Like many mothers, Rida Sajad (36) struggled to get her children, Miraan (4) and Moeez (7), to inculcate healthy eating habits. The challenge only became harder when she insisted they eat dry fruits.
In April 2020, during Ramadan, she tried feeding her children dry fruits in kheer, a traditional Indian dessert. The children ended up fiddling with their food, and while doing so, mashed together the dates, and pressed almonds over them. “‘Look, mother, a chocolate sweet’, they said,” the Noida-based mother recalls.
The shapes of the dry fruit were similar to those of chocolates, and surprisingly, the kids messing around with their food resulted in something that was aesthetically pleasing as well. This gave Rida the idea to reinvent sweets that would look appealing and acceptable to children. Soon after, she began experimenting with turning dry fruits into sweets without using sugar, caramel, honey, or jaggery.
“The family paediatrician recommended that children below the age of ten shouldn’t consume sugar or food that contains glucose. Hence, I was adamant on making sweets without sugar,” she adds.
Initially, Rida struggled to bind the dry fruits together. “Because I was not using sugar or jaggery, there was no binding agent,” she says. Using secret ingredients and methods, she eventually found success, and within weeks, she was ready with six beautifully blended and wrapped sweets.
A slice of health
This tiny experiment at home was a hit with her kids, and has since turned into a successful business called Shireen-E-Yemberzal (Sweet Daffodil) – Mithai Wagon. Through the venture, Rida earns around Rs 1 lakh a month.
This success, she says, was accidental. “A neighbour had shared some food with us for an occasion. Due to a custom of not returning an empty container, I filled it with homemade sweets. She returned a few days later, asking about where I’d bought the sweets from. When I told her I made them myself, she was so surprised she didn’t even believe me at first. She asked if I could make some for her for Diwali, as a gift. After I did that, more orders followed,” she says.
News of Rida’s venture spread through word of mouth, and orders kept pouring in, even for large scale family events and weddings. “People loved that the sweets were made without sugar, yet tasty, looked beautiful, and had no preservatives,” she says. She soon started a Facebook and Instagram page in October the same year. She had customers calling from J&K, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, and Telangana.
Rida sells 12 pieces a box, as well as 20 pieces a box, priced between Rs 550 and Rs 1,350. She says she earned around Rs 3.5 lakh between October last year and January this year.
A majority of her customers come back for more, and usually make purchases for health concerns. “The sweets are loaded with benefits, as they help boost immunity, improve the health of skin and hair, provide strength to the body, aid digestion, have essential oils, proteins, potassium, calcium and antioxidants, and most of all, taste delicious. They’re also gluten-free, rich in vitamins, and eggless” she says.
Bridging the gap between taste and health
Bhawna Rao, an IT professional from Noida, is a regular customer. “I need something sweet for every meal, and gained a lot of weight because of this habit. However, I’ve been buying sweets from Rida for the past two months to help my cravings, and have no complaints. It has helped me with the health issues I suffered from post-pregnancy, and has kept my weight in check,” the 32-year-old says.
Rida does have a disclaimer, though. “I receive about 30 inquiries a day, and a dozen of them are potential customers who have diabetes. I’m no expert in the field of health, and I recommend such people seek advice from doctors before buying my products,” the entrepreneur says.
Rida credits all her success to her family and in-laws. “I did not hire anyone or buy any machinery, because I wanted these sweets to be handmade. My entire family, including my in-laws, have helped me with quality check, labelling, and in cutting the dry fruits — basically, in every way possible. They have been my biggest support,” she adds.
The entrepreneur is now planning to open a store in Kashmir, where a majority of her orders come from. “Because the sweets don’t have any preservatives, they are likely to spoil in different weather conditions. I’m setting a store up in Kashmir to have a delivery system in place, which will allow for me to deliver fresh sweets in the area without worrying about the spoilage,” she says.
Rida has a parting message for her customers. “People should try to consume seeds, dry fruits, millets and cereals as regularly as they can. The natural nutrients work better to improve health, when you compare them to protein bars and other dietary supplements or cosmetics in the market,” she says. Rida’s sweet venture helps bridge the gap between healthy food and deliciousness.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)