Meet Namita Mehra, founder and creator of the ‘Indian Spicebox’ which is a Singapore-born gorgeous gift box of Indian spices and recipes. She started her journey back in 2010, where she began her Indian Spicebox community on Facebook. Namita Mehra does it all, from being a mother to running a social business. We are sure her story will inspire you.
How did you come up with the idea for Indian Spicebox?
When I was living in New York, I had just gotten a new job at an ad agency and new employees were asked to showcase their ‘talent’ at the monthly company staff meeting. I had recently got married and was cooking a lot for my Indian food loving husband. So I took in my spicebox for the talent show for the meeting and did a small presentation on Indian cooking basics and spices. My colleagues loved learning about Indian cooking and many of them asked me to help them assemble a spicebox and suggest some cookbooks. I struggled to find good cookbooks that were quick, easy, well-written and relatable for our generation. I’ve been a writer since college and decided then that I would one day write my own cookbook and package it with a spicebox. That idea was born in 2004, and I founded the company and created our signature product the ‘Spicebox Kit’ in 2014. Corporate life kept me busy (and gave me lots of incredible experience) but I didn’t let go of my idea and dream. The Spicebox Kit includes my cookbook along with the nine organic spices you need to cook all the recipes in the book, all beautifully packaged together. The best part is that each Kit funds hot meals for underprivileged children in India.
Did you start the venture alone?
Yes. But I work with a number of talented freelancers, partners and vendors. My creative lead Allan Tay, has been on this journey with me since 2014 when my idea was finally becoming a real business. He helped me create the brand, design the book, the product…everything!
What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company’s growth?
In the beginning, finding the right suppliers to work with was extremely challenging. The logistics of creating a physical product—sourcing, working with guys in China, India, assembly people here in Singapore, shipping and logistics companies, export and import licenses, certifications, quality checks, sales channels, retailers, distribution, figuring out Amazon….ah I could go on and on. For someone who had worked in the corporate world as a digital strategist for 15 years, the learning curve was very steep indeed! But most of all, finding trust-worthy partners and suppliers to work with took some time. A lot of suppliers didn’t take me seriously in the beginning—probably because I was inexperienced, a woman, wanting to create a specialty/niche product at a very small scale. It was a tough journey in the first few years!
Do you think luck played a role in the success of Indian Spicebox?
All hard work! I would say we still have a long way to go. As we would say at Facebook (where I worked for 5 years) We’re just 1% done….
How has the food industry changed in the last year?
Here are some of the common trends that I’ve seen:
- Organic/gf/paleo/keto: everyone is focused on eating clean. Businesses catering to specific dietary needs, which are no longer medically-driven but mainstream lifestyle choices, will continue to see demand. There is a greater need for kid-friendly food products in this category
- Meal kits- with the success of companies like Blue Apron in the US, we will continue to see more ‘semi-home cooked, homemade meal kits’ as more families want to cook at home but without all the pre-work that is involved. Give them the ingredients, give them the recipe (must be quick and easy!) and dinner is on the table for the family to enjoy.
- Plant based: The Impossible burger is converting even the most meat-loving burger fans over the vegetarian side—not just on taste but that inner voice that tells us that one of the top ways we can contribute to the climate change crisis is by stopping or reducing our meat intake. We will continue to see a lot of innovation and new product development in the plant-based food space
What advice would you give to a food company just starting their business online?
Take the time to clearly define and build your brand. Invest in good creative, strong assets that define you as a business, high quality photography and styling, great, engaging content. Don’t compromise on quality. Singapore is an expensive market to create all this but there are quality creatives here who focus on small businesses and who are very professional and easy to work with. Start small and work your way up. Food is perishable/comes with an expiry date so be smart about anticipating your demand and look to expand into new markets quickly (for example, I’ve waited too long to do this) You have to be on sales channels like Lazada/Redmart and Amazon and you have to invest in lots of social media content and Facebook/Instagram advertising. Pop-ups and face to face interaction is also important in this market to build brand awareness. Most importantly, find your tribe of fellow business owners and support each other!
If you like to get your hands on the Indian Spicebox, you can order them online!
Also, Find and Follow the Indian Spicebox:
Website: Indian Spicebox
Instagram: Indian Spicebox
Facebook: Indian Spicebox