Hailing from a family of practising vaidyas (traditional practitioners of Ayurveda) Alpana Tiwari says that “Ayurveda is in her blood”.
She was born in Modak, a town in Kota, where her father was posted as the Government Vaidya. Subsequently, work took her father to Rajasthan’s Chomu district where she grew up.
In an attempt to keep everything she had learnt from her father alive, in 2019 she started Nuskha Kitchen with an investment of Rs 20,000. What started as catering for 100 pregnant women has grown to serve 1,000 plus month-on-month.
Speaking to The Better India, she says, “The plan was for me to become a Vaidya as well. I even picked Sanskrit as a subject for this reason. However, when I became a teenager, I felt I wanted to explore other opportunities.”
One of the reasons, she says, that made her look away from studying to be a vaidya was the possibility of being posted in yet another village.
“I saw all my relatives staying in the city enjoying a different life. I wanted that. I chose to marry a businessman and settle down in the city,” she says.
Coming full circle
After having gone through two deliveries, Alpana started helping other pregnant and new mothers in her area. She says, “I found that hardly any of them knew what the traditional food we consumed was. Even if they did, none of them had the time or inclination to make it for themselves. I started making nutritious laddus and simple food for these women from my kitchen.”
It was on the insistence of Dr Santosh Yadav, a gynaecologist who helped deliver her daughter, that she started helping other women. “She was the one who nudged me into taking it up and fulfilling my desire of helping others,” adds Alpana. It all started on a pro-bono basis. Those who wanted the laddus made would have the ingredients delivered to her who would make them and deliver them back.
As word spread, Alpana says that many other doctors in the area started sending their patients to her for them to get their nutrition requirements fixed. All this was happening in 2009 and she adds, “To be honest, even my husband had no idea I was doing this at home. I would wait for everyone to leave and then start my work.”
The one thing that the children kept pointing to was the odd smell that would always linger around the house. “I would brush it aside,” she says with a smile. It was almost three or four years later that she told her family about the work she was doing. “It was never fear that kept me from sharing about my work. My husband would always ask why I was troubling myself by toiling in the kitchen making the laddus. But for me, it was no trouble. I enjoyed it.”
She continues, “It was never about the money I could make from the work I did, it was always the passion to serve pregnant and new mothers. That fuelled me.”
‘I feel sukhoon (peace) when I do my work.’
‘Even today, when I make the laddus and hand it over, I feel a sense of sukhoon. On those nights, I sleep so well, knowing that I have made a small difference in someone’s life,” says Alpana.
Subhash Nayyar, a customer says, “Nuskha Kitchen is an excellent place that can customise orders as per your requirements. I got laddus made for my daughter in law who is vegan and Alpana ji herself made everything for her in almond oil. She took care of every requirement of ours.”
While Alpana was managing the business and doing her bit, her son, Viral Tiwari, a Mechanical Engineer by qualification, decided to quit his IT job in Bengaluru and come home. “I saw an opportunity in this and asked him to study the market for the products I was making,” she says.
In May 2019, Viral decided to join his mother in managing and running Nuskha Kitchen.
“This decision was not taken very well by family members. Many of them were unable to understand why I would quit my job in the IT sector to join my mother, who was making and selling laddus,” says Viral. However, he was convinced that there was scope for growth and took the plunge.
“At the time of launching the business, many close relatives asked why I was wasting money in this way,” says Alpana, adding, “They were certain that this would last a few seasons and people would tire of it. I wasn’t one to listen to any of them. I kept my head down and continued to work.”
Mother-Son Team up
With Viral handling the marketing and sales, Alpana has all the time to come up with new recipes and experiment with various ingredients. Since its formal inception in 2019, Nuskha Kitchen has catered to over 1,000 clients. Speaking about the products being made and sold, she says, “We start making products for mothers-to-be from the third month of pregnancy itself.”
She continues, “We understand the issues that pregnant women face and for that, we make oats laddu, shatavari powder, coconut laddu, ragi laddu and even provide a postnatal package that includes ajwain and sonth laddu, among other things.” While some of the clients who come to Alpana are aware of the benefits of these products, she says some require convincing and do not necessarily subscribe to this form of nutrition.
Riddhi Parikh, who delivered a baby just a while ago and has been using some of the Nuskha Kitchen products, says, “I’ve opted for Nuskha’s post-delivery ayurvedic package. It was one of the best decisions. Alpana, not only ensures fresh and timely delivery for each item, but she also takes you through the benefits and relevance of each item and how to best consume it. One of the best things about her is that she is always in touch with you and will keep checking on you regarding your and baby’s health. It made the first few days of this entirely new world of motherhood, very easy and smooth.”
However, Viral wasn’t convinced from the start. He says, “If I were to be honest, after I quit my IT job I took this up as a stop-gap job. I did not think I could contribute much or even add any value to it. It was only when I saw the kind of impact the products had on people that I decided this was it. It was not rote work; every day was a new challenge and a new milestone we were achieving.”
This year Nushka Kitchen is looking to close at Rs 2 crore and Viral says that they are on track to achieve that target.
In doing the work that she does, Alpana is bringing back some of the traditional age-old practices that we followed when women in the family got pregnant and delivered. She maintains that the happiness and ‘sukhoon’ are worth way more than the revenue that the company does.
If you want to check out the products that Nuskha Kitchen makes, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)