Pindfresh allows a family to grow all their food in their balconies – Sohila Kapoor
A working professional turned entrepreneur, Sohila Kapoor, along with her husband, Somveer Anand, is working on a very interesting venture - Pindfresh, to help people grow fresh vegetables right in the comfort of their home. This would go a long way in helping remove the menace of contaminated food and help people live a more healthy life!
1. What is the meaning of your name "Sohila”? How would you like to describe yourself in a sentence?
In Sikh Gurbani, Sohila is a song of praise. Kirtan Sohila refers to a collection of hymns sung at night before going to bed.
I’m a persevering entrepreneur, a proud mother and a fearless champion of causes I deeply believe in.
2. Can you briefly share your education and work journey so far with our readers?
After completing my schooling from Loreto Convent, Asansol and thereafter Loreto House, Kolkata; I did my graduation in Business Administration from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and went on to do my MBA from University Business School (UBS) Chandigarh.
I worked for 4 years in Product Marketing with Bharti Airtel, initially in Kolkata and then in their head office in Gurgaon looking after different Value Added Services (VAS) – like messaging, subscription alerts, movies/dialogues services and internet based subscription services.
I then worked for 1.3 years with Axtria Inc., a big data analytics company, for a year in New York and thereafter in India. I was doing their Marketing and PR, and was their liaison for all conference participations and securing more media coverage.
3. You were working in organizations like Bharti Airtel and Axtria, so what led to the idea of Pindfresh, which you Co Founded with your husband, Somveer Anand?
Once I moved back to India and had my second baby, my thoughts turned towards better nourishment for the kids. I remember during my second pregnancy (which was in India, vis-à-vis my first which was in NYC), my doctor kept advising me to eat better, even put me on some supplements for better absorption of nutrients from my food. I found this very strange considering I was eating mostly home cooked food which in my mind was infinitely more nutritious than the take-away food I was eating in New York. I then realized that although we eat more ‘healthy food’ in India – the quality was not up to the mark.
My father in law was already dabbling with hydroponics on our terrace, and hence Somveer and I decided to take it a step further and do proper research and take it to the market for others too.
4. Tell us about your venture Pindfresh?
Let me start with some numbers.
40% of food is wasted every year in India.
320 Million Indians live in water starved conditions
720 TIMES the ‘safe-level’ of pesticides exist in Indian food
Once you look at these numbers – it’s not strange to see why we thought that people who can, should only eat organic food. We started buying all of our food from the market, which said that it was 100% organic.
Then I started learning about the dark side of organic food. Very few of the so called ‘organic farms’ are actually organic. And even if they start as organic – the neighboring farms aren’t – so it’s nearly impossible knowing that the food that you’re eating is grown properly or not.
Then we come to the other important issue of pollution. All the agricultural water that is used in North India for agriculture is canal brought. These waters are so contaminated with DDT and pesticide residue – they’ve given birth to a whole new terminology – the cancer belt (stretching from Bathinda in south Punjab, and covering Haryana and Rajasthan). This scared me – imagine knowing that your food is poisonous and not knowing what to do about it
We decided to take action and started growing all our own food. Cutting a long story short – after experimenting with a number of different methods, we realized that Hydroponics, which uses only 10% of the water of normal agriculture, is the way to go. We started off with a small 5 plant home based system – which Som made – called the Pindpipe. Now we’re building larger and more complicated systems that allow a family to grow all of their food in their balconies!
5. What were some of the hurdles which you faced initially in your venture and how did you overcome those?
Unlike a lot of other ventures that were started by my peers - we were (and still are) essentially a manufacturing startup. The ecosystem was undeveloped and it was tough finding the right partners. But we finally found the right guys to help us out and get the products out there.
6. If someone wants to place an order of the Pindfresh DIY (Do It Yourself) kit, how can one place an order?
We are on Amazon and Flipkart. Alternatively, you can also order on our website www.pindfresh.com
7. What are the pros and cons of having one's spouse as a Co-Founder?
First, the pros – Both Somveer and I know what our strengths are so we know what each of us has to tackle.
We share the same thoughts on the way forward for the company and we value each other’s opinions even when we have a disconnect. That is fortunate - it’s great to be in sync and hence the drive and energy to take the company forward as per our joint vision.
Cons – if something is not done, it’s very difficult to pull the other one up – some amount of diplomacy is required. More often than not you take your issues home with you – and that’s not fun!
8. What is the vision of Pindfresh? What plans do you have to grow the venture?
We're trying to build a more resilient, a more distributed food chain that moves the actual production of food from the countryside to your home. This helps in saving water (over 90% saved), transportation costs, improves food quality and increases the interaction that people have with their food.
Over time we plan to start growing our own food in large towns (on rooftops) – so that people – all of us can actually walk up to the farm and pick our own farm fresh vegies. Imagine living in Gurgaon – and walking 15 minutes to a rooftop to pick out your tomatoes and salads – that is what we’re trying to create.
9. What does women empowerment mean to you?
To me it just means having the freedom to do whatever you want to do and get the unstinting support from the people around you.
10. When you are not working, what are the activities which you do that make you happy?
Being with my children…I love watching them doing their stuff, reading to them, doing craft activities, playing with them in our sandpit, going to the park.
11. Any piece of advice to fellow women entrepreneurs?
Follow your gut…more often than not you’ll figure out a way to make the rest happen.