artificial preservatives, flavours, colours and additives.

Was it hard for a woman to enter into the entrepreneurial space?

It has been an immensely fruitful journey for me. I feel that I am in the best phase of my life. Surely, entrepreneurship comes with lot of challenges, but I strongly believe that it is the self- belief, passion and desire to make a difference, is what drives me. I am fortunate to have my husband, Sudeep in this entrepreneurial journey with me where we learn something new everyday. As a woman, I haven’t found it hard to enter this space, and I feel that one has to make her own space anywhere whether she is an entrepreneur or an employee somewhere.

Why food after a sports start-up?

We are passionate about building a healthy and fitter younger generation. This could be made possible only by promoting sporting lifestyle coupled with fresh, tasty and preservative free food options. It was when setting up a health café opportunity came up with our venue partners Decathlon, we decided to take it up. We set up our café at corporate office cum store at Decathlon in Bangalore and then in quick succession we had 5 more in other Decathlon stores and tech parks of Bangalore. While interacting with the customers we realized that there is gap in terms of availability of packaged food in fresh category in the market which satisfies the Indian palette, has an authentic taste and is safe and easy to prepare.

With Kalchi, we feel we tick all the boxes effortlessly and are convinced we are on the right path.

What steps have you taken, if it's important, to ensure authentic taste? 

“From our experience of running physical outlets, we had a firm understanding that for building volume we need to create products that Indians are habituated to consume regularly. For most of the Indians, Continental or Chinese food could only add variety and would never become preferred regular option. Our focus had to be on Indian food and therefore we are “Serving Indian Traditions”.

It took us nine months of research and trials in my own kitchen, with a hired experienced chef to create this line-up of products. We all know how to cook Indian food but when we buy something sealed in a pack in the market it never tastes the same. The reason is only one; Too much preservative used kills the real taste. The options for Indian spreads are rare to non-existent making Kalchi one of its kind.  

We tested the minimum viable product within our community and got phenomenal response. We then developed a prototype in the form of sandwiches which were sold at snack vending machines dispensed at various tech parks in Bangalore. There again we got very positive response.  The curry spread is not a single product but a base for numerous recipes.  These are our early days since launch, and we have about 10 variants of curry spreads that are ready after  research and trials.

Personally, what’s your favourite? 

Well, all products are created by our team after a long process of market research, customer trials and feedback, it is difficult to pick up my favourite. Out of the existing variants, I would pick Makhani Paneer and Kadai Chicken as my favourite as my children love these and I am sorted out for their lunch boxes and evening snacks. 

How long have you been in Bangalore? 

We have been in the city for almost three years now

Do you like it here?

Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city, fastest growing economic hub. It is also called the Startup capital and I feel it in the air. But What I love the most, is the weather. Traffic is a concern but I hope the city’s infrastructure will improve in due course of time.