i2cook (www.i2cook.com)

Past life

Megha Deokule, 32, the founder of i2cook, is an architect by training. She was working at Studio Mumbai, headed by award-winning architect Bijoy Jain, when it struck her that designing spaces was not what she was cut out for. “I was on a sabbatical from work after marriage. It was bugging me that I was not doing anything with food, which I loved. i2cook began life as a blog, where I recorded my food experiments," she says. Her husband Pawan Deokule, 36, an independent businessman, was supportive of her decision to quit architecture and work with food. He even offered to help.

Drupad Raja, 31, was doing a bachelor’s in commerce from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, when he was introduced to the idea of organic agriculture. In 2013, a couple of jobs and an MBA in operations management later, he was working as a project coordinator with EcoFarms—one of India’s largest and oldest organic farming enterprises—when he met Megha, who was sourcing raw materials from there. Raja joined i2cook in 2013. In January, the three formalized their partnership as the i2cook Organic Foods Llp.

Eureka moment

“By 2011, I began participating in farmers’ markets across Mumbai over the weekend. I would take cream cheese and salad dressings—all freshly made in my home kitchen—and sell them. That’s when I decided to get into bottled, preservative-free, natural, home-made products," says Megha.

Genesis

Megha Deokule moved to Bangalore for the sake of her business. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Megha Deokule moved to Bangalore for the sake of her business. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

While the supply chain of organic farms—which they visit regularly to ensure the produce is what it promises to be—is still a work in progress, i2cook has refined its line-up to cover breakfast items and condiments, including peanut butters (regular and spicy), mustards (pink and honey) and coconut sugar (made of coconut tree sap), all of which are carefully labelled as “made from organic ingredients". Each of these products is unique in one way or the other: The coconut sugar, the team asserts, is a unique product, low in glycaemic index (in how it affects blood sugar levels and so it is diabetic-friendly to a certain extent), minimally processed, unbleached and, of course, preservative-free. “I hear it finds great favour in baby food," adds Megha. The products range starts at 150.

Next in the queue are ready-to-eat snacks. So far, says Pawan, who looks after i2cook’s marketing and strategy, “We have focused our efforts on reach (through local area stores in Bangalore and Mumbai) rather than visibility." The i2cook range is found in local supermarket chains and with online retailers such as Natural Mantra. It sends out an average of 250 bottles of each product every month.

Reality check

Secret sauce

Intensive research on products before they are added to the i2cook repertoire and rigorous quality checks before they are sent out into the market.

Plan B

“If we took so much time to get where are are today, it is because we were not only testing the market, we were also testing ourselves. And having come so far, there is no going back," says Megha.

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