“Protivore is the new trophic level in the Coimbatorean food chain”, says the 25-year-old womenpreneur Swathi Gopalakrishnan, the founder of Protivore, a plant-based meat startup. The youthful team at Protivore is dedicated to formulating delightful and nutritious protein snacks, offering a healthier alternative to high-cholesterol non-vegetarian junk food that is encroaching on the Indian diet.
Swathi Gopalakrishnan embarked on her entrepreneurial journey during her first year of college when she competed against M.Tech students for a one-lakh-rupee grant on an entrepreneurial project. This early experience planted the seeds for her entrepreneurial spirit. However, her journey took a significant leap when her team clinched the top prize at the 'World Food India Hackathon,' triumphing over 600 colleges in India, including prestigious institutions like IIM and IIT. Their remarkable achievement was recognized with an award presented by the then President, Shri Ramnath Govind.
The journey of this accomplished student, who has now blossomed into a young entrepreneur, was significantly shaped by her academic achievements and the unwavering support from her college. Despite excelling in her education, securing admission to top global universities and even clearing Group 1 prelims, she found herself in a continuous quest to discover her true passion. When her correspondent Shri Shankar Vanavarayan asked her the one question, "What's next?" after she received an award from the President, she understood that her journey was still long and wanted to find her calling. Exploring every avenue available to her, she delved into entrepreneurship and initially ventured into a successful small-scale crafting online business. However, faced with scalability challenges, she made the difficult decision to shut it down. This experience became a pivotal moment, prompting her to further refine her entrepreneurial pursuits.
Adding depth to her narrative, she had the privilege of organizing an Asian Book of Records event, bringing together 555 women entrepreneurs. This experience became even more enriching as she personally conducted interviews with 300 women entrepreneurs during the event. The valuable insights gleaned from these interactions proved to be instrumental in her journey. She added that these encounters introduced her to incubation centers and research opportunities, for which she remains profoundly grateful.
The success story continued with another significant win—a 10 lakh grant earned by her team, emerging victorious in the Carbon Zero Challenge conducted by IIT Madras, triumphing over 600 competing teams. Further enhancing their list of accomplishments, the team secured two additional grants from NSRCEL through a women startup program funded by Kotak Mahindra Bank. They did not stop there. Swathi Gopalakrishnan proudly shared with us that her team secured a noteworthy achievement by winning another 10 lakh grant from the TANSEED 4.0, a Tamil Nadu Startup Seed Fund. It's a grant fund scheme that provides seed funding to early-stage startups. She was also a recipient of NIDHI EIR program, a government of India program that aims to inspire talented individuals to become entrepreneurs
At a breakneck pace, the grants evolved into a grand story, bringing the protivore concept to life. The genesis of a business idea often arises from addressing existing problems, and Swathi Gopalakrishnan's journey is no exception. When the world was grappling with the adverse effects of COVID-19, deteriorating dietary habits became a widespread concern, leading to weight gain and health issues—challenges that resonated with her and countless others across the country.
This predicament prompted her to embark on a quest for a sustainable, healthy, and plant-based alternative to the non-vegetarian diet. Drawing from her research experience in plant-based milk during her college days, she delved deeper into exploring a viable plant-based food alternative. Despite the presence of soy alternatives in the market, she sought a superior solution, given soy's inflammatory properties and its impact on thyroid hormones. After thorough research, she arrived at a pea and rice based protein source, a choice that aligned seamlessly with her quest for a suitable and healthier alternative.
Despite encountering a setback in her research endeavors in Bangalore, where a manufacturing machine malfunction necessitated repairs from Germany—a process spanning eight months—Swathi Gopalakrishnan's determination remained unswayed. Undeterred by the temporary hiatus, she redirected her focus from raw material research to the development of a plant-based food product. In August 2023, undaunted by the challenges faced, she founded PROTIVORE, positioning it as a sustainable and healthy solution for plant-based protein. This strategic shift in her entrepreneurial journey showcases resilience and adaptability, underlining her commitment to providing a viable alternative in the plant-based business landscape. Embracing the philosophy that a good start is half done, Swathi Gopalakrishnan, through tireless work and unwavering dedication, is confident that Protivore will have a strong foothold in four cities and two countries by the end of this year.
Addressing inquiries about her product, Swathi Gopalakrishnan said that Protivore offers a diverse range of snacks, including tantalizing options like Tandoori Poppers and Spicy Nuggets that mimic the taste of chicken, along with Kheema Samosa that captures the authentic flavor of mutton. She highlighted the prevalent trend in the market, noting that 90% of plant-based meat is typically soy-based, known for its cost efficiency but carrying inherent drawbacks. Setting Protivore apart, she proudly emphasized their distinctive pea and rice based solution. Notably, their product is fortified with Vitamin B12, a crucial aspect for Vegetarian and Vegan consumers facing challenges in meeting their nutritional needs.
Swathi underscored that Indians, in general, face protein deficiencies, and Protivore serves as a solution to this prevalent issue. Beyond being a cholesterol-free option with lower saturated fat, the product is positioned as not only a sustainable choice for Vegans but also a protein-rich solution for nutritional deficiencies. The significance of the name Protivore lies in its essence, representing protein-eating mammals and encapsulating the core purpose of the product.
When asked about her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, she confidently said, “There is no good time or bad time to start. Begin right away and relish the process.” Additionally, she emphasized that entrepreneurship is not the sole correct path; rather, everyone should discover their own calling and diligently work towards it.
In expressing her gratitude, she extended heartfelt thanks to her parents, acknowledging their crucial role in her journey. She also expressed deep appreciation for her mentors Mr. Shri Ram Shankaran and Mr. Santhosh Muruganandham, along with everyone who contributed to her path, including those involved in the grants she received. Her gratitude extended to the dedicated teams in Kerala, Bangalore, and the marketing team, recognizing their collective efforts in making Protivore's journey a reality.
Swathi Gopalakrishnan's inspiring journey and the groundbreaking strides made by Protivore not only reflect a fusion of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to creating a positive impact in the plant-based food industry but also encourage the youth to dream more. As Protivore continues its mission to establish a strong presence in multiple cities and countries, we wish them resounding success in the pursuit of their goals. May Protivore flourish as a beacon of sustainable, nutritious alternatives, making a lasting impact on the culinary landscape. TheVerandahClub looks forward to witnessing the continued success and growth of Protivore in the years to come.
|| Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah ||
Vigneshwaran, Senior Correspondent of TheVerandahClub.com is both a skilled digital content writer and marketer by profession, as well as an avid independent writer driven by his passion. His literary talents extend to crafting beautiful poems and captivating short stories. In addition to these creative pursuits, he has also authored a book titled "Halahala," which can be found on Wattpad.
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