She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science and has worked in the US for a pharmaceutical company, managing its database.

When she wanted to move back to India with her family, the pharmaceutical company wanted her to continue working for it from India, since technology had advanced enough for her to remotely manage work. She did that for a couple of years before calling it quits and starting a venture that she was passionate about.

Catering business

Meenakshi Subramanyan, along with two others, bought out a company that was home-delivering food in Chennai, renamed it and got full-fledged into the catering business. For almost five years, TGP Gourmet Pvt Ltd served hot meals, breakfast and lunch included, for employees of IT companies along Chennai’s IT corridor. Her venture ran canteens on campus and also delivered food to campuses from a central kitchen, based on what her clients wanted.

After about five years of running the catering company, she realised that the business was not viable – her costs were spiralling out of control and being a small player, she realised her bargaining power was limited. “There was not much of a differentiator when I was doing the catering business,” she says. Meenakshi decided to pivot her business and after a lot of thought, felt she would be better off making food products rather than supplying cooked meals. This was in the early part of 2015, when health foods had firmly caught the attention of all.

Thus was born the Green Peppers brand of millet-based ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food products. The wet batter products include wheat adai , ragi idli and dosa , millet idli and dosa , while the dry products include foxtail millet porridge mix, peanut chutney powder, long pepper rasam powder and jowar dosa powder.

“Whatever we do,” says Meenakshi, “we want to make sure it is convenient and healthy.” How does she make sure her products will do well in the market? Simple. “Every product is tasted by my kids. If they are satisfied, I feel that most of the kids will also enjoy eating them. These are not just for the 30+ age group. We have to cater across age groups,” she adds.

Meenakshi employs about half a dozen people and makes these products, working out of a house in the southern outskirts of Chennai. It is a nearly-12-hour working day for Meenakshi every day, as she supervises production, packing and despatch.

Her venture makes around 200 kg of wet batter daily and there are 27 dry products. The wet batter is sold through neighbourhood shops and large retail chains in Chennai, while, apart from these channels, the dry products are also sold through BigBasket and Amazon. She would first like to make sure her products, especially the wet batter, are available in all areas of Chennai before she ventures to other cities.

Working with FDA The dry products have a longer shelf life and there are requests from retailers in other cities. She is also working with an FDA consultant to fulfil requests from the US for the dry products.

According to her, she can produce up to 1,000 kg of wet batter daily with the existing infrastructure. But that would depend on the demand increasing, for which she would have to create a greater awareness in the market.

Meenakshi says the promoters of TGP Gourmet have invested nearly ₹1 crore of their money and are now looking to raise a substantial amount to market the products. She has made a pitch for funds with Chennai Angels and others.