Sour carry, salt-chilli chopped guava or shengdana chutney! You must have remembered my childhood after hearing this name. In the midst of a busy and busy life, there are some things that bring us a walk of the past. Ruchira Sonalkar, a resident of Mumbai, has brought a similar taste of fun (Food Startups In Mumbai) through a food startup. Which certainly contains many memories of bygone times.
40 years old, Ruchira runs a company called ‘Native Tongue’ with her husband Rohan. Here she sells delicious products such as jam, stone groundnut butter, savory spread, fruit cordials and desert sauce. Ruchira says that she was never a professional chef but, she always loved cooking. Before starting this company, he worked as a product head for a digital news company for 13 years. She quit her job in 2014 to take care of her child. This was the time when he started experimenting with cooking. He started trying out some Maharashtrian dishes, which many people were not aware of. Then later he focused on jams and sauces.
He got his first break during a baby shower ceremony of a friend. Here he received an order to make spreads for the guests. Speaking to The Better India, Ruchira says, “This was our first order and people liked the taste of it. Later more people contacted us and this is where our journey started. We launched our first brand, ‘Jam Packed’ in 2018. ” Now Ruchira got fully into business and Rohan continued her job. But, as much as possible from him, he would help Ruchira.
Love indigenous flavours
“We did everything at home,” says Ruchira, from preparing the recipe to printing the label. We started with six flavors – Strawberry Jam, Salted Caramel, Rum Caramel, Honey Mustard, Peanut Butter with Pepper and Garlic Confit. These were our first experiments. We wanted to see which flavor people would like the most. However, the response from the people was encouraging. People who had never eaten peanut butter liked our product with chili. Because, it reminds them of shengdana chutney. Peanut Butter liked people as young as 20 years old, as well as people as young as 50 years old. We also have Honey Mustard, which is reminiscent of Kasundi. ”
Ruchira says that there are many varieties of indigenous produce in India, which many people are not aware of. She adds, “We picked up materials that either had a GI tag or had something specific about them. We wanted to evoke a taste with which memories of the past are associated. For example, we made mango panna with Rajapuri kari (mango). People knew what a mango emerald was but, we wanted to talk about the produce behind it. We tried to make it with something interesting, like we roasted Carrie in the fire. This produces an attractive scent in a different way, which makes it more peppery. You can consume it as a drink or use it in water-puri as well. Because it has a flavor, which is like watery. We also made spices with gondhraj lemons. Many people are familiar with Kafir Lemon, which comes from China. Gondharaja is also almost the same lemon, yet many people do not know much about it. ”
Ruchira and Rohan work with farmers who have small land to get production. For example, his strawberries come from a small organic farm in Nashik. The peanuts for his butter are purchased from his 75-year-old grandmother, who runs a peanut business, in his own building. Dadi brings peanuts directly to Kathiawad for her business. Similarly, she also brings her guava and mulberry from organic farms.
“Our objective is to highlight the nuances of production and the changing differences based on different seasons and regions,” she says. Currently 22 types of flavors are available in a variety of ‘Native Tongue’ food products. Ruchira says, “We also started making fig rales. We brought in GI-tagged figs, from a farm in Purandar in Maharashtra. They are full of flavor and smell, which can be clearly felt in our food products. ”
Variety of delicious spreads
In December 2019, the couple changed their business name to ‘Native Tongue’. “Only 20-30% of our products were jams, so we wanted to name our business something that would reflect all our food products,” Ruchira explains. Ruchira states that till then all the work of the company was being done from a small kitchen of about 180 sq ft. However, when he expanded his business he moved to a third-party manufacturing unit in January 2020. Then his business caught a good rift. But within three months, the Corona epidemic changed the whole picture. But, a good thing for him was that he did not invest in any place. Therefore, both of them again thought it right to do their business from their own kitchen.
The ‘Native Tongue’ continued its work during the epidemic. Meanwhile, Ruchira also renewed focus on her food product and business flourished, with an emphasis on eating local and preservative-free food. She says, “In January this year, we have taken 1,500 square feet of space for our food production.”
This startup of his is built at his own cost. “You can call me an accidental entrepreneur,” she laughs. We come from a service-class family. We never thought we would start our own business. Until four months ago, my husband was working only part-time with me. But now he is giving full time to the business. ” Ruchira states that in January, she received some funds from friends and family so that her work could continue.
Among all food products, ‘peanut butter’ made with Byadgi chilli (originally from Karnataka) is the most popular. Garlic Confit also has good sales. She says, “When we added this product, a lot of people refused us to do so. Because, the word ‘confit’ sounds unheard and scary. But we Indians love garlic a lot. Apart from this, roasted garlic can also be used in many places on low heat. You can use it in your Aloo Paratha or Pav Bhaji. ” ‘Native Tongue’ receives around 1,500 orders every month and supplies its food products across India. Including Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir.
During the festival season, orders increase to around 3,500. Ruchira has also tied up with big brands such as ‘Bakers Dozen’ and Fortune’s hotels. Food products cost between Rs 200 and Rs 600.
Ruchira says, “We don’t want us to lose the natural and homemade taste of food by becoming big food producers.” That is why we are trying to keep pace with many big brands. Just like – if someone is selling good savardo bread, we want to have jam served with him. ”
Ruchika Kedia, marketing manager at Bakers Design, says that because of this thinking, our company got involved with ‘Native Tongue’ a month ago. She says, “Last year we often noticed that many people were asking about things to be eaten with bread. Recently, we came to know about the ‘Native Tongue’ brand. Our head bakers were quite impressed to see that there are no preservatives in their food products. They have a very unique flavor set, such as the Chulai Nut Butter and Aloo Bukhara Preserve. Spread sales are getting very good and we sell these products at all our stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru. In Mumbai, the response in particular has been very good. Within two days of their food product launch, they were out of stock. In particular, sales of mulberry preserva and honey mustard have been very good. ”
A strong support system
Ruchira says that her day starts at around 9:30 in the morning, in which she oversees food production. Rohan oversees marketing and packaging. He also has freelancers who help him in PR and brand communication.
On her journey as a business woman, Ruchira admitted that things had not been so difficult for her. She says, “But Rohan quit my job, which is not possible for everyone.”
She says, “I think women often don’t look for a support system, which later turns out to be a nuisance.” I am fortunate to have a family that helps me all the way and also encourages me. My mother ventured into our business as a spot financier and my mother-in-law took care of my child. It is necessary to get the most help. We all need help somewhere. ”
Ruchira says that her journey is slow but slowly and full of many lessons. She says, “We are from a rich culture of pickles and marmalade, but when I started working, I found that things that make canes are not readily available. Therefore, I cut food-grade plastic bottles, made them like a wide funnel and used as a canning tool. It was also a challenge to find the supplier and establish a stable chain or to find the right type of packaging. She says, “I have to move around a lot, even in APMC markets, I have roamed in gutter water. But in the end, all this is valid for the response that food products get. ”
Today, ‘Native Tongue’ has adopted a completely plastic-free packaging. Their products come in a glass barn and are packed in recycled paper.
‘Native Tongue’ seeks to follow the principles of Slow Food (produced and prepared according to local culinary traditions, and usually food products made using high quality local ingredients). For example, with her Stone Gross Nut Butter, she takes care of taste as well as nutrition. She says, “When the quality of your produce is good, you can keep the recipe simple and the ingredients automatically make them good. So you do not have to tell your customers their quality. Because, by looking at them, they estimate their quality. ”
To see ‘Native Tongue’ food products, you can check its Facebook and Instagram page.