Think healthy food is bland? Think again
A startup is usually created to address customers' pain points. Mitun De Sarkar, a practising dietitian, took an entrepreneurial leap of faith after a consultation with one of her Emirati clients.
"After my first consultation with him, I realised that though he had a sincere desire to lead a fitter lifestyle, his knowledge on nutrition and accessibility to procuring healthier meals was limited. It was he who suggested that I make his life simpler and package and deliver his daily dietary requirements to his house. This seemed like a brilliant idea because as a dietitian, this was always a challenge where your clients tell you they don't have the time to shop for groceries or cook or measure the meals you advised," recalls Mitun, an Indian who has been in Dubai since 2004.
This meeting transformed Mitun's life and she decided to start a business of delivering calorie-controlled, well-balanced, freshly prepared healthy food to clients' homes. Simply Healthy Diets, a diet meal delivery service, was thus born in 2005.
While there is a general perception that healthy food is bland and boring, Simply Healthy Diets is out to dispel that myth.
"Everyone needs to eat and take care of their health. Most people also want to lose weight, look good and be fit. What can be a better way to achieve this than have your entire day's cooked meals, that is healthy and fresh, customised for your body and specific to your health delivered at your doorstep daily to make eating healthy a stress-free experience. After all, 80 per cent of good health comes from good nutrition," states the entrepreneur.
Although Mitun sensed that the UAE market was ripe for nutrition solutions way back in 2004, she admits a majority of residents have come a long way since then when it comes to fitness awareness. "When I began my career here in 2005, I saw that most people had a very limited and vague concept of health and fitness. However, over the years, men and women have educated themselves on the importance of healthy living and nutrition," explains Mitun.
She started the venture on a small scale with just 2 trained chefs. "I was well aware that the business was going to be a huge risk, specially since we were so young and first-timers with no experience in the UAE. But my husband and I dug into our savings with positivity and confidence. As the clients grew in number, so did the staff and the business," she says.
However, Mitun took a 2-year sabbatical in 2009 and 2010 when she turned a mother and also because business was slow owing to the general market slowdown as a result of the effects of the global financial crisis.
Recalling the challenges she encountered during her entrepreneurial journey, Mitun cites how she was initially uncomfortable at the thought of getting only 49 per cent ownership in her business since it was registered as an LLC (limited liability company).
"But soon after, I realised there was nothing to worry about and it all ran so smoothly without any interference. In fact, I got so much support from my local partner and his office during the formation days. They guided us in the right direction and gave us confidence to start a business in this region," she adds.
Mitun also cites the high costs for recruiting qualified employees, processing their visas and other miscellaneous costs as cumbersome for a startup. "If the staff doesn't meet your expectation and can't comply with the standard of work after a few months, there is money lost on that candidate," she explains.
She also refers to how most UAE banks are hesitant to offer loans to new startups. "Luckily for me, we had started small and initial capital and revenue management was effectively planned. But overall, I feel the UAE is a land of opportunities. Emiratis are so welcoming and generous," Mitun observes.
She attributes her success to sheer hard work, diligence, expertise and family support and advises people chasing their dreams to make a career choice out of something they like to do.
"Do it to the best of your abilities with sincerity and passion and do it for a while. Success and results don't happen overnight. Remember most concepts look good in thought and on paper but in practice, the story might be different. So, do your due diligence before you put your money into it and be ready to work harder than you thought you will ever need to," suggests Mitun.
Mitun is also keen to expand the Simply Healthy Diets concept to other parts of the UAE and India. "I get messages on social media daily from my followers asking when I plan to start in other places. My set-up is currently only in Dubai. I would like to expand the range of health products being offered under the Simply Heathy brand name.
Social media is an important driver of growth for Simply Healthy Diets. "We are always exploring and adopting new technology practices to ensure logistics management and client support is maintained at a higher level," Mitun concludes.