Lentils are considered to be the best source of protein in Indian households. For some moong, masoor, tur, urad and for some red, yellow, green and black lentils. It is common in our country to eat lentil dishes, but if a foreigner sees you eating lentil pancakes (cheela) in the morning, and that too not in India but in Australia, what would you think? Yes, nowadays many people in Australia are adding lentils to their diet and it has been done wonders by two Indian daughters living in Australia.
Manjula Mishra and Amrita Burman, who live in Canberra, Australia, are running their own startup together named ‘Simply Lentils’. Through which she is including pulses in the diet of the people of Australia. Manjula and Amrita are from different parts of India. Manjula is from Ranchi, Amrita is from Indore. Their environment, family and education are all different. But in Australia, both of them met each other only as Indians and became good friends of each other. Soon, their friendship turned into a business partnership.
Amrita holds an MBA degree in Finance and works with a company in Australia. At the same time, Manjula is an MBA graduate as well as a chef and nutritionist. Manjula told The Better India, “It was Amrita’s idea how to make dal popular among foreigners. When I came to Australia, I tried to look for jobs in many places but without experience I could not get any job. So, I tried my hand at business and started working with Amrita on her idea.”
dal with a twist
Amrita says, “Dal is a must-cook in many Indian households. But in Australia, there are many beliefs about lentils such that it can be eaten only as a soup. It has no taste and is boring food. Many people think that pulses are to be eaten by the poor. We decided to change this perception. Because lentils have been a part of Indian food and culture for centuries. Hundreds of different dishes of lentils are made in our country. Also, it is rich in nutrition. But people in Australia mostly depend on meat. So we wanted to give them an option that is tasty and good in nutrition.”
Amrita and Manjula started working on different dal recipes in 2020. He noted that most people in Australia are working. But it takes a lot of time to make any dish from lentils. So by reducing the middle process, she wanted to make a ‘ready-to-cook’ product. Manjula used different experiments to prepare three ‘mixes’ of lentils – LenBites, LENcakes and The Yogi Bowl! All three of these products are pre-mixes that can be used to make a variety of ingredients such as nuggets, burger patties, pancakes, and khichdi.
Says Amrita, “We have taken full care of the nutrition of these products along with preparing the recipe. In December 2020, we launched our startup from Manjula’s Kitchen. And from day one we got very good customer response. In the last six-seven months, the number of our customers and orders have increased significantly.”
Products launched from Facebook Live
Manjula and Amrita point out that changing Australians’ perceptions of pulses was a challenging task. But along with this he got cooperation not only from the people but also from the government. He said, “We had the opportunity to participate in a program organized by the Canberra Innovation Network. There was no fee and we learned a lot about startups in it. Apart from this, even during the lockdown, the government organized many free webinars so that during this time people learn something like social media, digital marketing etc. This way we also got a chance to learn a lot of new things and that too for free.”
They launched their products through a Facebook Live. Amrita and Manjula had given their products as samples to about 10 people. After this, in Facebook Live, Manjula taught them to make different things from these products. “We had this Facebook Live hit. Manjula was teaching them and they were also making them in their kitchen. Also giving feedback of our products. Even before our live was over, we started getting orders,” he said. Apart from selling online, she is also supplying her products to four stores and two cafes in the city.
Apart from this, they also set up their stalls in the market every Sunday. Where anyone can come and taste these ‘pre-mix’ dishes and buy ‘premix’. Manjula says that till now she has not received any negative feedback for her products. Rather people do not believe after eating that they are eating lentil nuggets or burger patties.
Getting good feedback from customers
He further explained that his products are going all over Australia. Every month they get around 200 online orders. Apart from this, there is a good sale in the market through the stalls and also through the stores. Chris Wright, who is conscious about the food and drink of her children, says, “My kids have to eat pancakes for breakfast, dinner. For them I tried LENBites and LENCake and they are very tasty, nutritious and easy to make. Now I tell everyone to try it because they are a good source of protein.”
At the same time, recently became a mother, Rosanna Walter says that it was not easy for her to cook while handling her child. But these ‘premix’ dishes are very easy to make and at the same time, they are full of nutrition. “If I have a problem, I ask the team at Simply Lentil and they respond quickly. Even my husband who loves meat eats it with passion,” she adds.
Manjula says that seeing the increasing orders, she feels that she will have to set up her unit at a different location by the end of this year. At present, she earns from 2000 to 4000 dollars every week and gradually her turnover is increasing. “If everything goes well like this, in the coming year, we would like to supply our products to Australia as well as New Zealand. Because it is near Australia and we think people there will love our products. Right now, it’s a pleasure that we are able to get lentils to the plate of Australians,” he concluded.
Of course, Amrita and Manjula are an inspiration to all of us who are making their mark in a different country and a different culture. If you want to see their products click here.
Editing – G N Jha
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