Abhay On How, With His Mother’s Help, He’s Making Veganism More Accessible & Affordable
- IWB Post
- May 11, 2018
Twenty-something Abhay Rangan was a teenager when he established a non-profit organization called Society for Animal Rights and Veganism (SARV) to contribute towards animal welfare. Hurt by the way animals are treated at dairy farms, this South-Indian boy traveled to over 10 cities across India to conduct dialogues with strangers on how beneficial a vegan lifestyle is. He was talking from experience.
A few years ago, when he was 13, his family adopted a vegan lifestyle. With a common mission in mind, all of them made selfless efforts and initiated more than 250 campaigns to promote plant-based food habits. Abhay’s parents were so keen to create positive ripple effects that they even started making plant-based dairy items in their kitchen and selling them. “Plant-based food is the future,” declares their son.
We spoke to Abhay, Tedx Speaker and currently a Stanford Innovation Fellow, about the venture SARV and Veganarke (which is now Goodmylk) that provides affordable vegan dairy options. Excerpts below:
Tell me a little about your background – parents, education, and the city you belong to.
I was born in Mysore, Karnataka. My mother is an engineering graduate. My father did his MSc, PhD. from IIT Madras. I currently pursue engineering along with my venture.
Ah, yours is a fairly academic family.
That’s right, not many people in our extended family are running businesses. Until a few years, when dad started his own company.
You were relatively young to understand the concept of a vegan lifestyle when your parents adapted one, weren’t you? How was the experience?
I was 13 at the time. Since my folks were vegan, I found it super easy to become vegan myself considering the kind of food that was cooked at home every day. As a child, of course, it became easier for me to familiarize myself with a new habit, but I guess if you have got a supportive community backing you, such transformations become effortless, no matter what your age is.
That’s true. If I’m not wrong, at 16, you began hosting workshops to inspire others to go vegan under the founded organization SARV. Talk about your parents’ contribution.
My parents have always been instrumental in sharing their experience and wisdom with me. I don’t think I’d have been able to set up or run any foundation without them. My focus these days is pretty much restricted to Goodmylk. I hope to reactivate SARV one day though.
Talk about the challenges (financial, lack of expertise, lack of business knowledge, etc.) that you faced during the initial days of Goodmylk.
I was a student without much experience (besides growing SARV to 10 Indian cities) when I started. We had to learn a lot of things (particularly with manufacturing) the hard way. We were bootstrapped for about two years, so we ran a fairly modest operation. We recently closed our seed funding round, and now are able to be a little bit more adventurous with our strategy. Initially, it was just mum and me, but now we have a team that has deep-sector expertise in their functions (I’m getting there, too). We’ve always had access to wisdom, owing to the mentors we’ve had. Although it feels nice to now have a really qualified team and a rockstar advisory board.
Do you own factories that produce the nutritional plant-based food items?
Not at the moment. Currently, we’re manufacturing in existing ones.
What kind of study did you do before making these vegan dairy products?
Our product development efforts have always been optimized for creating affordable and accessible products. So, most of our work has been around creating a delicious product that’s shelf stable and price competitive.
Do the local milkmen or cattle owners see your brand as a threat?
We’re too small at this point to be considered a threat. I would argue that, as with any business, you need to innovate or you’ll find it hard to stay relevant in the marketplace. Plant-based food is the future, and it’s about time dairy business evolved to jump on the plant-based bandwagon.
How financially independent has this venture turned out to be?
Fairly. We feel confident that we’re adding value to our shareholders, our consumers and the animals we share our planet with.
How has your mother’s life changed after Goodmylk gained limelight?
Mum still remains the awesome, hard-working, inspiring person she’s always been. Now that she isn’t personally manufacturing our products, she works on helping guide strategy and helps us expand our networking efforts. She and I both learned enormously from moving our company out from the kitchen, and into a factory and all the consequences of that happening.
Lastly, do you ship worldwide?
We ship across India, as of now. We’re happy to serve those who are looking for delicious, nutritious, and sustainable food. Also, we make it ridiculously accessible and affordable for everyone, because we feel everyone deserves better food.