Creating green energy for people in India. Kunal set up Salad Days after a foray into start ups which involved planting 7 million trees and a love for travelling around Europe and trying different foods.
What’s your story?
Born and brought up in the historical city of Lucknow, I moved to Delhi for university and graduated from Delhi University. Post that I did my MBA at XLRI Jamshedpur and joined GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare. I had a desire to excel and create something bigger than myself for society. This lead me to leave my cushy job at a multinational company to be a part of startup, Green Leaf Energy in Bihar. Here, I spearheaded the movement of employment generation through social forestry, planting 7 million saplings in a year. This provided employment to 1.4 Lakh families who took care of the plan and contributed to a green revolution. Our organization played a key role planting trees in and around the the Mahabodhi Temple as part of the campaign, Bringing Bodhgaya back to the time of Buddha, in collaboration with Up2Green. I thought of vertically integrating and providing a market for the produce and this lead to my venture in the food and beverages space where I currently work. My travel escapes to Europe, in particular Scandinavia, have taught me the value of fresh quality ingredients and in Scandinavia, I developed my love for raw food . I learnt how simple, fresh ingredients from your backyard can be such an awesome healthy meal. And, how you can have a salad everyday and never have the same thing twice! The combinations of ingredients are limitless. Thus began my adventure – Salad Days.
What excites you most about your industry?
The food industry excites me the most because it gives us a chance to provide happiness every single time we serve a customer. If you buy a nice fancy car, slowly and slowly the happiness that you get with the purchase diminishes but with food you can provide that smile, that happiness and that excitement each time. It’s so emotional at every level.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Lucknow, an historical city and the capital of Uttar Pradesh. I have lived most my life here. I am deeply connected to the Asian cities of Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok with friends and family working or settled there. One thing that differentiates Asia from the rest of the world are the culinary delights. Food with soul is what we get here.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
For me it would be Gurgaon. The city is very cosmopolitan. It has many working professional from all over the world which makes it a great stage for exciting new ventures. The sheer size of the Indian market gives a cushion to startups looking to create a profitable niche for themselves.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do your work honestly and sincerely and don’t worry too much about the future. I believe in that, as we are just a small part of the universe. We don’t control anything. We can only just keep doing our best.
Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs. The simplest thought of excelling at what you do and loving what you do is what I resonate with. The way his creations have touched millions is truly inspiring. I always try to follow his vision of creating an honest product or brand which is beautiful not only from the outside but inside as well.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently saw the interview of Mr. Jack Ma at Davos. His story was so simple, so honest. The innocence with which he kept fighting and kept the fire alive and his passionate belief in his idea simply blew my mind. This reinforced my belief in the thought that you cannot predict the future and you need to keep moving. It also highlighted to me how you should focus on building trust. Trust is at the core of everything. His success is a testament to the fact that you can achieve anything if you are willing.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I had my time again I would it the same, all over again. It would be no different. I am quite happy with how kind life has been and I live with no regrets. I am what I am because of the choices I have made. I live with the desire to be a better individual everyday.
How do you unwind?
Travelling. My favorite destination is Norway for its jaw dropping fjords and unparalleled natural beauty and the magical Aurora Borealis. I like to hike and camp on glaciers. On the social side I enjoy roaming the streets of a quaint old village, staying with the locals and learning to cook some local food.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand would be a favorite. The Thai people are polite and honest and always willing to help. The way they have developed the tourism industry in such a short time is worth mentioning. You can unwind and relax without spending a bomb and the food is just amazing!
Everyone in business should read this book:
I believe, how good you are in business depends a lot on your passion and how patient you are for success to come. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is a not a business book but a love story, however it teaches you a lot about these two qualities, love and patience. Your passion or love for what you want and the patience you need to achieve it.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are a salad company with a purpose. In an age of deadly diversification and maddening multi-tasking we are foolishly focused. We just do salads and fresh juices. And we do it the old-fashioned way. We pluck them fresh, we toss them fresh and transport them fresh. All our leaves are premium picks and our salads are made to order, not from some characterless cold storage where your order is a bunch of digits stitched with no soul.
We admittedly believe that there is a dearth of unadulterated and genuine eating options in our vicinity. In fact, we have taken a bigger responsibility on ourselves than to just sell good salads. We wish to compliment eating habits with better alternatives and make salads a part of Indian mainstream diet. Health, taste and satiation do exist in tandem. We love our salads and they are really filling.
How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected] or ping me on Facebook
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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