This environmentally conscious startup provides healthy vegan alternatives to dairy products.
--BY MANISHA BALAMI
In recent years, young Nepalis have been turning to veganism, which is the practice of abstaining from all animal products. Yet there are limited places where vegan food items can be purchased in Nepal. Vegan Dairy Nepal, a first mover in Nepal, is a company that provides multiple food options for vegans. Kajol Sethia founded the company in 2018.
vegetarian since birth, she first discovered veganism while she was studying in Singapore. She felt that the food she consumed was not ethically right. As soon as she realised this, she decided to take the initiative to make others aware of veganism.
“For vegans, there is no option in Nepal, and someone should have taken the initiative”, she says, explaining the reason for establishing the company.
Family Owned Business
Sethia says that she utilised her mother’s cooking skills to start the company. She remembers how her mom used to cook for her during her visit to Nepal on vacations. “She used to make soy milk, almond milk and other varieties for me”, she says. Further, she says that last year she met so many vegans who made her realise that there is a demand for vegan products. Hence, together with her parents, Babita Sethia and Narbhat Sethia, she established the company. The company was started with basic machinery from home. They experimented with their recipes at home before reaching the market.
Being a home-based company, it initially made products on a made to order basis. Today, it has daily sales of around Rs 15,000 from online orders. “Through our online medium, we cater to around 15 customers daily”, she adds.
Sethia claims that the use of all-natural ingredients that are free from any preservatives is the unique selling proposition of the company’s product. “We also do not use any palm oil, and all our products are purely vegan”, she adds.
The company has vegan alternatives for milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese, honey, energy bars and spreads. They have different varieties of milk such as coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and hazelnut milk; varieties in yoghurt such as cashew yoghurt, soy yoghurt, and coconut yoghurt; cultured vegan butter, cheese, pineapple honey and No-tella spread.
All of Vegan Dairy Nepal’s products are priced at a range of Rs 200 to Rs 800. Also, the ingredients are plant based and 100 percent free of animal products, claims Sethia. Since all the ingredients are natural and with no added preservatives, the products have a short expiry date. “Milk lasts up to 2-3 days, yoghurt lasts up to 3-4 days while other products last around six months”, she explains.
Vegan Dairy Nepal has been reaching people mostly through social media. Apart from its official pages on social media sites, the company’s products can be found at Evoke Café, Farmers Mart, restaurants in Thamel, and SmartDoko. Outside of Nepal, the company’s products are available in Singapore through Marche Ethique Food.
Vegan Dairy Nepal is now targeting customers outside the Kathmandu valley. Considering this, it has partnered with restaurants in Pokhara and Chitwan. Soon, it plans on expanding to other places as well. As people become increasingly health-conscious, the company receives inquiries from people around the country. Although it serves vegan food, its primary customers are not vegans. “Our prime target customers are non-vegans. Majority of vegans make their food themselves. So those who are not vegan and are health conscious and are in the process of turning vegan are our target customers”, Sethia says.
Though it has only been one year since the company started, it has created a buzz in the market. Sethia says the customers like the products and are giving positive feedback. “Once people buy our products, they are regularly buying from us”, she adds. Besides Nepali customers, foreigners visiting Nepal are also buying Vegan Dairy Nepal’s products.
Opportunities and Challenges
Initially, explaining the concept of veganism was a significant challenge for the company. Then there is the misconception among people that vegan products won’t taste good. However, this thinking is changing gradually. Now, most people have become more aware. “Now, even non-vegans approach us. Also, many influencers have turned into vegans themselves. Different documentaries are being made about veganism, and through social media, people are being informed about it”, Sethia explains.
Currently, Sethia says that marketing is a significant challenge in Nepal. Vegan products tend to be comparatively expensive than other products. However, she feels that it might not be as expensive as it looks while considering the long term effect of the dairy products.
“If the government could address issues regarding import and export such as customs clearance, it would be easier for us, including many other startup companies”, she says. She further states that most of the ingredients need to be imported, and the delay and hassle during customs clearance make the price of the product very high. “Also, I think tax reduction for a couple of years would be the best policy for any startup to sustain”, she expresses.
Although the vegan community is small, more people are becoming aware of veganism and are turning vegan. “Today, even doctors are recommending vegan products for patients of heart disease, diabetes, etc.”, she says, adding that this shows that the area has a broad scope.
Ready to Accept Investment
Operated from home, Vegan Dairy Nepal has not taken any financial support from any people or organisation as it is still growing and understanding its products. However, as the demand and customer base keeps growing, the company will require expansion. “Not only do we want to cater to customers of Kathmandu, but we also want to cater to all the people of Nepal and compete in the international market as well. So for this, we need marketing expense, machinery expense and warehouse. Therefore, we now are in a phase where we accept investment”, she explains.
The world today is becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. A lot of people are turning to veganism as a means to combat climate change. Considering the environmental factor, Vegan Dairy Nepal has tried keeping its product packaging as reusable and recyclable as possible. The company uses glass bottles for its products, which can be reused at home or returned to the company. Sethia claims that recycling product packaging is creating less pollution.
“Our glaciers are melting rapidly due to climate change and the greenhouse effect. Many reports have shown that animal agriculture is the major reason that creates greenhouse gas emission. So the less animal product we consume, the faster we will be able to combat climate change”, she explains.
People from places like Birtamode, Illam are inquiring and ordering from Vegan Dairy Nepal. Sethia says that although people there want to consume vegan products, they do not have any options. “So my target is to reach all the remote and secluded parts of the country so that people do not feel left out”, she shares. She wants the products to be readily available in every corner of the country. Further, she wants to export the product to the international market as well.