Priya Parab: Building strong minds and bodies

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 20, 2009 08:31 hrs

With a view to fostering women entrepreneurship,, in association with TiE Streeshakti (TSS), an entrepreneurship platform for Indian women, features a series on successful women entrepreneurs. TSS, set up by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), was conceptualized to reach out to women who run micro, medium and large-scale enterprises across manufacturing, services and social sectors.

Building strong minds and bodies is the mission of Priya Parab, founder and chief executive officer of Vihaan Natural Healthcare Pvt Ltd. And her product Strombs, a breakfast drink made out of pulses and natural grains, is an acronym of the same.  The genesis of the Priya's entrepreneurial streak was more of a chance. It was her personal search for natural and healthy foods for her kids that impelled her to do enough research into the area. Amazed at the plethora of home-made recipes of multi-grain mixes for children suggested by the grannies, Priya wanted to streamline the same with carefully chosen grains, proper production process and a fairly good distribution network.

Though Priya had immense work experience in various capacities in diverse sectors such as banking, media, courier, aviation etc, she had no clue about the wellness or the FMCG industry. But her basic networking and research skills coupled with proper guidance from TiE Streeshakti, helped the MBA graduate to set up Vihaan Healthcare. Vihaan, which means dawn in Sanskrit, was the culmination of her passion to start a business of her own.

Owing to lack of experience and space, she initially outsourced the production of Strombs and started test marketing her products between friends and neighbours. But slowly, the acceptance of her product and the encouragement of her friends impelled Priya to think of opening a production unit. Her own factory will go operational by Diwali in Mulund, Mumbai.

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The mother of two vouches that the strong support of her family has helped her script success. Though she works out of home, Priya's two kids are used to her 24x7 working ways."They never trouble me and working from home means that I can work anytime of the day without any disturbance,"says the workholic mother who spends most of her time doing research on developing natural healthcare products for the entire family.

Priya's key to success in such a short span of time is her ability to be in touch with the customer directly. And that is precisely her advice to new entrants of the business"Have a big picture but start with small steps with your thought process from the customer."     

Excerpts from an interview with the budding entrepreneur:

What is the main product of Vihaan Natural healthcare and what is their USP?

Our main product is health-shake mixes under the brand name-Strombs- for strong minds and bodies. Strombs is a breakfast drink for developing strong minds & bodies. It is specially formulated to boost memory, concentration and growth. It strengthens bones and improves the digestive system. It can be consumed by anyone between the age group  of 2-80. The USP is that Strombs is a completely natural, tasty, satiating and nutritious meal in a ‘ready-to drink' format.

How did you get inspired by such a concept?

It all started with my search for natural and healthy foods for my kids.

What impelled you to venture into your own during recession times?

In my career span of fifteen years, I have had the opportunity of handling a range of responsibilities in various industries with some of the best Companies. This diverse experience in every sphere of a business is now guiding me through my venture.
I had already taken the plunge before the economy slowed down. I have been working on this project for the last three years. My research on health mixes convinced me of a potential market and hence I decided to go ahead with it.

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What is the size and estimated growth of wellness food industry market in India? What are the future plans of your company?

The wellness food Industry is at a very nascent stage. Initial reports peg the size to be anywhere around Rs 4900 crore.
 We plan to launch a wide variety of natural and tasty health foods in various formats that will have a major role in preventive wellness of the family as a whole.

Who is your inspiration?
All the first-Gen Entrepreneurs who have started from zilch and made it big on their own merit and made their country proud.  
How does your family support you in this venture?
My family is my anchor. They are always there for me for whatever support I require at any time of the day. My father looks after all the legalities, mother promotes my products in her own way, sister is the creative brain behind this project-be it the brand name or the packaging design. My husband and kids manage their day-to-day affairs independently so I can concentrate on my work 24/7. My grandmom is always praying for me and wishing me well. This unconditional love and support makes me determined to succeed and not let them down.

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How has TiE/ TiE Stree Shakti helped you in your career?

TIE has done a lot of hand-holding at the embryonic stage of my venture. It is always there as a guide, teacher, friend, always ready to help.
As soon as I quit my job and decided to take a plunge into my business, the first thing I did was to register with TiE. I had been associated with it in various other ways while I was employed. So I was aware of the benefits of TiE.

As an initiative, what is your take on TiE Streeshakti and its role in fostering women entrepreneurship?

TiE Streeshakti is an extremely useful initiative, very much needed in today's times. In the tough business world where men are not used to seeing many women entrepreneurs and are skeptical about their success, an ‘All-woman' forum gives a lot of collective strength to women fighting it out alone in business.  

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What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Have a big picture, but start with small steps, stay rooted, get as much expert advice and mentoring as possible right from the start, look at mistakes as the best learning experience. Most importantly, start your thought process from ‘the customer'.      

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