Sephra Abraham had turned vegan in 2016, when it was still a novel concept in India. There weren’t many options available, and people did not know much about it. Being a vegan was tough! However, her life changed after she met Sana Shaikh the next year. “I had the good fortune of meeting Sana in 2017 as we were working in the same office. Sana was very intrigued by my lifestyle and she was surprised as to how I was able to manage despite being a meat eater before,” said Sephra, co-founder of Greend India, while talking to The Vegan Indians.
Sana, Greend India’s other co-founder, added, “Sephra and I used to have lunch together. I would see her asking for things like a mayo-less burger and I would wonder why she was doing that. She told me how animal-based products too contributed to the cruelty and exploitation of animals. She told me about things, to which I had never given any thought before. In a month or two, I was inspired by her and I turned vegan.”
The Birth of Greend India
Sephra and Sana stayed in touch even after Sephra moved to Paris for further studies. Veganism brought them closer and their friendship grew. Sana would often take advice from her friend on vegan food substitutes but found it difficult to source such products in India. In 2019, the two friends started talking about creating a vegan business together. Sephra said, “We thought about starting a business as there were a lot of people like us who had no idea on where to get the right kind of food, daily utility products, vegan cosmetics, etc., all available under one umbrella. It propelled us to start thinking in that particular direction.”
Sana said, “We decided to create an online portal where people could come and buy the right alternatives from anywhere in the country. That’s how Greend India was born. We came up with this unique concept of curated vegan hampers. Our hampers are carefully designed to ensure that vegans get everything they would need. We wanted to offer them good quality products at an affordable rate.”
Adding a Personal Touch to Online Delivery
Talking about what makes Greend India different from other online stores, Sana stated, “We are not an online store where people come and add stuff to their carts. We offer a personal experience wherein they get in touch with us and we give them consultations via calls or text messages. New vegans often consult us for products that would suit their taste and other requirements. We give them personalised recommendations, feedback and help them in every possible manner. We are not a regular robotic e-commerce website; we take pride in saying that we offer a personal touch and become a customer’s friend to help them choose what is best for them. That is what makes us stand out.”
Over 99% of the products offered by the brand are made in India and a majority of them are by homegrown, local businesses. “We have a wide range of eco-friendly, cruelty-free and vegan products under various categories. We are supporting local craftsmen such as those in pottery business,” said Sana.
Sephra added, “Other than regular packaged food, we also have tie-ups with local home bakers to cater to vegans looking for desserts and even birthday cakes. We try to address such demands. We want to be the one-stop vegan shop and bring along the best elements into it, such as, ease of accessibility, affordability, eco-friendliness, locally sourced products, and inclusivity.”
The brand has recently introduced vegan condoms into its range of offerings. “It comes as a surprise to people that condoms are non-vegan. The coating on a condom is done using animal intestines and most condoms are also non bio-degradable, as they have a plastic coating and come in plastic packaging. The condoms we sell are completely vegan, chemical-free and biodegradable. These are made by an Indian brand Bleu,” said Sana.
According to Sana, over 80% of Greend India products are from local homegrown brands, and are therefore, not loaded with chemicals. “These products have a limited shelf life because they are free of chemicals and preservatives. We mostly sell such products. However, we do have certain products that may be called processed owing to the demand from some of our customers.”
Animal Lives Matter
Greend India’s belief is rooted in the fact that animal lives really matter. The duo has collaborated with multiple organisations working for animal and social welfare, and they want to work towards such causes in coming future too. On the growth of veganism and challenges that it faces, Sephra opined, “The main problem that comes is a difference of perspective. It becomes difficult to convince a non vegetarian about a plant-based diet. Veganism is growing steadily and people are getting intrigued but what is required is a change in perspective at the very base level.”
“For example, consumption of dairy is so deep-rooted into our Indian culture that people often don’t think about the cruelty narrative. There has to be a shift in narrative. People must understand that vegans are doing the best they can to be as non-violent as possible. We are trying not to exploit any living being for anything. We should not be demonised; we should not be seen as anti-nationals, who are inspired by western concepts,” Sephra added.
Greend India as a brand does not want to support big dairy brands that are getting into plant-based alternatives. “These brands are entering into vegan market with their products and they have approached us as well. But we decided not to bring them within our portfolio. These brands are doing a good thing by entering the plant-based market but then they are doing cruelty side by side. A lot of vegans are trying them out, which is good. However, our ethics are important and we will not support such brands,” voiced Sana.
Being Vegan: The Experience
Sana and Sephra come from predominantly non vegetarian backgrounds. Wasn’t the switch difficult for them?
Sephra said, “My family still eats meat on a daily basis. It is very difficult for me to even look at it. All our community functions and weddings are dominated by meat. Initially, it was difficult as people would often forget I was a vegan. I would sometimes go to parties and not eat anything. It often feels like an inconvenience to others. However, now things are different. People remember my food choices and they keep vegan options for me. I have been really blessed that my family has understood my lifestyle and they are standing by me.”
For Sana, things were a little easier. “For me, there was no religious angle, but it was more about myths, for example, people would tell me that vegans don’t get enough protein and other nutrients. Apart from that, on Eid, I definitely get this question. People would ask me how I was celebrating without eating meat. But overall, people have been really supportive. In fact, everyone at my place has turned vegan. I think the way Sephra inspired me, I inspired my family!” Sana said.
What Lies Ahead?
On the brand’s future plans, Sana said, “We are looking to expand our team as we are bringing in more brands under our umbrella. We have close to 100 brands now and we want to add more to be able to cater to our customers. We are also looking at opening a physical store but we are not sure when that will happen.”
Greend India will complete a year on December 1, 2020. The brand sells both one-size-fits-all fixed hampers, as well as customised ones as per the needs of the customer. One can order from Greend India using WhatsApp, emails and social media channels.