Who would’ve thought that a dish considered as a ‘side’ and made up of raw ingredients would help one earn a stable income?
Megha Bafna, a resident of Pune, is perhaps amongst a few who pursued her passion while continuing to work full-time at a real estate company. “I was very confident of my skills and did not want to let it go unutilised. Having spent more than 15 years in the real estate sector, I was in a position to take a plunge and work on something I loved,” the entrepreneur behind ‘Keep Good Shape’ tells The Better India.
In 2017, Megha plunged into being an entrepreneur with the launch of her salad business.
“I was not just passionate about making salads and feeding people, but the idea of becoming an entrepreneur was also very enticing to me,” she says.
Her desire to take on challenges became innate when, as a Class 9 student, she had to go through a surgery that left her in bed for close to 18 months. “What was to be a simple procedure and allow me to get back on my feet in one month, took over a year and a half. It turned into something unfathomable. Even after recovering, the doctors had warned me about possible health complications as I got older.”
In One’s Salad Days
“I have always been a very ambitious person. I took up my first job when I was still in college, not for want of money, but to be financially independent,” she says. A few health niggles ensured that Megha took her own lunch to the office everyday. “A staple that would always find a place in my lunch was my salad box. My colleagues enjoyed this and often urged me to get multiple servings of it,” she says.
Megha saw an opportunity in this and says, “While junk food was easily available, good healthy salads were either expensive or not readily available. This non-availability of fresh salads was a problem that I wanted to address.”
That same night, an excited Megha discussed this business idea with her husband and even went on to make an e-flyer that she circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook. She adds here that till date, she has not put out any paid promotions for her venture. “The growth has been completely organic and through word-of-mouth,” she says.
She started with an initial investment of Rs 3,500 and six orders on day one but with each new order that came in, her challenges kept increasing.
She continued to hold on to her full-time corporate job, while taking this on additionally. That meant that Megha’s day would begin at 4 am. “Once I woke up, the grains that I used for the salads needed to be soaked. Then, I headed out to the market to get my fresh produce for the day. The vegetables then had to be cleaned and chopped and ready for the salads,” she says.
In between all the cutting, chopping and preparation, Megha also had to juggle getting her son ready for school, getting all the salads packed and ready for dispatch and leaving for work. “It’s been a roller coaster ride, but one that I have thoroughly enjoyed,” she says.
Today, she earns Rs 1.5 lakh every month.
No Plastic With My Salad
“I was sure of always providing good service to my customers. While sales could go up and down, depending on so many factors, I have worked on maintaining the same quality and service over the last four years,” she says.
However, just when her business and orders were picking up and doing well, the government introduced a plastic ban and that was a big blow to the business.
“While the ban was a great move, the timing of it, for me, was all wrong. I was just getting into it and had to scramble to find an alternative to my packaging. I switched to using foil and that got my salad all soggy and unappetising. Almost overnight, my sales went from 300 orders a day to 50 a day,” she recounts.
This led to some research and Megha stumbled upon reusable plastic containers, which was slightly more expensive, but ensured that the salads remained fresh.
In order to win back the lost customers, Megha started sending out sample packs, with the new packaging to the customers she lost and slowly managed to gain their trust back. “Through the last four years of running a business, I have faced many hurdles but waking up every morning and finding ways to circumvent and solve those problems is what I have come to learn,” she says.
Today, Megha’s business employs 30 people and from making six salads today, she offers 27 different salads. None of it came easy, but Megha says that the dedication and hardwork that she relentlessly put in has paid off.
The menu changes throughout the week and she also customises salads for those who need it. “We do have a few customers who have health issues, like hypertension and diabetes – for them we customise the salads,” she says. With having employed more than 10 women, Megha says that she manages to get some time for herself and spends the weekends with her family. “From waking up at 4 am, I now wake up at 6.30 am, and that in itself is a huge boon,” she says with a smile.
With a weekly morning salad subscription pack starting at Rs 620 and a combo meal of salad and soup costing Rs 1,200, Megha is hopeful of taking this service to Mumbai very soon.
If you are in Pune and are keen on trying some of her salads, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)