During the peak of corona, many lost jobs and unemployment were increasing and the need for healthy food was increasing in demand. This is where Athey Nallatha, a startup founded by two friends who met in their MBA days started providing organic meals was started. From selling healthy wraps, smoothies, and munchies to selling homemade freshly prepared pickles, Athey Nallatha now has grown with over 100 mothers supporting their venture. To read more about this healthy, tasty, and love-filled startup let us dig into their story.
Brief us about yourself, and your venture?
Athey Nallatha was started by R. Akshay and Hafez Raman on 9th June 2020. Akshay is a computer science engineer and Hafis is a photonics graduate. We both met during our MBA days in Kochi. We both are very different people but we had the same vision. During the industry interaction sessions, we both used to end up spending more time with the speakers and understanding more about their journey. We kind of understood we had a similar kind of hunger towards growth. Finished our MBA in 2018 and went our respective ways. Akshay went into the marketing and sales sector and Hafez worked as the HR head of Al – Ameen group of institutions. We regularly used to meet up monthly at Varkala, during our long conversations business used to come up regularly.
At the inception of Athey Nallatha, the problem statement was to address the increasing unemployment during the peak of corona and create healthy food. We had lots of people around us losing jobs, so we went about to address the issue by creating Athey Nallatha. We started by creating an organic 3 meal per day subscription plan. We added healthy wraps, smoothies, and many more munchies. By this time we had onboarded a few mothers who started becoming self-sufficient by working with us. A month after our inception corona tightened its grip, deliveries were becoming difficult, acquiring raw materials was also becoming an issue. Since our products were highly perishable, difficulties in deliveries were a huge issue. So we had to quickly adapt. We planned to move to a product with shelf life and a product where our mothers could demonstrate their skill to the world. That is how we moved on to pickles, we took an unhealthy product then made it healthy. A testimony to our efforts has been the presence of our pickles in multiple medical stores and pharmacies. We have organic tea, virgin coconut oil, jackfruit powder, and saffron in our product line ready for deployment.
Your tagline says “Made by Mothers”, How do you ensure to stay true to this?
As of now, there are around 100 mothers with us. They participate in the production process and sales process as well. We (Akshay & Hafez) have become technological enablers for the community. We wanted each product that has the Athey Nallatha branding to be of top quality, when mothers are in charge they make them as they make for their own family. The hygiene, love, and care have been put in by mothers. They are involved from the procurement to the final packing and shipping of the product as well. We make sure they are financially educated and make sure they are self-reliant. They are also trained in sales. Mothers in our community do regularly surprise us with their enthusiasm, they come up with different sales strategies and channels of their own. We do learn from them a lot. Boss ladies they are!
Is there a story behind naming it ‘Athey Nallatha’? Also how did you find such quirky names for your products?
We wanted our brand name to represent the kind of values they hold as well as the indigeneity. The products we were making were healthy and of top quality. Since it was made by mothers, our customers can be sure that it is good for them. Athey Nallatha translates to yes, it’s good. We wanted the brand to flaunt the skill sets of the mother community of Kerala and the unique taste bombs from our region. We went for a Malayalam name so that the brand represented Kerala and its indigeneity. We wanted everyone across the globe to know a Kerala brand in its mother tongue.
We are a bootstrapped company, we knew we had to be clever if we had to create brand recall and create a hook for new customers. We wanted each name to represent a bit of Kerala, culture, and heritage. We also wanted each name to resonate with the customer’s memories, this builds neural connections. When you know someone or something previously you are much more likely to approach them. We had used many subliminal marketing techniques across the brand from digital presence to the product itself. Our product names were a novelty and most of our stakeholders when they come across our brand, do introduce us to their friends and family.
What were the challenges faced in the initial period?
The initial challenges we faced were in product consistency, cash flow management, and logistics. To address product consistency we worked with food safety officers, chefs, food engineers, food designers, and scientists to standardize our product to our standard. This ensures we maintain the same taste. Cash flow was a huge issue initially, we mainly faced this in the retail segment. Product was in the market and retailers were given products with a 21 day credit period but due to covid, they were also suffering. This led to ill-timed payments and was a strain for us. To address this we made the dispatches in very lean batches so the payments were of very small value and the retailer could afford them. We had multiple deliveries during the month to ensure products in the shelf. We worked out a delivery schedule where we could minimize the distance traveled and made it efficient. Out of the country and state deliveries were becoming difficult with our initial local courier agency, we then shifted shiprocket. They were a shipping aggregator where we could choose different courier companies based on time and cost. We could choose the fastest service as well as cut delivery costs. They also helped us streamline our logistics with their slick interface.
You have been the first company in Kerala to accept crypto currency payment. What is the reason behind such a take?
Due to inflation, the raw material costs were rising. The products were becoming less and less profitable, we had a lot of mouths to feed. We were brainstorming on how we can reduce costs, since we are in the food industry we can not skimp on the quality of raw materials. We understood we had to streamline the operations and make them lean. That’s when we decided to move our entire operations to the blockchain. We are creating a system where farmers will be able to sell their produce to everyday customers in a decentralized marketplace. With our experience dealing with farmers and wholesalers, we had understood that the intermediaries are the ones making the majority of the profits and the farmers are at the mercy of them. This system removes the intermediaries, this ensures farmers are paid well and the consumers get a good deal as well. As a first step towards this, we adopted cryptocurrencies. We aim to make the payment process transparent for all the stakeholders, this enables the farmers to see what price their produce has made at the consumer end and it lets the consumers see how much the farmer is getting as well.
You recently launched your first NFT. Can you please elaborate on this?
The move to launch our NFT is related to us shifting our operations into the blockchain. We wanted to give people to be a part of the project. It is a long way from when we can be a listed company and give our shares. We have utilized NFTs as a way of investing in the company, as the project grows the company values also grow. A total of six NFTs will be launched to commemorate the different milestones of our transition project to the blockchain. We are looking for blockchain developers as well and people who are well versed in the web3, blockchain space to be a part of the project who can guide us navigate these uncharted waters. NFTs have proved a good way to interact with this community.
Tell us about your team?
We have a very small team working hard to make things happen. There are two directors, Akshay and Hafis. Hafis’s mom, Aneesa works as the head chef and chief curator of the mother community of 100. We work with the mother community on a daily wage basis and the rest of the team are freelancers and full-time employees. Then we have a social media team, consisting of a content writer and graphic designer. We have a technology guy who takes care of the website and all the tech-related stuff. For operations, we have two people who take care of product delivery, raw material procurement, and manufacturing. To bring in new B2B clients we have a salesperson and to manage the legal things we have an accounts guy as well. Everything we do has been aided with technology so we have prepared by making sure we are mobile and operations can go ahead even if there is a lockdown coming up.
How do you leverage social media to attract your customers? Do you sell offline as well?
Our main marketing channel has been social media, we are present across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube, Twitter. We do our outreach through social media, we have worked with close to 150 influencers who have a follower base of 10K to 2 million. We have made our content visible to more than 50 million people across the globe of which we have monetized a good chunk of the traction in 1.5 years. We have worldwide shipping and we are present offline as well in Trivandrum, Kochi, Thrissur, Kottayam, Bangalore, and Bombay.
What are your future plans and goals?
Future plans include launching the decentralized marketplace to a global scale, launching new products, and having our own logistics facilities. We have products that showcase the indignity of our country ready for launches such as organic tea, jack fruit powder, saffron, and virgin coconut oil. We want to provide more opportunities for the community to grow and flourish. We grow as one!
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