Interview with Nisha Ramisetty, founder of the Naksha collections
Find out how lockdown inspired entrepreneur Nisha Ramisetty to launch Naksha – recipe kits curated from specific countries and regions. Nakisha’s collections tell stories about extraordinary places and let you travel in your own kitchen.
What is Naksha?
Naksha makes extraordinary recipe kits.
Many people want to cook more often but struggle to keep their menu varied. Naksha tackles this by curating recipes from amazing places and giving customers the specialist ingredients needed to cook them without waste or fuss.
Arranged into regional collections, Naksha’s recipe kits give customers an immersive cooking experience encompassing great flavours, thoughtful storytelling, stunning packaging, and simple cooking methodology. The recipe kits focus on cuisines with strong appeal but limited visibility, looking beyond the predictable world of Mexican, Thai and Indian to more adventurous and off-the-beaten-track places.
Naksha kits don’t include perishable ingredients. Instead, the shelf-stable products include easy recipe cards and specialist ingredients such as spice blends, herbs, grains, noodles, sauces and other extras. The fresh items (i.e. veg and protein) that a customer needs to complete the dish are easily obtainable as part of a normal weekly shop, maximising choice and flexibility.
Where did the idea for the Naksha Collection come from?
During the pandemic, we spent a lot of time cooking at home. We tried to travel the world in our kitchen through the medium of food. Because many of the dishes we cooked demanded specialist ingredients which were only available in bulk, we spent too much money and ended up with a surplus. It was fun, but it was expensive and wasteful.
We sensed that recipe kits – containing perfectly measured portions of specialist ingredients – would be a good solution. However, we noticed that all comparable recipe kit concepts focused on generic recipes in mainstream cuisines. (Think butter chicken, Thai green curry, fajitas, etc). These products kept one within one’s comfort zone and didn’t tell interesting stories about the places they supposedly came from.
We believed that the general recipe kit concept could be elevated and applied to a much richer variety of delicious, off-the-beaten-track food cultures. We knew that we would be thrilled to discover thoughtfully curated recipe kits with hand-crafted ingredients, great taste, beautiful design, fascinating origins stories – but sadly they didn’t exist. So we set about making a challenger brand that would fulfil this dream.
Where did the name and branding come from?
“Naksha” means “map” in Sanskrit and “pattern” in Arabic. (The Sanskrit and Arabic words derive from the same root).
The word Naksha represents our products by alluding, first, to the concept of guidance and direction (which is relevant to recipe kits) and second, to the ideas of travel and geography, which reflect the way we curate kits into country-based or regional collections. The thesis is that by cooking with Naksha kits, users will discover new and exciting food experiences, just as they might explore new landscapes with the aid of a map.
The physical appearance of our kits is incredibly important, and we defy anyone to not agree that they are beautiful. We work with talented emerging artists from the same regions as the food. They provide original hand-drawn artwork for the packaging, supplying imagery defined by warmth, whimsy and attention to detail. Naksha customers enjoy an elevated overall experience, both visual and gastronomic.
What’s your career background?
Nisha is from India. She grew up in the US and India and went to university in India. She has worked in finance, media and the public sector. Nisha is now full-time founder and CEO of Naksha. Although she doesn’t have a background in the food sector, she does have a passion – and a knack – for entrepreneurship.
In addition to running Naksha, she has been working with LSE Generate (the in-house accelerator of the London School Economics) to mentor young founders beginning their start-up journeys.
What have been your biggest marketing obstacles?
The product concept is simple and intuitive. Customers understand it and want to try it. In principle, production is also very straightforward. However, as with many products, it becomes easier (and cheaper) to make the greater the volume of orders.
Having just launched in the UK, we are still in growth-mode. This means that although we are lucky enough to work with some very helpful and flexible suppliers who really buy-in to our vision, we are not yet where we want to be in terms of automated processes and economies of scale.
What’s been your proudest moment to date?
There have been two. The first was launching our recipe kits in stores for the very first time, having won the Spinneys and Waitrose Local Business Incubator only months before. It was a proud moment because everything came together following an intensive and accelerated process in which we did most things – such as packaging, branding, supply chain management and financial modelling – for the very first time.
The second proud moment was launching our products in the UK. Expanding into a bigger market such as the UK had been a goal from the very beginning. We always said, too, that we would like to launch in a store such as Whole Foods Market, which is renowned for its discerning clientele and emphasis on healthy, authentic, unique, attractive, and innovative brands.
When we met Whole Foods Market and they liked our recipe kits, we worked fast to get them on shelves – and we were thrilled when, only a few weeks ago, they eventually did!
What are your hero products?
Customers have a soft spot for our Lemak Cili Padi (creamy coconut curry from Singapore) because it was designed with a Michelin star chef and typifies Singapore’s melting-pot food culture. They also love the back-story of Ropa Vieja (smoky red pepper stew from Cuba), because it derives from a Cuban legend and offers a surprising combination of Old World and New World flavours.
Finally, our Milk Chocolate Blondies with Lebanese Tahini is a crowd-pleaser because the flavour combination is unusual and customers love tahini’s atmospheric Levantine origin.
What’s been your best lockdown lesson?
People always want to eat – and eat well – whatever else is happening in the world. If you can create a product that satisfies this demand, you have a good business.
Who’s your ideal customer?
A Naksha loyalist is someone who enjoys gourmet food with bold flavours, colours and ingredients.
They are enthusiastic about travel, with a keen sense of geography, and an interest in where their food comes from.
They appreciate sophisticated design and who feels that beautiful packaging improves a product.
Finally, a Naksha loyalist is willing to try new things and experiment in the kitchen – but who at the same time has high standards and prizes convenience and flexibility.
Which brands do you love?
Nicobar is a contemporary Indian homeware brand that has inspired us in numerous ways, from the ‘collections’ concept, to the liberal use of hand-drawn art, to the rich storytelling ethos. We own many Nicobar items collected during our travels in India, including lots of beautiful crockery.
When we did our first Naksha product photo shoots, it was obvious that we needed to use our Nicobar stuff to complement the recipe kits – partly because of its visual appeal, and partly because in a lovely way it tied our fledgling business into our own lifestyle.
What’s your advice for other business founders?
It is OK to be work in progress. As a startup, not everything is going to be perfect. (If it feels perfect, then something has gone wrong). To succeed, you must be open to erring, learning, and improving. We have experienced this directly, and it has made Naksha a better brand. Our recipes, packaging, marketing and more have all gone through numerous iterations, each version building on the last.
The products we are launching now are very different to those we first launched, and we think they are much better. Had we been set in our ways and refused to evolve, these better products would not be here today.
Find out more about Naksha.