Interview with Ishita Shah, Co-Founder of Goosebumps Store
With a doctorate in Cell Biology, Ishita worked as a Post Doctoral Scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and was also a DST Inspire Assistant Professor at the Centre for Excellence in Biology (University of Mumbai). How she shifted her focus to the pickle industry is some food for thought, literally.
The idea took birth in her mother’s kitchen. While she prepared hundreds of kilos of pickle each year, Ishita and Pinank put together their expertise in the dot-com industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into starting a pickles store?
Ishita Shah: I am Dr Ishita Shah, I hold a doctorate in Cell Biology. I started Goosebumps pickles with my Husband Pinak Shah and Mother Meeta Mehta.
Prior to our venture I was working as a Postdoctoral Scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and was also a DST Inspire Assistant Professor at the Centre for Excellence in Biology (University of Mumbai).
Like all things extraordinary, sometimes lie in front of you and you take a while to notice them. Our Goosebumps pickles took birth in our mother’s kitchen, who prepared hundreds of kilos of pickles each year which people loved dearly.
So me and Pinank combined forces of our expertise in respective fields to take our mother’s magic to the world.
Kindly brief us about your company, its specialization, and the services that it offers
Ishita Shah: Goosebumps isn’t just about world-class fusion foods. It is about a feeling. The feeling you get when you experience something intensely moving.
A feeling of time stopping. When someone or something takes your breath away. When your emotions are so palpable that they manifest themselves on your skin in the form of goosebumps.
We sell an exclusive range of yummilicious classic and fusion pickles, indulgent fruit chocolate, lip-smackingly healthy masala fruits and must-try fusion snacks.
How did you first get started in the food industry and what was the biggest challenge you faced in the beginning?
Ishita Shah: I realized my role in Goosebumps would be to use my knowledge and skills to good use, by bringing Indian spices and blends into the limelight.
Often, people associate healthy eating with boring and tasteless food. However, the rich Indian spices and cooking methods look after your immunity without compromising on the fun and flavour of your food.
At Goosebumps, we wanted to try and evolve ways in which one can enjoy these traditional practices and spices in a new-age manner.
I wanted my son and the generation after to enjoy the hot sun on a terrace with homemade pickles instead of gulping Vitamin C & D tablets. I also closely look at data management, analytics, operations and product nutrition.
Our first biggest challenge was delivering the first order. There was an issue with leakage that broke my heart because the customer couldn’t taste the product.
We put so much effort in making the product but the delivery became an issue. However, we solved the problem later.
Can you walk us through your process for sourcing ingredients and ensuring quality in your products?
Ishita Shah: Consistent quality comes from trust and who better defines trust other than our moms. Our mothers,(-in-laws) and grandmothers have a great eye to identify and pick quality ingredients.
For our Goosebumps kitchen, we have created a standard sample of approved ingredients which we procure only from the best suppliers.
Whenever a new sample ingredient comes in we test them as per different parameters like colour, taste, texture, taste, quality, etc.
To keep the freshness of our products intact, we do not make and store anything for too long nor do we use any frozen ingredients.
For instance, we restrict ourselves to the seasonality of mangoes which is a major ingredient for many of the products.
How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and advancements in the food industry?
Ishita Shah: We go back to basics rather than relying on, you know, online information. We read articles, journals, news and curiously observe shoppers at stores v/s supermarkets.
Most importantly, we think of our own needs as customers and utility of products in our day-to-day life. For example, what snack should I order for my work?
I don’t want to compromise on health and nutrition, should I order a big jar or a smaller one, something portable- easy to carry, and so on..
Can you talk about a particularly successful product or event that you have been a part of?
Ishita Shah: Our Exotic Pickle range is the one I think is the most successful product range among many others. Serving customers a fusion pickle range who are mostly accustomed to traditional pickles was challenging, from experimenting to getting that right flavour.
But we got it in the end and with an overwhelming response and it became a defining moment for us, a game changer.
We got the idea of Olive and Jalapenos over dinner and called our mom at midnight to discuss the idea. My mom is our production in-charge, she heard us probably in sleep and asked us to go to sleep.
Next day, we were persistent to try this combination. We got a few olives & jalapenos and mixed it with our pickle masala.
After the first trial we got our mom on board to further work on the product because it didn’t taste bad. We got two great things out of this incident.
- After 53 trial versions we finalized our bestseller Goosebumps Olives and Jalapenos pickle,
- our mom who was an expert on traditional pickles never said no to our weird ideas.
Then we experimented with our Grapes Ginger Pickle which was inspired by Puli Inji Pickle of the South.
We thought if Orange and Fennel can grace salads so well together why can’t they be our next exotic pickle? Failed 32 times with our other bestselling Pineapple Pepper Pickle, we finalised it 33rd time.
As a food scientist these were my favouite success stories but if you ask me as an Entrepreneur I think it would be the journey and the milestones that came in between.
Starting from becoming the internet’s first pickle company to bagging swiggy’s first corporate order without any recommendations or connections, serving a client for 3 consecutive years for Diwali orders, understanding the retail space and seeing our products on display in Mumbai’s retail stores to reading everyday reviews from beloved customers. It gives me immense joy to share all these success stories with you.
How do you differentiate your pickles from those offered by larger, more established brands?
Ishita Shah: We love experimenting new ingredients with traditional recipes and that’s what made us the first brand to successfully establish our exotic pickle range like pineapple pepper, cranberry kalonji.
We don’t store anything for too long or use any frozen ingredients. We prepare pickles in small batches using our traditional pickling methods and store them in clay pots.
There is no place for preservatives in our kitchen or products. We use only the best quality ingredients as per our approved standard samples and then we have our best selling experimental exotic pickle and fusion snack ranges I guess that’s why we stand out in the market.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur?
Ishita Shah: Looking back I think there is no single inspiration but the idea and my grit to come out of my comfort zone to learn something new made me an entrepreneur.
I have been watching my mom over the years making tons of achaars for friends and family who loved her recipes and dad running a business.
It made me think if there is magic in her hands why not share it with the world and I had dad’s expertise too to understand and handle the nitties-gritties of business.This gave me a strong foundation to go forward.
Although most people look for a corporate structure, one of the things that I find why Goosebumps exist is because 4 people from 4 different backgrounds came together and decided to build something!
Can you share with us any future plans or expansions you have for your business?
Ishita Shah: Yes, we do! There are numbers we can share but we believe in growing our business sustainably, so we have ample amount of time to maintain the quality and promise we want to deliver. We are planning to introduce new products like achaari dips, regional pickles and blended spices.
What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses in the food industry?
Just believe in your instinct and take a leap of faith and take the risk. Always tell yourself you can do it. Start by building a thorough knowledge of your product from what will go inside to how it will look, from basics to finest details. Be open to learn, try, experiment and unlearn. Be prepared to take harsh and honest feedback.
Learn to read data and numbers, it’s very important that you acquaint yourself with data analysing skills, it will help you in understanding day to day sales, change in trend, balance sheet etc.
What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ishita Shah: Be you, have faith, don’t take hasty decisions. When you get stuck don’t blame yourself instead work on finding a solution. Be very thorough with your product and don’t hold yourself back to experiment.
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