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Recipe for Success: Dishing out a healthy option to corporate executives
Monday, 25 May, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Harcha Bhaskar, Mumbai
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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” a famous quote by  Hippocrates, father of medicine, emphasises on healthy eating and healthy living. Shankar M Prasad, chief executive officer, Snaxsmart, has a similar philosophy.

It is with this philosophy in mind and a desire to provide a healthy alternative to junk food that Prasad gave up a well-set career in the corporate world to become an entrepreneur.

A mechanical engineer by qualification, Prasad, had a long 25-year stint with the corporate technical world working with organisations such as Motorola, Airtel, Tata Communications and Redbus.

Prasad’s company Bengaluru-based Snaxsmart was launched about two years ago. It is engaged in developing and selling food vending machines to offices. These machines are used by offices to provide their employees healthy food items. Employees can avail of the items, at least 35 varieties, that are stored in the machine by inserting cash or a smart card.

Prasad informs, “It was my childhood ambition to be an entrepreneur. The fact that I chose the food industry was simply because I saw a particular need that needed to be addressed and I set about doing that. The USP of our business is ‘healthy foods within reach.’ We provide the last-mile reach for companies in the health food business. We provide better service than others in the market place. We refill the machine every day.”

Prasad recalls, “I realised that corporate executives, find excuses not to work out and eat a lot of junk food. I know from experience that 7-8 cups of coffee, a samosa in the evening, colas, chips are all part of a regular diet at the work place.”

In his journey, he realised the harm that people did to themselves to respond to their hunger by munching on junk foods. Almost every office had aerated water, chips and other unhealthy snacking items that were easily available. A pizza hut was also 30 minutes away.

This being the background, a few years ago, Prasad witnessed a couple of tragic incidents, in two of them, one of his nephews and a good friend passed away as a result of heart attack. Both were in their early forties. All such incidents disturbed him, however, they also set him thinking, resulting in launching of Snaxsmart at an investment of Rs 1.3 crore. Prior to the launch, he did a lot of reading and analysed how lifestyle diseases were rampant in our country and continued to grow unchecked.

“Diseases like diabetes, cardiac problems, cancer and respiratory diseases were all directly related to lifestyles. That is when I decided to solve the problem and make healthy food easily accessible to corporate employees,” he explains.

The machines are manufactured by an American company called Seaga. It has a manufacturing plant in Haryana, near Delhi.

“Most of the other players in the marketplace be it shops or truck shops in companies offer unhealthy snacks and beverages, we offer healthier options,” he adds.

Talking about the decision to set up the company, Prasad stated that leaving a lucrative job was the biggest decision made in his life and mentioned that it was extremely difficult to convince family and relatives about entering into entrepreneurship as most of them disapproved.

“The general reaction was why give up a good job with a good salary and do business? Even my wife who was at that time involved with the entrepreneur world, disapproved,” he quips.

Prasad noted that the concept of being an entrepreneur was still not the norm, yet he believed that the scenario was changing as more and more people these days were venturing out on their own, which was a good sign.

Research was carried on lifestyle diseases, healthy food stuff available in the marketplace, various ways of delivering the food stuff to the corporate executive. Interviews were also taken of many corporate executives to understand their pain points and what they wanted from a vending machine.

The company bagged the first order fairly easily and that reinforced the belief that there was a need for such machines. “The response and attention in the market exceeds expectations. We have about 40 machines operational at the moment. Some of our customers are Myntra, Herbalife, ITC, GE, Manhattan Associates, and Time Inc.”

“Getting committed manpower is one of the biggest challenges. People are not focussed on career and do not take their jobs seriously,” opines Prasad.

“I believe my work ethic- being fair-no politics has shaped me as a person. I have always done my work with passion and want the same from all those who work with me.”

An avid movie buff and scrabble player, Prasad announces, “We plan to expand our business into another seven cities. We have already opened our office in Chennai. Besides, we will be in another six cities - Hyderabad, Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.”
 
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