Many times even I have wondered why people are so obsessed about veganism/vegan lifestyle. But after talking to people like Shas I realize its not just about quitting dairy from diet or stop using leather,cruelty-free products. It is much more than that. When we desire for a better society & its progress, first the change has to happen in ourselves.
Inspired by her father Mr.Anand Siva, Shasvathi started following vegan lifestyle for a while now. Her love towards animals and the passion towards food are the driving forces behind her Mumbai based vegan startup Cowvathi that sells Vegan Cheese, Nut milk & Dips.
At 25, Shas quit her full time job to start a business on her own against all odds. So happy and incredibly proud to feature this talented woman entrepreneur in my #inspirationseries.
Read below the Q & A session with her.
1. When did your family decide to become vegan? Was it easier for you to adapt initially?
My dad became a vegan overnight, after watching a video about how terrible the dairy industry is. We’ve always been vegetarians, so it was only dairy. I was so confused when he told me about veganism because I was always taught that cows “give” us milk. However, I was still vegetarian for a while. My mom was diagnosed with fibroids in her uterus and all hospitals told us that surgery was the only way for her. We reached out to a plant-based doctor who told my mom to quit dairy for 3-4 months and then see if she needs surgery. My mom having grown up in a proper tam-brahm household refused to believe one can live without milk, but anyway decided to give it a try. Good for her, she never liked dairy except for milk in her filter coffee. She switched to black coffee. In 5 months when she went back for her scan, it was all gone! It has recurred thrice in two years, but in 5 months, it was all gone. This was enough to convince her. It’s been more than 5 years till date, and they’ve never relapsed. 🙂
I was so inspired by my parents but it was really difficult for me as I loved my chai, the occasional pizza and the everyday curd rice. But as time progressed, I learnt more about the cruelty in the dairy industry, about how we steal the milk from the mothers when they want to feed their young ones. It was so emotional for me. Soon enough, every bite or sip of dairy in my system filled me with guilt. I would put myself in the situation of the cow mother and it made me so sad to think that someone would forcefully impregnate me only to squeeze milk out of me. So, eventually I gave up all dairy and started to really enjoy a cruelty-free and guilt-free lifestyle.
2. I guess a year ago when you posted a food pic with a cute cow doll aside, I totally loved the concept. Did you had something this big in your mind when you coined the term ‘Cowvathi’? From then to now how it all happened?
Haha, thank you! It was actually a really random move. My dad had bought a whole farm set of animal toys, and I really wanted the pig. But he refused to part with it and said I could settle for the cow instead. So I picked up the cow doll and it was lying in my house for a while. Then one day as I was clicking a picture of something I had made with a dairy alternative, I thought why not put the cow next to it and make a point about dairy. Within a few days, I got so attached to the cow and decided to name her Cowvathi. I totally had no such plans. It all just kind of flowed after this.
3. What are the challenges you faced before launching Cowvathi as a brand?
Oh, I faced so many challenges. Main thing being finances. I’m only 25, so my savings aren’t a lot, but I was aching from inside to just get the business started. Also, rent is such a pain in Mumbai. I was in Advertising before I decided to start my own business, and I loved doing what I did. But once I started getting more and more attracted to a vegan business, my day job in advertising started to irritate me. After trying to juggle multiple things, I quit it all and focused all my energy, time and money into my darling Cowvathi. And today, I am so happy that it has started off well and I hope all my plans for the business work out well. But most of all, I could not have done any of this without the support of my amazing family and friends.
4. From procurring ingredients to business, from noting down clients orders, handling their queries, delivering them I cant even imagine your crazy schedule 🙂 How do you plan your day & tasks?
My fulltime job job right now is only Cowvathi. I live, eat, breathe and sleep the business. Sometimes it’s all I think about. And I absolutely love it. It’s still a crazy schedule because running a business is so tough and everyday you’re faced with a new challenge. But if you are so passionate about what you do, then there are absolutely no complaints.
5.What is your favorite go-to vegan recipe that you make often?
My favourite go-to recipe is creamy pesto pasta. It’s my absolute favourite and makes me so happy all the time.
Blend one cup of basil + a handful of parsley, along with a few pieces of garlic, 7-9 walnuts/almonds, olive oil, 2 tbsps nutritional yeast flakes/extract, and salt. In another bowl, blend a handful of soaked cashews with 1/2 cup of water to make a nice creamy paste. Boil pasta, then add the basil blend and let it mix. Towards the end, add the cashew paste and just soak in the ultimate cheesy yummy goodness of it all!!!
6. List few vegan restaurants that you liked the most.
My top most favourite restaurant is Carrots, in Bengaluru. I interned there for a month last year, so I’m really close to the people there. I’ve tasted everything on the menu multiple times, and it’s definitely my most favourite.
Apart from that, I love the cheese overload pizza from Real Green Cafe, Pune and I’m crazy about the Mac N Cheese from Granny’s Bowl, Pune.
7. Things you love apart from food
Music is therapy. I’ve learnt Carnatic since I learnt to talk and I hail from a very musically sound family. We also have many pets at home. We as a family rescue a lot of animals and try to find them good homes. Currently, we have 4 dogs and 8 cats. In the past, we’ve fostered monkeys, horses, owls, rabbits, guinea pigs and many birds too. We love animals more than anything in this world and will go above and beyond to help them. And that just starts on our plate.
8. Could you please elaborate/little insight on the happiness of being an Entrepreneur at this age? I guess your testimonial would be a motivation for others to pursue something they love
It’s absolutely amazing to be an entrepreneur at this age. In today’s digital world, marketing is so easy as long as we’re dedicated to what we’re doing thanks to platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Every day teaches me new things in my business and I’ve realized that experience is truly the best teacher. I didn’t go to business school or even study business, but I’m sure that I am only learning better from my mistakes and they’re teaching me the best lessons (sometimes expensive mistakes too hehehehe).
Families are a lot more supportive these days and it is definitely a lot more easier to venture into unconventional careers like these and very soon, they’re not going to be unconventional anymore.
I truly hope that more and more people start fueling their passion sooner.
9. Few words about your inspiration
My main inspiration would be Susmitha Subbaraju. She’s the owner of Carrots restaurant and she’s helped me greatly in making Cowvathi happen. Through moral support and otherwise too. Recently, I launched gratable mozzarella vegan cheese at Carrots, all thanks to her support and motivation. She’s just always there for me. Her ways and methods of running a vegan business are extraordinary and I learn something new from her every single time. She’s also one of the most ‘peoples-person’ and that’s taught me greatly how to deal with customers, especially the difficult ones
Thank you for doing this q&a , irrespective of your busy schedule Shas
At this internet age, we are all bound to criticism. Many times even I have witnessed random people in social media, tried to pull her down, mindlessly argue with her about her lifestyle choice& other things. Shas has always bounced back strongly, and has always been vocal about animal cruelty, veganism, adoption of pets etc.
Have been following her in SocialMedia for more than two years. From a happy cheerful girl with a fulltime job at advertising to this, the transformation is unbelievable 🙂 When you truely believe in yourself , follow your passion and have sheer determination to succeed, nothing is impossible and Shas is a great example for that.
Am so glad to see her making mark in this competitive food industry.
Keep inspiring and may your Cowvathi grow bigger & better ❤️
People who are reading this if you are in Mumbai and would like to try this vegan cheese & other products check the picture below for more details.