For Vishal Shah, Founder and MD of Storia Foods and Beverages Pvt. Ltd — offering packaged coconut water, fresh fruit juices, shakes and recently turmeric latte — India is a land of opportunities. He believes that Indians deserve a lot more when it comes to foods and beverages. Besides, there is so much more scope here for growth compared to any developed country. Shah, a chemical engineer by qualification, tells BrandSutra why he chose foods as a category for his new venture, leveraging the ‘spray-drying’ technology, and how he transitioned from being an employee to an employer.
What does Storia Foods and Beverages stand for? What is its USP?
Our vision is to build a nutritionally stronger nation and inspire a healthier lifestyle through innovative drinks and foods that are healthy, hygienic, nutrient-rich, safe and delivered in a convenient and sustainable format. We retain that natural goodness of the products for a wholesome experience, not to mention their incredible taste.
How did your entrepreneurial spirit evolve? Tell us how you made the shift from an employee mindset to employer mindset? Could you recount any anecdote/story around the transition?
My family has been in the manufacturing and innovative food ingredients business for the last 25 years. Thanks to this background, I have been privy to some invaluable insights from stakeholders in the Indian food fraternity. So, creating and building a foods business was always in the offing. I’ve always wanted to build a nutritionally stronger nation in a disruptive yet sustainable way.
Since I’ve been an employee earlier, I understand my employees a lot better. My decisions are that much more humane because I understand what they are going through. It has helped me be more compassionate and channel my passion in the right way. Because I am an employer now, my passion levels are much higher, quite naturally. The responsibility is much bigger now, knowing that I have to drive 800 families. A corporate experience was also critical to learn and imbibe systems and processes that form the foundation of a culturally strong organisation. I was fortunate to work with some of the best organisations and leaders who pushed the boundaries of technology to deliver services that improved the lives of people. Whatever I have learnt, I apply now in Storia.
You are an example of reverse brain drain. How did that change happen?
The intent was always to come back and do something for our people, our nation. When you go abroad, you understand how much opportunity India presents. There are gaps in the Indian market, which are already developed in countries like the USA. The scope of growth is so much larger here. Therefore, it was much easier to decide to return to India and build a new business here than in an already developed country. Plus, when you are trying to build something, it is always important to stay close to your family. Indians deserve a lot better when it comes to food and we can contribute positively to this. I strongly believe we will be one of the fastest-growing nations in the years to come.
India has seen a spate of launches in the F&B start-ups space, with new launches even from established brands. What efforts have you made to keep ahead in the business?
At Storia, we constantly innovate — not only with products but also with technology. We are continually identifying gaps and industry insights to keep a pipeline of product launches ready for the next few years. In our products, we keep the natural goodness intact, something that consumers prefer. For example, our shakes are trans-fat free and our coconut water does not use any concentrate, added sugars or preservatives. Thirdly, we are investing heavily in creating a robust distribution system to help us scale up.
What does the future look like for Storia? What will be the Story of Storia?
Foods and beverages have emotional appeal. We want to be a timeless brand that brings to consumers a sense of belonging and moments of optimism — a go-to brand that is all about emotions through foods and stories. At the end of the day, people don’t remember what was said, but they remember how you made them feel. It is this emotion that we want to lead with. All our products and innovations will be directed towards fulfilling this emotion. Other than that, we want to strengthen our distribution system and grow aggressively in the next couple of years.