Aishwarya Jayan Menon (Intern@imaws.org)
Archit Agrawal, Founder of SteamUp brand speaks about the brand’s innovative ideas to the food industry with the mission of a steam revolution to bring healthier alternatives to food.
Momos have been a sensational food item in India for almost 60 years. This bite-sized dumpling with a Tibetan origin has travelled all around the country, placing its presence from small roadside stores to established brands, producing innovative flavors to match the changing tastes of consumers. In an interview with KitchenHerald.com, Archit Agrawal, Founder of “Steam up” speaks about the innovative flavors and types of momos that the brand is providing for the changing tastes of the consumer market, along with the mission of a steam revolution; bringing in steamed alternatives to food which is a healthier version to consumption.
SteamUp is a Mumbai based brand that aims at the innovative idea of enhancing the use of “steaming” – the healthiest form of cooking, into the everyday lives of people by bridging the gap between delicious meals and convenient cooking at home for all, offering ready to cook Momos, Mini Idlis, Stuffed Idlis, Stuffed Dhoklas in exciting flavors.
What caught your interest with starting up a business?
Archit Agrawal: I moved to Mumbai in 2015 to get my graduation in business management. I am originally from Aurangabad. From an early age, I was motivated by the enterprises that grew around me. I did not enjoy studying, but I was really interested in understanding how businesses made money. It could be a large organization’s internal procedure or the typical day of a tiny vegetable vendor. Through multiple internships and my leadership responsibilities in college, I had the chance to diligently work and learn with some of the biggest businesses, including Lokmat Media, Vivo India, Mahindra & Mahindra, Kwaan, etc.
What made you explore entrepreneurship and especially the food sector?
Archit Agrawal: I have always been a big food enthusiast, and like every other Indian family, I have always consumed fried food. But soon enough, my frequent visits to the doctor revealed that fried food was the culprit to declining health. Soon to realize that every health issue in the country is somewhere, directly, and indirectly linked to eating habits and consumption patterns of fried food. India is the diabetic capital of the world, and all stats point towards the need for an alternative to fried food, especially the habit that needs to be inculcated from an early age. This was the first thing that triggered inspiration for me to do something about solving this problem.
The second and important inspiration then was the “TAM,” which is the total addressable market of non-fried food options are prohibited. Only recently realized that the food market in India is as big as rest of the world but still, there is a big gap between convenient, healthy, easy, and quick options. This inspired me to get on a mission of ‘Steam Revolution’ through SteamUp. Making food enjoyable was important to attract all consumers and as a result, SteamUp began with everyone’s favorite -Momos. It will soon launch idlis, baos, rolls, sauces and so much more.
What is the idea of Steam up?
Archit Agrawal: The primary idea of SteamUp is to serve everything that can be steamed. There are hundreds of products that are traditionally steamed in India. We started with Momos since it was a massively accepted and growing product category. The sauces were started due to the demand that came in from SteamUp consumers. We will continue to add more products like rice, baos, and coffee that have a large market and are in alignment with the motives of ‘Steam Revolution.’
Is it a bootstrapped company or have you raised seed funds as well?
Archit Agrawal: You always want more when you start. But SteamUp decided to start small and began by sampling in offices and taking feedback from every individual. This was followed by supplying restaurants, and finally branding it and placing it on the shelves. The initial capital investment to start was Rs 1 Lakhs.
What were the specific challenges you faced in this journey?
Archit Agrawal: The challenge initially while setting up was hiring the right team. Since the concept of “5-Minutes-Steam” in Vegetarian Ready to Cook was new, the business model and vision required the team to be innovators and ruthless in not giving up. We are now happy to have solved this problem by having a core team that ensure the same.
Did you seek any kind of mentorship or guidance?
Archit Agrawal: I have been extremely fortunate to have a mix of two constant mentors from the early days of SteamUp. Arvind Agrawal, CFO, Ajanta Pharma and Shreyas Hegde, Founder at Viral Fission. They have constantly been there to guide me through all situations.
What are your plans to scale up this business?
Archit Agrawal: SteamUp is 2.5 years old now, and we feel we have just started. We have just got the proof of concept ready and the basis set for the real ‘Steam Revolution.” We will be introducing enough products for consumers to completely replace their fried food consumption at home. We want to have a hybrid model and serve steamed food on shelves, through cloud kitchens, as well as through QSR kiosks. Through this, we are confident of paving a path to replacing the 2-minute noodle industry with a 5-minute steam industry.
How do you manage the competition in the food sector?
Archit Agrawal: From a local delivery restaurant chain to any packaged food snack or meal, we personally think that every food firm in the fast food and beverage industry is a rival. These include well-known national and local brands like Maggi, McCains, MTR, ITC MasterChef, etc. But to be more specific, our main rivals in the market segment we currently serve are Prasuma, Imagine Meats, Blue Tribe, Wow Momos, Sumeru, Big Sams, etc. Due to the trust that our devoted vegetarian customers have placed in us, we continue to be ahead of them. Unlike our direct rivals, we provide distinctive, unique flavors. Additionally, serving our packing in a tray prevents breakages. Additionally, we make sure that our marketing is always more individualized and accessible.
Every budding entrepreneur has his set of failures and setbacks. What about you?
Archit Agrawal: I always had an ardent desire to start my own company, and with the help of some of my college friends, we launched ‘HaFit’ early on. Although the business did not perform particularly well on the papers, it taught me a lot about the dos and don’ts for starting a business, so I would not call it a failure.
Lastly, what is your definition of success?
Archit Agrawal: Pursuing your dreams and taking the necessary steps to make them a reality.