When Chinmayie Bhat, a graphic designer, had her second baby three years ago, she imported a ring sling from the US. She recalled how her first born had always wanted to be held close, and how a search for well-designed locally-made carriers had turned up nought. Her import also got her researching what makes a good carrier and fabric testing for baby wearing. By the time her son was five months old, she was making and selling slings under her brand, Soul (soulslings.com). Going up against other new entrants like Kol Kol Baby Carrier, the Bengaluru-based entrepreneur sells several carrier options (the latest, launched last month, is an adjustable buckle carrier that can go from birth to toddlerhood) in a variety of materials, including cotton, linen and jacquard.
Interestingly, the last few years have seen mompreneurs (mothers turned entrepreneurs) on the rise in the country. But while many — like Suchi Mukherjee of Limeroad.com and Garima Satija of PoshVine — got into mainstream ventures like fashion and concierge services, a few stuck close to home: making baby products. In fact, when I had my daughter last February, one of the first gifts I received was a ring sling from Soul. Since then, most of the local baby products I’ve fallen in love with have all been made by mothers. Here’s a pick of brands to look out for.
As a new mum, Bengaluru-based Harshada Joshi recalls days when she was too tired to cook a healthy meal for her son. However, the ready-to-eat baby food options in the market were of no help — most had additives, preservatives, salt and sugar. “With all the developments in science, I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to find healthy, nutritious meals for my child,” says Joshi, who founded Happibo in 2016. To create the food, Joshi, who worked in the health sector, teamed up with business partners, Satya and Bhagavathi Pulakurthi (parents and food technologists) and worked with a research lab in the UK. After a lot of trials and tests, they launched meals that used only 100% natural ingredients, with no chemicals, additives or preservatives. “Retailers suggested we increase the shelf life. Technically we could, but that would mean compromising and adding preservatives. So we decided against it. So our products (eight in all, with more in the pipeline) have a shorter shelf life.” Interestingly, Joshi’s son always tastes the products first. His favourite is the ragi pasta with red pepper sauce, mango purée and apple purée. You know the food’s good when it is baby approved. Details: happibo.com
Mommy’s Health Kitchen
Minka Sikka started small — with teething biscuits for her son. “For a first-time mum who was only giving her child khichdi , oats, ragi and fruits, biscuits full of sugar, refined flour and preservatives were scary,” says Sikka. So she made them, with ingredients he was already exposed to. Soon friends were placing orders. As her son grew and his palate changed, she started making healthy snacks like brownies, muffins and granola. “Instead of sugar, we use jaggery, dates, raisins and honey. We only bake with virgin cold-pressed coconut oil or olive oil, and butter that we make in-house,” she says, adding that the her recipes at her under-a-year-old venture are approved by a certified nutritionist. Details: facebook.com/mommyshealthkitchen
For most mompreneurs, with little budget to spare, marketing is often inadvertently done by parents who have tried and liked their products. “While we invest in quality products, the advertising is done by mothers, whether by word-of-mouth or through social media,” says Pallavi Utagi, a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical professional, who started the popular cloth diapering brand, Super Bottoms in 2013. She began learning about fabrics and types, and trying out different combinations on her son, after she found the cloth diapers she had imported from the US didn’t fit her properly. She then got a few designer friends to help with the quirky prints that her brand is now known for, and identified a unit in China to hand-make the diapers. “Parents are often wary of trying cloth diapers because they are afraid of leakage and washing, but once you learn how to use it, you can’t go wrong,” says Utagi, who places a lot of importance on customer service. She has also built a network of mothers (and loyal customers) who help introduce new parents to cloth diapering. Details: superbottoms.com
Indie Project Store
Much like the other entrepreneurs, Shilpi Sharma Bedi started her online children’s clothing store (in 2016) out of necessity. She admits that when she designed a few pieces for her son using local fabrics, she thought it would be a one-off thing. “But friends saw the outfits and wanted some made for their own children,” smiles the Hyderabad-based image consultant. Over the last few months, she and her business partner, Satyabhama N, have turned Indie Project Store into a platform for mothers to promote their creations — hand-crafted toys to hand-blocked play mats. And she assures that each product they list on their site is first used by them, to gauge quality. Up next, Bedi hopes to open a brick-and-mortar space to sell their handmade products. Details: facebook.com/indieprojectstore
Love the World Today
When Dipna Daryanani, an educator, was researching the clothing industry for a project, she was horrified by the pollution it contributes to. Around the same time, her sister, Dipti Ahuja, was looking for simple cotton clothes for her daughter. Finding a gap in the market, the duo decided to start Love the World Today, a line of ethical and sustainable clothing for children. “We work directly with weavers and use only certified organic cotton, khadi and handwoven textiles,” says Daryanani, who also ensures their dyes are natural or azo-free. Their clothing comes in bags made from recycled hotel linen. Find them at lovetheworldtoday.in, MaalGaadi (Chennai), and Sacha’s Shop (Goa).
As the founder and managing director of Malabar Baby, a premier brand that makes bedding and swaddles for babies, Anjali Harjani-Hardasani — who spent nearly a decade working in finance in New York — says she is busier now. Much of the products on her site are hand-stitched and handmade with fabrics like cotton voile and organic muslin, and use techniques like block printing. Find them at malabarbaby.com, littleweststreet.com, and OMO (Mumbai).