Rashida Vapiwala - Founder of The Nutrition Alchemy™
Rashida Vapiwala - Founder of The Nutrition Alchemy™

The Nutrition Alchemy™ (TNA) is a NutriTech firm that works in the space of Food and Nutrition, Consumer Health and Digital Technology. It is our belief that good nutrition knowledge and practices must be democratized through technology solutions and positively impact the health of our communities. TNA was founded in July 2018.

Rashida Vapiwala - Founder of The Nutrition Alchemy™
Rashida Vapiwala – Founder of The Nutrition Alchemy™

Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ms. Rashida Vapiwala is the founder, The Nutrition Alchemy™ and following are the details about her:

  1. 30 years of age – Inspired to improve the health of communities by empowering them with knowledge to choose better. I have been fortunate to have an extended learning of a science and its impact on human health. Not many are as fortunate. I wish to share my learning and its positive impact on the lives of people.
  2. Nutritionist – unconventional in her approach
  3. Often wonders, “why the prevalence of curative intervention > prevalence of preventive intervention (nutrition science promises preventive measures)?”
  4. Didn’t want to be confined to a supportive role to curative practice
  5. Opted for taking nutrition science to the common people – first through employee health programs, followed by contributions to product development in the health food space and then the leap into the world of business enterprise to democratise the appreciation of nutrition and reach maximum numbers
  6. A student of merit

a. Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Foods, Nutrition & Dietetics
b. PhD scholar studying the current scenario of the packaged food & beverage industry and consumer behaviour.
c. Awarded the Junior Research Fellowship by the University Grants Commission, India and the Dr K.U.Naram award for a distinguished performance in academics at post-graduate level.
d. Felicitated with respectable certifications, like;

i. QMS 9001:2018 Internal Auditor – TUV India Pvt Ltd. TUV Nord Group
ii. Micronutrient and Food Fortification Training Program – Project Healthy Children (PHC) & Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), USA.
iii. Food Safety Supervisor Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
iv. Nutrition & Chronic Disease Research Methods – Centre for Chronic Disease Control & PHFI.
v. Nutrigenomic Counsellor – DNALife, South Africa and Genombio Technologies Pvt Ltd., Pune.
vi. Nutrition for Exercise and Fitness – University of Mumbai.
vii. Nutrition Research Methods – St. John’s Research Institute, Bangalore, India in collaboration with Harvard University, USA and Tufts University, USA.

Rashida is a life member of Indian Dietetics Association and Nutrition Society of India.

Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Consumers struggle to comprehend nutrition labels on food packs. Technical information on food labels stating complex ingredients and nutrition facts leave consumers overwhelmed.

This leads them to make uninformed and unsafe choices that often serve contrary to their desire for choosing food that promotes good health and well- being.

Q.: Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?

  1. It concerns us deeply to acknowledge the health status of our country. Consider,
    a. 73 million cases of diabetes in India
    b. 19.3% of the world’s diabetics are in India
    c. 33% of those above 30 years of age suffer from 1 or more lifestyle diseases
    d. Diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases account for about 53% of fatalities
  2. Min. of Health Govt of India and FSSAI’s continuing focus through the Eat Right Movement to promote awareness of the perils of consuming food that is High in Fat, Salt and Sugar
  3. TNA interactions with leading Nutritionists and Medical Practitioners bring forth startling revelations of the prevalence of NCDS like Stage2 Diabetes in children as young as 10-year-old.
  4. Studies indicate that what we eat contributes to over 80% of what are bodies are and only 20% is contributed by how we move and what we exercise.
  5. TNA study findings In Mumbai, 18-50-year olds:
  6. 95% believe simplifying the nutrition labels will be valuable in making good food choices
  7. 84% agree that nutrition levels do influence choice of foods.
  8. 58% found nutrition labels complex

Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
True to our purpose, LabelBlind® is TNA’s 1st NutriTech solution.

i. The webapp is designed to meet the needs of the mother, for her child and family, and the hurried and erratic lifestyle of the working executive.
Our cities are undergoing rapid transformations in commuting, living standards and options, working hours, traditional family structures, thus impacting our lifestyles, primary amongst which is our food habits and its correlation to health.
ii. LabelBlind® progressive webapp simplifies nutrition labels to guide consumers in making informed choices of what they consume.
iii. LabelBlind® Rates and Reviews packaged food products on their nutrition values.
iv. The Rating Algorithm is based on critical nutrition parameters declared on food labels, validated against FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) regulations on food labelling, packaging and advertising (2019). In case of gaps, Codex Alimentarius guidelines and USFDA documentation is referred to bring in the global perspectives.
v. We follow a comprehensive product assessment based on Critical Nutrients (like Energy, Fats, Sugars, Sodium,) Value-added nutrients (like Protein, Fibre, Micronutrients) and Ingredient List and Manufacturing Process.
vi. LabelBlind® webapp provides customized recommendations for Health Profiles, where user data is mapped against product attributes to suggest recommendations.
vii. Assessment of user health profile is done on basis of information shared and guidance on their choices with information on Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Health.
viii. We also provide markers on Allergens and Child Growth and Development.
ix. We enable social interactions to engage consumers and their social groups.
x. We assign easy to comprehend ratings on a scale of 1 to 10; where a low score signifies foods with low nutrition and a high score signifies foods with higher nutrition.

