In 2003, when his company went bankrupt, San Jose-based Mani Shankar was forced to make a decision: “Should I be miserable in my own company or should I be miserable in someone else’s company? I picked the former, because it makes Monday mornings less difficult,” he quipped, leaving the audience at Savera Hotel giggling.
Stating that his driving force was his family, Shankar said: “If I had given up and sat in the corner, my children would have been affected deeply. My family gave me their entire support and did not expect anything from me, which I am grateful for.”
Over the last 16 years, Shantha Foods has served over 100 million dosas across the US. According to Krishnan, their technology-focused process uses produce from across India to make 15 varieties of batter. “We try to make use of as many products from rural farmers as possible. Our goal for this year is to procure nattu chakarai, heritage rice and cold-pressed oils worth Rs 1 crore in an attempt to keep them from migrating to urban areas,” he said.
“Innovation is key for an entrepreneur,” said Krishnan, adding that he always knew that millet would be a revolution in the business, and persisted until he scored the perfect recipe.
With a steady consumer base among the Indian diaspora in the US, Krishnan hopes to expand his base to bring in other communities like the Spanish and Italian community by expanding to key retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the US.
However, he has no plans to expand into the Indian market in a big way yet. “I have no plans to reach Indian shores yet. I’ve done business in Singapore, India and the US, and let me tell you, whoever can crack the market here is something else. I don’t know how they do it,” he said.