Bengaluru-based Aarti Rastogi, who suffers from 80% hearing loss, quit her job to start Artinci in 2019, which sells gluten-free, sugar-free, and keto-friendly desserts
Just like millions across the globe, Bengaluru-based Aarti Rastogi associates ice cream with joyous and memorable moments. For some people it’s family night outs, the end of examinations, new year’s eve, festivals, and other countless celebrations. For Aarti, it was the birth of her sister.
However, a diabetic gene also runs in her family, imposing many dietary restrictions on her. Aarti says her situation is similar to many Indians.
“Indians love desserts, which is evident, with the country being the diabetic capital of the world. It’s difficult to find a dessert that is great in taste yet safe for a diabetic person to eat, without causing sugar spikes,” Aarti tells The Better India.
The 42-year-old says that her family history of diabetes shaped her approach to conceive a range of dessert products with no sugar, no preservatives and artificial agents. With these, she launched Artinci in 2019.
‘My experiments with ice creams’
Aarti started her career in 2001 as an HR professional, but soon lost 80 percent of her hearing ability due to an unknown cause. “I was 23 years old when it happened, and had just started my career,” she recalls, adding that within the first three months of being in the profession, she knew she wanted a career in food, but had no clarity as to what the venture would be, or even how she would go about it.
Alongside her HR job, she pursued her quest to find the right kind of ice cream, which was healthy. “Since I couldn’t always find the kind of dessert I wanted to eat, I acquired a counter-top ice cream machine for my kitchen in 2012, and started as an ice cream cook, following existing recipes to the T,” she adds.
Aarti became engrossed in the science of ice cream-making, and started experimenting by changing ingredients. “I became fascinated when I noticed that even small changes made to recipes tend to produce varying results. I learned ice cream science from textbooks and started developing my recipes around 2015. I tried to create flavours inspired by the trips I made to different parts of the world,” she adds.
The entrepreneur spent a lot of time developing a healthier version of ice creams. “A natural extension of all that R&D was to create sugar-free versions of other beloved desserts and snacks, such as brownies, cakes and cookies. I scientifically developed an alternative to sugar, which is safe and does not cause impact blood sugar levels. There are no artificial sugars in the desserts,” Aarti says.
Despite success and satisfaction with her delicious blends, Aarti was sceptical to start a business due to her limitations. “I took a long time to take the plunge in entrepreneurship, because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run a company while being a person with a hearing disability,” she says.
With support and encouragement from her family, as well as the fear of regret for not trying, she took the plunge in 2017 and quit her HR job for good. She launched Artinci in 2019, offering ice-cream, cookies, brownies, chocolate bars and cakes. “The products are derived from all the research I conducted over the years, and are gluten-free, keto-friendly and sugar-free,” she says.
An inclusive work culture
Aarti attributes this to the support she receives from her partner, Sumit, who is also the chief advisor of her company. “He believed in this dream, and was the business’s first funding source. His guidance has helped shape the go-to-market strategy thus far, and plays an active role in expanding the business. My daughter, Navya, always tells me that I have four ears – hers and Sumit’s – while others have only two. Both of them actively help me hear every day and fill in the blanks when I miss hearing something,” she says.
Aarti says her limitations in hearing also played a role in her decision to start the business. “I imagined my future self, steeped in regret for not having at least tried. What also helped was a better understanding of disability inclusion and advocacy, through my last corporate role in inclusion and diversity strategy and programmes,” she adds. Identical principles have been incorporated in her business, and the company recruits persons with disability and the LGBTQI community.
The company has ten outlets in Bengaluru and offers products through Amazon and 1MG, delivering across 25 states. It also accepts orders from its website.
From 2019, the company has doubled its revenues, and the brand has grown mainly by word of mouth. “With our product portfolio of a sugar-free range of desserts, that are both healthy and tasty, we aim to make it easier for those pursuing health goals to stay on track,” the entrepreneur adds.
Speaking about future goals, Aarti says, “A vegan line is in the works, as are Indian sweets. We also aim to increase our footprint across channels, including retail, hyperlocal and e-commerce, making it accessible to more and more consumers.”
Speaking from experience and advising aspiring entrepreneurs, Aarti says, “The best time to start an entrepreneurial journey is NOW, if you find yourself bitten by this bug. The journey is long, hard and also incredibly rewarding. Tap deeply into your network, make sure you ask for help every step of the way, and ensure you receive it too. It takes a village to raise both a child, and a business.”
Edited by Divya Sethu