Q.: What is your USP?
We are India’s most inventive tool to assess the nutrition value of packaged food products.

Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Following were our assumptions:

  1. We desire to create value by consummating match between Food Business Operators, Food Marketers, Businesses in the space of Health and Nutrition, the Consumer and other key players in the Food and Nutrition eco-system.
  2. We bring brands closer to consumers by providing a platform to share their proposition
  3. We have created value for businesses in Health Insurance and Beverages as our first client beneficiaries

Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
We have focused on building competency to create value and have allowed our business the runway to build traction with its target group. Our approach has been measured, planned and non-haste.

Q.: How are you pricing the Product? Explain your thought process.
We follow a Freemium pricing model. The end beneficiary of LabelBlind® is the health conscious and food aware consumer. The service is free to the consumer. We premium is for businesses to posture themselves strongly on the health axis using the LabelBlind® platform.

Revenue source:
a. Food business operators
b. Healthcare businesses
c. They seek to engage uniquely with consumers to drive interest in brand and influence brand choice

Revenue model:
d. Freemium model:
i. Free to consumer
ii. Paid premium to businesses
e. License fee-based associations: Rate, review, endorse product and brands (Be a benchmark of nutrition rating)
f. Modular online – offline brand engagements as plug and play model

Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Word of mouth and product experience

Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
TNA is a boot strapped startup.

Q. : Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it.?
In our short history thus far (5 months), we have generated curiosity and grabbed attention of food businesses and industry players. Our most satisfying moment has been to get an audience with the CEO of FSSAI recently (Sep, 2019) and engaging with the team at FDA Bhavan, New Delhi, in sharing the tenets and principles of LabelBlind®. The encouragement and appreciation for LabelBlind® has led to opening the doors in exploring collaborative efforts with this Govt of India institution as part of the Eat Right movement for Indian Citizens.

This is close to our heart and it supports our purpose.

Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?

  1. We seek to challenge status quo by democratising the knowledge and practice of nutrition science. We will leverage digital technologies to positively impact the health of our communities.
  2. We seek to empower communities by bringing the information and awareness on their mobile phones. Awareness, we believe is the first step to a transformative journey.
  3. Food Industries, Policy Makers and Nutrition Practitioners have been in disharmony for long over individual perspectives and beliefs. We consummate match between Consumers, Businesses, Nutritionists, and Government Agencies to co-create value.
  4. We seek to reach consumers through brands and businesses and not without them. By doing so, we bring businesses close to consumers by building a much-needed bridge of trust and transparency.
  5. Businesses are able to posture their initiatives well on an unbiased platform, using our scientific approach of evaluation. Consumers are able to make better choices based on the same principles.

We are creating Nutrition Literacy.

Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? What is the current turnover? (From Launching till date total no. of visitors on website/persons registered/enquiries and enrollment). Please explain in details:

  • History of 5 months: No external support. No fund infusion. No mega advertising bucks.
  • Visitors: 1750+
  • Businesses approached: 40
  • Businesses converted: 4
  • Value of business done: 10 lakhs

Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Following were our insights:

  1. Mindful consumption is on the rise.
  2. New and established businesses, alike, are developing product solutions to meet consumer expectation of healthy and nutrient-rich food options.
  3. However, packaged food businesses are looked upon with suspect for presence of preservatives, artificial ingredients, high fat, sugar and salt content in food products.
  4. At the same time, consumers are unable to differentiate between products and find themselves overwhelmed with nutrition claims.
  5. We s-i-m-p-l-i-f-y nutrition labels on food packs for consumers to make smart choices.

Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skillsets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
TNA is a NutriTech firm that balances itself on three competency legs;

  1. Nutrition science
  2. Consumer Marketing
  3. Digital Technology

Our founders and team members support these legs with their specialized skills

Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Consumer ignorance of nutrition science leading to mindless consumption is truly what we challenge and compete to win. There are players in the fitness and food spaces who offer health and food advisory services. We are differentiated in our promise to demystify nutrition labels and empower the consumer to make better choices of what they eat.

Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Our platform is inclusive for food businesses and health care and allied businesses, since it is based on the universal principles of nutrition and health. We are able to pivot customized solutions for specific businesses to meet unique customer requirements.

Our metrics include:
a. Networks formed with food businesses to pivot business propositions
b. Number of consumers touched and their lives impacted
c. Health profiles created and customised recommendations provided (to impact habit modification)
d. Break-even

First year of existence
a. We are on our journey of grabbing attention, forming alliances and customising solutions for businesses
b. Noteworthy early associations: Tata AIA Health Insurance, Abbott Labs
c. We are in active talks with the food standards regulatory body – FSSAI, for associations

Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Create value. Hang in there for people to realize the value.

Thanks Rashida. Best wishes!