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In Conversation With Sujatha Duvvuri

Nirmala Garimella
03/14/2019

Sujata Duvvuri lived and studied in a Tata colony in Mithapur, Gujarat. She then moved to study Economics at the University of Michigan. She had her first child Anirudh around this time and as a mother felt the need to give him wholesome, nutritious food. Out of this need was born her entrepreneurial venture – Shemade Gourmet Foods.

 

Shemade Gourmet Foods offers a range of gluten free, sugar free, hi protein nutritious products. Sujata has tapped into the growing awareness for healthy eating. Her product range is now available on India’s leading online store. Her expertise is well recognized and she has been asked to develop a range of nutritious products for global food companies in India.

 

Sujata is married to Prasad, an entrepreneur with a marquee tech background and has two children Anirudh and Pallavi. Sujata is an active alumni of the India chapter of the Michigan Alumni Association. Sujata is an accomplished Odissi dancer and a fitness enthusiast. Sujata believes in giving back to society and has employed differently abled people in her factory. Sujata is a sought after speaker at women and entrepreneurship forums.

 

What are the different varieties of snacks does Shemade offer?

My journey as an entrepreneur has its genesis as a mother wanting a healthy as well as nutritiously balanced cuisine for her children. I wanted to take charge of their balanced diet and that’s when my experiments began. 


 The humble origins of my venture dates to 2002 in Ann Arbor, MI when my son was just two years old. I started making granola for him as his first solids. Today, I run a Gluten-Free Snack Company called, SHE MADE GOURMET FOODS. We make products that belong to the FREE-FROM category of foods and we take pride in making delicious and nutritious products with simple ingredients. Our product portfolio contains products like  granolas in the breakfast category and crackers and biscotti that can be consumed on the go, predominantly in the snacking category and are very suited for all age groups.

 

For many years now, the Indian consumer’s tastes have been evolving. When I moved back to India from the USA in 2005, many ingredients and products were not available, and I had to source them from the USA. Within a few years, the market started shifting from more traditional foods towards global foods which were still being imported from the west. 

 

 I felt the time was ripe for innovation. India’s snack market had very little gourmet options available in any category.  There was no good Granola/Breakfast cereal available, which had little or no-added sugar and containing  less processed ingredients. 

 

I continued to make it at home and began perfecting it. I had the advantage of being the first mover because most brands were busy addressing needs only in the Indian category. I had seen successful trends in USA and felt the Indian consumer was now sophisticated enough to experiment similarly. 

 

The time to introduce the Indian consumer to new trends had arrived. The pride of making world class products in India and employing women was one of my important motto.


Tell us about your recent trip to the US and as a speaker at the University of Michigan

  I am extremely thankful to my alma mater, The University of Michigan for inviting me two years in a row to speak at their Michigan India conference. In 2018, I spoke on the CK Prahalad panel about, “Bottom of the Pyramid”. 

 

Since I am in India and predominantly employing and empowering women at that economic level of the society, I have learned a great deal about their concerns. 


 As a business, I started off with a portfolio of products for the very premium and upmarket society. It was CK Prahalad's teachings  that taught me that to make profits in an emerging market like India, I really need to cater and create products that appeal to the masses, because the profits lie at the bottom of pyramid!!

 

This February,  the conference was focused on emerging markets and how certain transformations in the ecosystem needs to occur so that businesses can scale to greater heights. The topic and theme this year was personally interesting and reminded me of  the reason why I was in India, rather than in America. The challenges that one deals with in growing a business in an emerging market are so very different from the mature markets like the United States. And of course, the pure bliss and unparalleled satisfaction of creating world class products and printing, "Made with pride in India"!

 

What are your hobbies outside of work?

 I like to kid that, currently the only hobby I am focusing on is, ‘scaling my business’! 

 

I love dancing. I am a trained classical dancer, training in Odissi, for the last 10 yrs. I do some yoga to keep myself flexible and to help with my dance. I also need the yoga to keep my mind focused and energized and not get hassled by the daily issues every startup runs into. 

 

I have run 7 half marathons so far and occasional long distance running is something I enjoy a lot. 

 

Cooking and experimenting with different foods from different parts of the world is definitely my favorite hobby


What keeps you going inspite of all the challenges as an entrepreneur?

Well, the constant motivation and kind words from everyone who tries my products definitely keeps me going. My husband’s and kids’ encouragement from the time I wake up until I go to bed every night is something that keeps me on track. 

 

The confidence in my mom’s voice keeps me going. The entire team that backs me and supports me at work, keeps me going. 

 

Every time we participate in any food show, we get visited by different Multi national brands and their executives always stop by and reassure me about the path I am on. 

 

One such prestigious conference was the, “Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017” and I was a part of Ivanka  Trump’s delegation. I met some very great personalities from India and different parts of the world and everyone was extremely appreciative of the work and products I was creating for the emerging markets. 

 

We are a majority Women-run organization and work very hard to empower our employees. We believe in improving their lives, by training them in hygiene and cleanliness and empowering them to become quality conscious and highly productive  so that they can make world class gluten free products for the emerging markets. 

This keeps me going.


Also, we have tied up with a Mumbai-based NGO MANN which specializes in training economically backward adults with autism on basic routine & necessary skills that are required for employment.  We have currently hired 2 people, Daniel & Tejas .  It is heart-warming to see them work as regulars and also develop social interaction skills through their employment journey with our company.  We plan on continuing to hire more such people in the near future as we grow our company. 

This keeps me going.

 

What are your future plans?

 Future plans are just going to be focused on raising capital to be able to grow the business locally in India and to expand to other countries to compete effectively in  the market that  already exists. This too keeps me going!



 

 

 



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