How this CA quit his Big 4 M&A job to launch a healthy snacking startup 'Mighty Millets' with his nutritionist mother
- Hi! I am Sahil Jain, in 2018 I co-founded Mighty Millets - a start-up offering healthy snacking solutions for all, with my nutritionist mother Meena Jain.
- Born and bred in Pune, I am a chartered accountant (CA) with a background in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
- After seeing my mother’s impact as a nutritionist, she and I established Mighty Millets, in an endeavor to help people adopt a healthy lifestyle. We successfully operated in our home kitchen and have now moved to a small facility near our place.
- Quitting a high-paying job was not easy for me and I have put several expectations on myself. For that reason, I want to grow this business exponentially.
Why I decided to be a CA and my first job after qualifying
At school, I was always an average student with a keen interest in science and maths. So naturally, I aimed to become an engineer.
When the time came for me to choose a career, I analyzed my skills, attempted a detailed aptitude test, and consulted study counselors, to discover that I am best suited for a career in finance. After considering the scope of engineers and CAs, I decided to pursue the latter.
Fast forward, I qualified as a CA in 2015. Then came the big question, ‘What Next?’
For 5-6 months, after clearing CA exams, I was confused and thought about everything. I realized I was not so interested in traditional direct tax or audit; Instead, I was fascinated by finance, investment, and mergers & acquisitions (M&A). Therefore, I started researching more on those subjects.
Fortunately, I got an opportunity in a boutique firm in Pune, Hu Consultancy.
While learning M&A, I analyzed market deals and wrote articles for their magazine, M&A Critique.
My writings caught the interest of BMR, a cross-border M&A firm based in Mumbai, where I subsequently worked for a year.
Thereafter, KPMG acquired our firm and I moved to Pune in mid’17.
The birth of Mighty Millets with my mom while still working at a Big 4
At 45, mom (Meena Jain) restarted her career and studied Nutrition and Dietetics.
As destiny would have it, she topped the course and started her own practice, which grew like fire.
Observing mom’s one-on-one nutritional consultations made me realize that, apart from diet plans, she was also sharing recipes with exceptional results.
During my days in multinational companies, I experienced the tight schedule and non-availability of healthy, tasty, and convenient snacking options.
Eureka moment! I realized that there was a gap in the market for these options! The urge to build something beneficial for society with my mother excited me.
I brainstormed a lot on how we should go about this. I worked hard to understand the basics of nutrition, food science, the health industry, and various other unknowns. All new to me, but I had to focus and learn.
We went through different kinds of ideas. Our first idea was of a food truck and eventually started with some salad subscriptions from home. However, that model had some shortcomings.
Again, we pivoted and finally decided that ready-to-eat snacking options were something on which we should finalize our strategy. We did research, held discussions, and had trials, after which we launched our first range of products. Our first customers were my mom’s clients and the product was a big hit!
All of this happened when I was working with KPMG. I was handling my job as well as some orders on the side. Excitingly challenging!
We wanted to go beyond snacking and I remember my mother would always recommend her clients to have millets as a way to reduce weight or claim the functional benefits from these millets. Millets are small traditional grains, but have varied benefits and are the new superfoods!
I wanted to create the entire range in line with her philosophy of what she really did providing extremely sustainable, tasty, convenient as well as clean labelled food. That is when she came up with the name Mighty Millets!
Quitting my job and taking an entrepreneurial leap
Working and running the business was getting challenging. Entrepreneurship is a full-time job. After a lot of thought and discussions, in late 2018, I had to put down my papers and focus on the start-up. Before Diwali, I quit my job.
Around the same time, we received a huge order for 500 Diwali corporate gift boxes containing over 80kgs of granola, and 50kgs of nutrition bars to over 7 locations all over India.
We had neither the resources nor the experience to complete the order. Nevertheless, we took it on.
The family and close friends worked tirelessly to get the order done on time. To meet the target, we borrowed three ovens.
We then hired temporary labor to make the Nutri-Bars and Granolas in batches all day long. In those days, our kitchen was as though a hurricane had hit it!
In the end, we completed the order and delivered it successfully. The feedback was amazing – a confidence booster and a good start for us.
Today we currently have four main product ranges, 1) Nutrition bars, 2) Maple granolas, 3) Healthy savories, and 4) Functional mixes. These are unique, natural, and handcrafted foods without any preservatives or artificial sugar.
What distinguishes us from our competition is a nutritionist Mom who is an expert in her field, handcrafts our products.
Starting small, growing big
To fund our business, we used the initial order proceeds, salary savings, and explored cost-effective options.
We bootstrapped the business process and sourced professional-looking packaging without minimum quantity order levels.
To date, we conduct all our manufacturing in our house kitchen, moving to a small flat in the same building for our commercial and manufacturing processes.
Early 2018: We brainstormed using mom’s culinary skills and knowledge of nutrition as well as my research and contacts. In September, I resigned and focused on entrepreneurship. We had our first big order.
2019: Conceptualized our unique savory best-selling product, Bajra Bites.
2020: After launching immunity-boosting products, we hit record sales as we had centers across Pune distributing our product for post-COVID recovery.
2021: New printed packaging, entire rebranding, and a new strategy.
The future of Mighty Millets
There is a rapid awareness and emphasis on choosing healthier options, especially since the pandemic has hit us.
Thus, the demand for millet-based products is rapidly increasing in India and abroad because of the strong nutritional profile and government support behind it.
Quitting a high-paying job was not easy for me and I have put several expectations on myself. For that reason, I want to grow this business exponentially. This is just the beginning for me, and when it becomes a household brand then I can rest.