Looking back on her early years, this incredible founder wonders: “Would I have gotten this far without my mother’s values, or growing up in India, an emerging country with great food insecurity?” Priyanka, her co-founder Sasikanth, and their team of engineers and technologists are driving change at scale by creating a software that replaces animal, synthetic, and extremely processed ingredients with plant-only alternatives. The technology, Charaka™, combines the ancient knowledge of plants with biotechnological and modern scientific analysis of plant ingredients, including their functional, sensory, or mechanical properties. Providing a solution to make tastier, healthier, and more sustainable food at scale, they’ve 10x-ed their revenue since 2020, raised $7 million, and are currently working with many partners worldwide, from Uber to Duopharma.
“I was born and raised in Hyderabad, India, where my mum led a very frugal lifestyle. We always recycled, reused, and repaired clothes, plastics, and household appliances instead of buying new.” Priyanka understands that this upbringing shaped her values later in life – instilling a belief in circularity in her that never really went away. After graduation, she started working for retail companies. “I quickly realized that many companies were shifting responsibility onto consumers instead of improving their production processes or finding ways to reduce unhealthy ways of living.”
A final turning point came when her family adopted her niece, Naina. “In trying to provide a healthy diet for her, I found that the products advertised in supermarkets were processed and contained additives that were bad for her health,” she says. The labels were unclear, difficult to understand, and even green-labeled products would contain many additives and chemicals. “I couldn’t help but wonder: why are there so many things going wrong in the food industry, making up 12% of the world’s GDP?” She remembers the turning point – realizing that if she wanted the world to change, she had to do something.
“I needed to find ways to produce better food for more people with less effort,” The Live Green Co founder continues. While many of her peers have chosen to bring consumer products to market (CG/FMCG), her idea was never about a product or a product line. “I’m aiming for the biggest possible global impact,” she stresses. That consisted of democratizing access to a healthy diet while at the same time improving the sustainability of the planet. “By 2030, 660 million people will still suffer from hunger, and food supplies are threatened by climate change and other factors. Plant alternatives can produce 98% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and they are much easier to grow, raise, and deliver to the population.”
Through Charaka™, they are driving change by partnering with industry players, leveraging their technology, and helping companies improve their products and develop their own formulations. Starting in Chile in 2019, they are now fully established in the US and Singapore. “I expect that in the next 4 years, we will reach a tipping point that will allow us to truly fulfill our mission of accelerating the world’s transition to healthy and sustainable food,” Priyanka says of her plans.
“I could never say no to a Masala Dosa with Peanut Chutney. Delicious!”
“…my mother – always will be! She is an incredibly strong woman and did so many things that women in her generation never dared to do – being independent, taking care of her family, and managing finances. She had a very entrepreneurial spirit, with a full-time job and five, six side-gigs. She taught me so much and I couldn’t be more proud to grow our business today in a way that champions the values she passed on.”
“Patch Adams: a doctor treating his patients with humor. While the medical community may not appreciate his methods, patients, medical professors, and nurses love his work. It’s humorous, relatable, and shows that there is a lot more than just the conventional way to solve problems. We need to be more open to new ideas and unlearn things we’ve been taught.”