AN ODE TO THE GOOD LIFE
When we were scrolling through Chef Naimita’s instagram page, we were especially intrigued by one post of hers. She spoke about how vegan and health are almost synonymous and by fixating ourselves on this notion of “clean eating”, we’re depriving ourselves of true happiness. She spoke about how our lifestyle should neither conform to any one definition or standard of health nor be shaped by society’s expectations of what health is. She further went on to add how a truly balanced diet would involve eating a nourishing meal while indulging in cravings from time to time. Her ideology really stood out to us and we knew she had a story to tell /(we could learn a lot from her) so In the month of September, we reached out to Naimita to know if she would be interested in being featured on our community platform. She showed great support for our initiative and was more than willing to share her and her brand’s journey with us as a means to empower other entrepreneurs and vegan individuals. We at Slicc had an exciting time chatting with Chef Naimita on her journey as a vegan and the inspiration behind her brand An Ode to Gaia. We hope you have as much fun reading it as we had writing it!
AN ODE TO GAIA. You’ve surely heard the name.
An Ode to Gaia, India’s first plant-based patisserie was founded by Naimita Jagasia, an entrepreneur with no formal education in pastry. Her initial vision was to create a sustainable footwear line for men but when she realized that the sustainable fashion community hadn’t fully established in India at the time, she changed the direction of her dream to vegan desserts and gave birth to An Ode to Gaia.
For her, it wasn’t just about the baking, it was about giving vegans more variety so they also could enjoy sweet things like frostings and cheesecakes! What started off as a passion project, soon took off and Naimita made it into a legitimate business. Naimita’s journey is inspiring and we sure can learn a lot from it. So let’s dive right into her interview.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE INTERVIEW.
According to you, what makes An Ode to Gaia different?
We try to do right by the environment in every way. That’s what makes us special. I wanted to produce a high-quality product, without having to compromise on my ethics. Instead of using the cheapest ingredients, I used fair-trade chocolate, hand-milled flour and sustainably sourced materials. I also ensured that I was financially supporting small businesses, local artisans and farmers in the best way I could.
What challenges did you face being a pioneer in the vegan pastry industry? How did you overcome them?
When you are in a niche market, you have limited access to ingredients, and an overall smaller target market, so it immediately drives up the cost of raw materials which makes it difficult to compete with the regular bakeries because customers expect our prices to be on par with those of the regular bakeries. But I competed on that front by making my products very beautiful. Other than this, I gained customers because they were attracted to the health aspect and therefore wanted to give vegan desserts a try. Initially, it was also difficult to break into the vegetarian and eggless segment of the market because they were fine with the use of dairy in their products but they failed to realize that incorporating dairy to fit the needs of one customer, defeated the whole purpose of the brand. (It made me wonder that if they expect us to change our product to suit their needs, then why come to us in the first place.)
What is one thing you feel people fail to realize when they start a business in the F&B industry?
The visual element of your product is important. Be it the packaging or the product itself, it is important to have an aesthetically pleasing product because people eat with their eyes first. That’s why I make my products look the way they do–whimsical and almost fairytale-like–so that I can get even non-vegans intrigued and wanting to try vegan desserts.
What impact do you wish to create through your brand?
I knew I wanted to be someone who changes not the world but something in the world. I want to be my best version for the environment and the animals and my brand – An Ode to Gaia is the manifestation of these very beliefs and values. It accurately represents my vision for the brand because it reflects a sustainable and ethical way of living and is therefore named after the Goddess of Earth – Gaia. I understand that it is difficult to commit to a 100% sustainable life so I want to be the best I can be for the planet and in the process, inspire other people to be their best versions. I and other small brands playing our part for the environment is not enough to save it sadly.
What do you think the future of veganism looks like?
(Thanks to the pandemic people are realizing the issue with consuming animal products which is creating greater awareness and affinity to try vegan products.) Furthermore, with documentaries like Cowspiracy and The Game Changers being available on streaming
platforms like Netflix, the vegan movement is expanding. As a result, veganism is becoming normalized and its growth is not likely to stop anytime soon.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to new entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Be persistent and patient. Being patient is the key to any business. A product that might be a bestseller in your eyes might not be the case for the customer so patience and persistence are important to create a long-lasting image.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
My goal isn’t to run a bakery all my life. I want to make veganism accessible, affordable and available so that it’s desirable and craved. I want people to CHOOSE vegan. I can’t make the impact I want to make just by selling because it is somewhat limiting. Instead, an online or physical academy would give me the opportunity to reach many more people and spread the message of veganism. I want to open a pastry school that inspires people and makes achieving a vegan lifestyle effortless.
SLICC’S FAVOURITE HIGHLIGHTS.
- Live the best you can – A small effort goes a long way so even a small change in your diet can have a meaningful impact on the environment. We completely agree with Naimita’s ideology that it is difficult for anyone to commit to being 100% sustainable but the least we can do is be the best we can.
- Patience is a virtue – Whether you’re starting a new business or already have an established business, be patient. Success comes to those who wait. You’ve put in the effort so now all you can do is wait for the results.
- Visual Appeal Matters! – The idiom don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply to the food & beverage industry. That’s why we spend so much on making our product feel exciting for our customers!
The customer isn’t always right – The customer isn’t always aware about what goes behind the scenes of the brand like how you source your products or why your product is priced a certain way. Thus, sometimes personal beliefs and brand values should take precedence over customer expectations or demands in order
to stay true to your brand’s vision.
We sincerely hope you learned something of value from Naimita’s inspiring journey. With the efforts of brands like An Ode to Gaia and other similar brands, we can hope to make the world a better place to live in. Please feel free to comment below your thoughts on the blog. We would love to hear more from you:)