You know you are transforming into an adult, when all of a sudden the leafy green vegetables look enticing and you make it a point to hunt for produce that is labeled organic. And with the ever changing ways of the world, one does not even need to hunt anymore for such products. Such is the story of Zama Organics, an all organic food store, that prides itself on making available only the best and natural produce to its consumers. They work along with farmers, employing healthy and efficient agricultural practices and making them easily available at their stores or online, and inadvertently help sustain livelihoods of the farmers.
With sustainability, health, organic produce and female entrepreneurship to boost the cause of women empowerment, all being big topics this year, we got into conversation with Shriya Naheta Wadhwa, the CEO of Zama Organics, who seems to have mastered all these trends like an absolute pro!
So tell us a little about the inspiration that led to the birth of Zama Organics.
I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2015, after which I moved back to Mumbai. While I always felt I wanted to do something on my own, I only realized my passion for organic and healthy food after visiting a few farms. I was amazed at the variety and quality of produce—from a humble potato to exotic black rice. Most people, including me, have limited knowledge and access to organic and high quality produce that is real and wholesome. My love for food kept me determined to bridge the gap and I spent the next few years doing extensive research, which eventually led to the birth of Zama Organics. I launched the website in 2018!
What led you to switch your career trajectory from pursuing a degree in International Relations to birthing the ace D2C grocery brand- Zama Organics?
I majored in International Relations and Global Business—a degree that allowed me to follow both my interests at the time. I enjoyed the various international relations and liberal arts classes I took alongside my business classes, it allowed me to broaden my overall thought process and understanding of the world. I'd say my varied learning as an undergraduate have only helped me build this business. The inspiration for Zama Organics struck when I visited my first ever farm and I have never looked back since.
What do you envision Zama's future to be like in the next five years?
As a young brand, we're constantly growing and improving. We want to be synonymous with organic, health, and wellness. Our aim is to be a loved, trusted brand and a one-stop-shop for all your organic and healthy grocery needs. We hope to be present in a lot more locations across the country via our own website and a multi-channel approach. Needless to say, we hope this creates an ever-growing Zama community that advocates better eating habits and a positive relationship with food! The shining moment for me would be when you hear the word "organic", the next thought should be "Zama". That's the kind of impact I want to create.
Would you consider your organization an inclusive space when it comes to gender equality and how?
As a young entrepreneur myself, I am a firm believer that everyone at Zama (or those that want to join our Zama team) feels welcome regardless of age, race, gender, orientation and so on. It is important for me and as an organization that we have a positive and happy culture, where the only thing that matters is our passion for good food, a sustainable future, and a need to succeed as a unit.
How do you suggest we can do our bit to contribute towards building a more sustainable future?
It's the little things we do from our end that counts. Switching to cleaner and environmentally friendly practices in our simplest tasks can make all the difference. Our goal is to be better every day. Avoid single-use plastic or simply be mindful about leaving the tap turned on when brushing your teeth! At Zama, we've switched most of our fruits and vegetable packaging to a completely compostable solution. We're not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.
What is that one healthy meal that you'll always swear by?
An easy stir fry! I love that you don't need specific ingredients and can work with the veggies you have at home. For those busy days, it's the best healthy meal when you want something hot and quick. The basic idea is the same: sauté the vegetables, add in some paneer/tofu, use any sauce of choice (or simply toss in garlic, and chili flakes) & enjoy. For a more filling portion I like to eat my stir fry with some rice—brown, black, or red!
What are some consumer insights you have gained over the past years and is Zama Organics catering to them?
As a brand, we always ensure to be as transparent as possible about what we preach. We've always made sure to be open to feedback because that's what helps us improve. Over the past few years, our consumer insights have definitely helped us chart out our growth plans - understanding where we can do better and what products we should focus on (present and new)
If you were given the choice between fast foods or a healthy salad, what would you pick?
I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. However, I bake fries in the oven all the time and try find better ways to eat healthy but tasty food. Healthy eating is not black and white. Make it your own! Though sometimes we make healthy food sound so boring and bland, it really isn't. Just bake instead of fry and use substitutes for refined sugar and flour! I enjoy my salads just as much as my fries.
What does it mean for Zama Organics with Mira Kapoor in the picture? Is it possible to anticipate a quicker acceleration in business growth?
We're so excited to have her be a part of our journey. We're not only selling your day-to-day groceries, we are hoping to create a community of food-lovers that champion great quality clean products. We're so happy that Mira has decided to support our vision and mission – her voice can help our messaging reach so many more people.
Could you give us a little detail as to how this partnership came to be?
Mira has been a long-time Zama customer and has always been a strong advocate of healthy and sustainable living - her values strongly align with ours!
Even though you head a full-fledged D2C organic produce company, tell us what are the three vegetables that you just cannot stand?
I'm vegetarian and I'm a foodie, so there is very little I don't like and I'm always open to trying. But if I had to pick – turai, brussel sprouts, and karela!
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.