By Vidya Pradhan
The typical Silicon Valley success story has to do with chips, b(y)tes, outsourcing and lots and lots of dough. Well, so does our story, though not in the way you might think. It all started when the bottom fell out of the hardware market in the early part of this century. Mani Krishnan, who had been making a comfortable living exporting computers, printers and peripherals to India, suddenly found himself in the unfamiliar territory of having to hound his Indian distributors for collections.
Having made a resolve never to work for anyone else ever again, Mani was scouting around for ideas for a new business when a friend commented on the lack of good South Indian coffee in the Bay Area Indian stores. A tie-up with 777, a Chennai based company selling various Indian processed foods led to the seeds of a new business, now importing goods into the US instead of the other way around. Mani’s fragrant godown in Mountain View now stocks pickles, sambar powder, puliyogare paste and of course many different brands of ‘kapi’ but the secret to the success of his fledgling company is – batter!
It is hard to imagine a time when ready made Idli, Dosa and Uttapam batter was not easily available at your local Indian store, but just three years ago, the supply was limited to a small outfit called Ganesh Foods which distributed Idli and Dosa Batter in unmarked containers on a sporadic basis. Shasta Foods’ sleek, opaque containers with the markings in English and Tamil quickly made their way into the freezer shelves and became a staple in kitchens throughout the area.
I visited the clean kitchen of Shasta Foods where several giant grinders whirred away, as vats of soaked rice and lentils stood by. A specially constructed cooler room stores the finished product, which is made without any preservatives. The batter has become so popular that it is the entry point for the company to distribute its other products like processed foods and puja items to the local shops. Fresh sambar and chutney are also distributed along with the batter. Shasta Foods distributes to about 75 stores in the area and is very particular about fresh restocks.
In the spirit of globalization, restocks are actually managed by an employee from India who works a night shift and uses VOIP to keep in touch with the customers over here. The company has since branched into several ancillary products like Thali Peeth and Chakli from Mumbai and Indian Chinese sauces and noodles. Mani is also proud of Puja kits he designed which make it easy for the harried husband to pick up all the ‘samagri’ at a single point in a reusable box!
But Mani’s real ambition is to expand the use and reach of his flagship batter products, making them popular among North Indians and non-Indians. Cooking classes are in the works as is a range of products that can be purchased online and shipped in ice-pack containers.
In this particular story, the chips are salty and the housewives are outsourcing, but the dough business has been very rewarding for Mani Krishnan. “I can’t wait to wake up every morning and get to work,” he says with a smile. “I am having the most fun of my life.” How many of us can say the same about our jobs?
As a special offer to WNI readers, Mani will send you a small recipe book with innovative takes on his batter if you send an email to email@example.com with your address. Enjoy!
I would like to know if this is KGK’s son, Subhadra’s brother.
Sankari Yes i am KGKs son and Subadhra”s Brother
Luv at first buy…..Thanks a million
All the best, MK! Keep making your dough, and I’ll know my daughter gets idli and dosa the way I make it!
there was no mention of the efficient
administative asst in the article which was dissapointing.
Mani, you are a super hero for coming to the rescue of many a harried mother attempting to get her kids some authentic home made dosais,utthappams, all in a matter of 30 minutes! And by the way, this includes the trip to the store.
I can attest to the quality of their batter. Their Idli comes out so soft it melts in our mouth. I am sure with evey success man their must a woman behind. I believe she has gone to homeland to hand pick the ingredients for the successful Shasta batter.
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Hi ! Mani garu ,
I am from Indianapolis.. At present I ….am in Bay Area visiting my Son & his family…My Grand children love your Idli & Dosa….My daughter in law is apprehensive about the date when they are prepared… ( She is Gujarati ) I like your Idli &Dosa batters very much…Especially they have Nutrition information & expiry dates on the containers…. IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE THE MANUFACTURING DATES PRINTED TOO ???!!!…
My last question… CAN YOU MAKE IT TO POSSIBLE TO HAVE THEM IN MIDWEST TOO !!! …. Appreciate your reply….
Regards , Rohini
Hi Rohini ji Thanks for your kind words.Batter at present we can ship to the midwest by fed ex(my web site is http://www.bondsforever.com).Right now we are distributing it Northern california,Seattle and Oreg and Salt lake city.Due to conditions which are diffrent we feel more comfortable about putting the expiry date rather than the mfg date but we stand guarantee for the same.hope this answers your questions
Very tasty , silky soft , white idlis . Amazing Taste!
I seen Articales about your shasta foods , and I am trilled and Impressed way of your managing your Business in other markets, I am very keen to start this kind of business specaily dosa batter , i am collecting and getting all kind of information and doing all basic survey to
start this kind business in my home town i.e. Gulbarga( comes under Karnataka state, 200 km from hyderabad) presently i am working with Aircel ltd( Mobile operator in india) as Zonal Sales Manager ,i am
into this sales profession from last 10 years , i am thinking to start up my
own business by quiting presetn job and did lot of survey what to do what can’t to do and finaly decided to go with dosa batter, we don’t have a single brand in this mkt , so can’t possible to guide for start up this business in my home town.
pls guide me for start up this business in my home town.
Some Basic Information about me.
Name: Prabhu Gouda
Age : 32 Presently working with: Aircel Ltd
Contact Number:- +919902412220 ,+919738199115.
Such a facinating blog. I certainly enjoy all the multitude of topics that you cover and the high quality of the writing. This has become a genuinely fun blog for me to visit.
We are recently moved to east coast from bay area and missing Shasta dosa batter.my 4 years son,he loves idli so much .Originally I am from north India and never made idli batter before can u pl pl.give me quick proportion and how to make the dough ferment.
I would appreciate any suggestion .
Thx in advance
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💡 My name is chitra i live in Canada Calgary.I heard about Shasta foods through my friend who buys your batter regularly.I am also motivated to start a business.i am a housewife.There are no good Indian restuarants in our area,i am sure the south Indian working women will be interested in prurchasing the batter.I want to know how much does the batter cost and other details.
am from chennai. my father in law is running this idly batter business successfully in chennai. now he wants me to take over his business. am eagerly waiting to the day of taking over my business(may be from next month). and am new to this business so am searching through internet about this business and find nothing useful. in this blog i fall in love with the words of mr.mani that “i can’t wait to wake up every morning and get to work,” he says with a smile. “I am having the most fun of my life.” its really encouraging me very much. thanx to the blogger…
This is what happens to these cheap small businesses. They first start out with quality and quantity and then instead of finding ways to increase revenue they try to go cheap. Why do I say this? How is Shastha foods trying to be cheap and lose customers? After gaining customer traction, they slowly started cutting back on the quantity of dough in their containers, to the point recently only 2/3 of the container had the dough!! And to top it, they go cheaper even further – by mixing more water in the idli batter hoping no one would notice. Well, this business is on its way out…