This Boss Mom Is Bringing Back Flavours From The 90’s Through Their Food Startup
In an earnest attempt to bring back the flavours of childhood, this entrepreneurial Boss Mom, Ruchira Sonalkar has founded a condiments brand, Native Tongue.
The Mumbai-based brand is best known for its wide range of artisan nut butter, fresh fruit preservatives, sauces, spreads and gourmet condiments, made from natural and organic Indian products, packed in a jar.
About the founder
After working for 12 years in the media vertical, including being Chief Manager, Specialty Content for the Times of India, Ruchira took a sabbatical from 2014 onwards to be with her baby girl. But the realisation soon dawned on her; not to be a working woman and staying inside the four walls of her home, ain’t her cup of tea.
Her love for cooking and entrepreneurial mind urged her to venture and experiment with pop-ups from her home kitchen. During these experiments a friend, aware about Ruchira’s specialisation in condiments, asked her to prepare jar hampers for her baby announcement. This was the start of her home-business journey, a product of her own. With steady rise in transactions and inquiries, the brand Jam-Packed was introduced in 2018.
Initially though the brand’s products had to be restricted to jams, but Ruchira gradually included other items. And this expansion of product line birthed Native Tongue. It was in 2019 that the company re-branded itself with a clear vision to bring the lost, native taste back, with a twist of the changing times.
Brand by the Boss Mom
Started off from her home kitchen, Native Tongue later shifted operations to a third party unit. And earlier this January, the brand got its own space of 1500 sq. ft in Thane, Mumbai.
Ruchira now had her co-founder joining hands as well, her husband, Rohan Sonalkar. He quit his job from the media industry during the lockdown of 2020. Now, the business was split systematically between Mr. and Mrs. Sonalkar. She looks after the production end of the company, and he manages the marketing side of it. Including the founders, they are a six member team, with five of them handling the production and packaging, plus a senior journalist who leads the business’ PR strategies. Interestingly, they are an all-women team except for Rohan.
Bootstrapped, the brand offers 22 SKUs, with the price ranging between Rs. 275 – Rs. 550. The products are categorised into seasonal fruit preserves, stone-ground nut butter, desserts spreads, savoury spreads, seasonal fruit cordials, and spice blends.
Their best-selling products are thandai nut butter — a premix of nut butter with thandai flavour, peanut butter with chilly, rum caramel spread, and mulberry jam. They, as well, have two beverages to delight their customers; Aampanna with fire-roasted raw mangoes with a Jal Jira-esque flavour, and pink guava nectar that goes well with a cocktail.
Catering to both B2B and B2C markets, more than 20K products have been sold, pan India, till the early 2021. The sales of Native Tongue occur through their e-commerce website and social media channels. The brand has also tied-up with few major online food delivery portals, like Swiggy and Zomato. As well, they have an offline retail supply through the stores of Baker’s Dozen, Mag St. Bread Co, and select brick and mortar stores in Lucknow, Goa, and Delhi.
Researching more on the lesser-known organic products in the market, they began working with farmers to bring agricultural jewels to their brand. Now, Native Tongue procures the produce directly from these farms.
“The food industry is much more saturated than it was a few years ago, as everybody wants to dominate a niche. But we are considering this to be more of a collaborative space than competitive, specially in the B2B market. We have tied-up with bakery stores that specialises in an exotic range of bread, and have Native Tongue’s jams shelved at their stores.”
The concept of slow food prepared using stone grinding process, instead of machine grinding, starred as their USP. As well, the plastic-free packaging, that doesn’t even include plastic bubble wrapping, is widely appreciated by their customers.
“The brand strives hard to constantly evolve with even more eco-friendly practices”, says Boss Mom Sonalkar.
The couple duo are all set to achieve their next big target — enter the gifting space, that includes hampers at weddings, corporate events, and small-sized events to reach more individuals. As well, they now plan to include more condiments with exotic flavours as they receive a sizeable number of inquiries from the USA market. With an ambitious will, the founder is aiming to dominate national and international markets with Native Tongue.
Lockdown was a blessing in disguise, positively boosting Native Tongue’s brand value. During the Diwali season of year 2020, the company clocked in huge corporate orders.
“The pandemic, which is extremely unfortunate, turned out to be an eye-opener for many to consciously consume homemade, natural products. And this was something that our brand ensured.”
Ruchira considers herself blessed and expresses her gratitude. She tells I Boss Mom,
“Although my mother has my back, my mother-in-law is a great support to me too and I never came across any such issues that many Indian working mothers have to go through. Both my mothers have been there to take care of my daughter during my absence.”
Ruchira, a mompreneur, believes that a woman must seek support to pursue her dreams. Her advice to all the mothers who wish to have a work-life is to pave their own path and fearlessly go all out.
“As long as your heart is in the right place, solutions to problems will come by!”