Concerned with the chemicals she was unknowingly feeding her children, Sridevi Ashala quit her engineering job to launch Tummy Friendly Foods, a venture that sells healthy baby food mixes.
Recently married, Sridevi Ashala is at the top of her game. She’s working as the head of technology of a German company in Bengaluru. Like all newly married couples, she and her husband Chidanandam spend their days and nights exploring new eateries across the city and making the most of Bengaluru’s night life. Everything seems to be going fine, until one day, an incident shakes the couple to their core.
“I had a miscarriage,” Sridevi tells The Better India. “My doctor told me that one of the reasons for this could be my unhealthy lifestyle. It was really a wake-up call for me and my husband.”
The incident was enough to shake the couple out of their reverie, and from there began their tryst with trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, with the help of nutritious food and yoga. When she gave birth to her daughters, the 39-year-old began researching further about nutrition.
“Once I started taking care of my health, I developed a habit of checking the ingredients and nutritional information of everything I would buy. When my first daughter was born, I did the same thing. What surprised me was the amount of chemicals in baby food. I would think to myself, ‘Should I feed so many chemicals to my child?’,” says Sridevi.
What are we feeding our kids?
While Sridevi fed her first child homemade food, it wasn’t so easy to manage with her second, owing to her full-time job as a software engineer.
“Just like any new mom, I found it difficult to make healthy food and focus on my children’s nutrition once my second daughter was born. I had to travel a lot for work too. As this went on for sometime, I decided to quit my job and focus on nutrition,” says the engineer.
And so she established Tummy Friendly Foods in September 2019. However, the entrepreneur spent the first year wholly on research and development, setting up an in-house laboratory to check the nutritional content of the baby food she was developing.
“Many illnesses today are because of adulterated food, our lifestyle, and chemicals and pesticides — not just in food, but everywhere around us. Packaged food, especially baby food from MNCs, is highly processed and loaded with chemicals in the name of fortification. This artificial fortification of baby food causes problems for the kidneys and liver. Babies have a tough time removing these toxins,” says Sridevi.
According to a report, researchers found that 65 per cent infant products contained arsenic, 58 per cent contained cadmium, 36 per cent contained lead and 10 per cent contained acrylamide.
The solution to this lies in bio-available nutrition, Sridevi says, adding that the way to get this nutrition without fortification is through sprouting, adds Sridevi.
“Sprouting is the natural way of food fortification. It eliminates anti-nutrients, multiplies the nutritional content of the food and makes it completely bio-available, i.e, easy to absorb into the body,” says the founder & CEO of Tummy Friendly Foods.
The company is presently bootstrapped and has recently relocated to Hyderabad. Sridevi has put in Rs 1.5 crore into the company so far, and earns about Rs 10 lakh per month, she says.
The venture sells easy to make organic baby food, like porridge mixes and pancake mixes for infants from six months of age onwards. They also have a line of mixes for adults with health problems like diabetes.
“After a lot of research, we developed healthy alternatives to what was being sold in the market. All products are chemical-free and provide the required nutrients. We do sprouting in-house and have a special machine that helps remove water after the sprouting process,” she says.
‘Read the ingredients before you buy’
Sridevi has a team of mothers working with her, as well as four people in charge of R&D. They also consult a team of mentors, including doctors, to ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements.
One of the biggest challenges they face is competing with the big brands.
“Being a growing brand, competing with the established players is a big challenge. We have found our feet in the past few months and hope to grow. Our intention is good. We are working on establishing ourselves and coming up with more products. We rebranded for Amazon, and sell as Happy Tums there,” adds Sridevi.
They also have to make the food interesting and palatable for children.
“We need to make children’s food interesting and palatable, we can’t expect them to eat what we eat. At the same time, we can’t compromise on their health. We keep experimenting with new products using chocolate with ragi, or other alternatives, to make something that children will enjoy,” adds Sridevi.
For young mothers with a hectic schedule, these mixes are very useful.
Abhinaya Subhash, one customer, says, “I started giving my daughter ragi porridge when she was seven months old. Since the products come for three stages, depending on the age of the baby, we have gradually moved to stage three now, which includes sprouted green moong, brown chana, spinach etc. My daughter loves it, and I’m relieved as it has no sugar and chemicals.”
Meanwhile, Sridevi says that it’s important to make your children understand the value of nutrition.
“My daughter is twelve years old. She sometimes asks for chocolates or junk food. I make her also read the ingredients so that she understands the good and bad. Let them also understand what they are eating, and know what they are putting into their body,” says Sridevi.
This mother says that she has found meaning in life after starting this venture.
“I was in software engineering for 15 years, but I finally feel like I’m doing something meaningful after I started this. I want to make sure that babies get good food,” she says.
For more information, check their website .