Eat Makhana has come a long way since its first public launch, which generated $500 in 3 hours. At the time, co-founders Amruta Gadgil and Mallika Chawla were just hoping to make at least one sale. Instead, they came home with over 25 pre-orders for their crunchy, protein-rich, gluten and grain free alternative to popcorn.
It’s been a little over a year since the company launched, and there are evermore exciting updates each day. With a great-tasting product at its core, Eat Makhana’s strong customer loyalty is validated through the huge increase in repeat order rate and in-store velocity. In the past few months, Eat Makhana has doubled its reach and can now be found in almost two dozen storefronts across the Bay Area. New product lines and flavors are in the barrel. At the end of this month, Eat Makhana will be releasing brand new packaging as well. Equally exhilarating, Eat Makhana looks forward to expanding its team through onboarding more full-timers in operations and several interns for the summer.
Eat Makhana, backed by Arrow Capital and Dorm Room Fund, is a CPG company creating delicious popped water lily seeds (makhana) targeting the allergen-free market for kids. Co-founders Mallika Chawla and Amruta Gadgil started the company from a shared love of food. Mallika was an economist at Goldman Sachs in Singapore until the winter of 2017. At that time, she noted, “I wanted to transition into fin-tech in the Bay Area. Ironically, Eat Makhana was born out of my stress eating as I was writing about my ambitions of fin-tech for my B-school essays [Mallika is now a first-year MBA student at Berkeley Haas]. I'd never thought that life would take a more adventurous and fun turn to food.” Amruta has had 8 years of experience in retail and the CPG space, currently working as a buyer for Whole Foods Market. Together, Mallika and Amruta make up the power duo behind Eat Makhana.
When prompted about what makes a successful CPG company, co-founder and CEO Mallika highlighted three things: a great product, an amazing team that is ready to work relentlessly, and a curiosity to really listen to your customers. Arrow invested in Eat Makhana because we felt that the company ultimately had the superb mix of these three things.
The CPG space has undergone massive changes in the past several years. Mallika shared her thoughts on these changes: “In CPG, it's increasingly important for your food to have a functional benefit and a compelling brand. Mass-market, generic brands are losing ground to more niche players and this trend is likely to continue. The pace of innovation is only increasing on food preparation and distribution. In the next few years, your grocery store aisle will be unrecognizable and significantly better-for-you.”
Starting a company, especially within this space, is far from easy though. From a founder-level, it requires an exorbitant amount of effort, dedication, and comfortability with uncertainty. For Amruta and Mallika, this uncertainty in navigating the startup space is mitigated by what they feel is their superpower: hustle. Mallika notes, “Amruta and I have been shameless in asking the right questions from all the right folks without any hesitation. We ensure that we leave no space for regrets just because we were too shy to ask.” However, questions about business decisions are not the only types of questions that arise. Mallika and Amruta express that there are plenty of days where they question their life choices. To turn these days around, the strong-willed co-founders share that, “When we see our product getting validated and our customers coming back for more, that is where we find our strength to carry on. There are so many parents who thank us because our Makhana is what the kids eat every day and they love it!” These interactions are what make it all worth it.
When asked what the biggest lesson Mallika has learned since starting a company was, she resoundingly emphasized the importance of prioritization. “It's easy to get overwhelmed. We've consciously tried to keep it simple and ruthlessly prioritize. I'm still learning to say no and be more protective of my time. As an employee, your default answer is yes. As an entrepreneur, you're always short on time and thus, saying ‘no’ more often than not is important. The hardest is to say no to marginal gains, or things which aren't a current priority.” This lesson translates into Mallika’s simple line of advice for those looking to start a company, "Don't make lists, just prioritize and move fast."
Arrow Capital is incredibly proud to back Eat Makhana and its co-founding team. Eat Makhana is on a mission to introduce delicious, nutritious, allergy-friendly foods from popped water lily seeds. When asked about what the future looks like for Eat Makhana, Mallika described “ Over the next 5 years, we foresee ourselves to be the next Annie’s or Enjoy Life for kids with allergies. Our introductory line is a snack that reinvents popcorn for kids. We plan to roll out cereals, trail mixes, bars and even flour made from Makhana.” Arrow could not be more excited to embark on this journey with Eat Makhana. Let’s get snacking!