JUST ENTREPRENEURS | Meet Nisha Ramisetty, founder of Naksha Collections

July 27, 2023

JUST ENTREPRENEURS | 27 JULY 2023 | Co-founded by Nisha Ramisetty and Sam Williams, the idea for Naksha Collections was born in 2020 when cooking became an escape during lockdown.

What is Naksha Collections about?

Naksha makes extraordinary recipe kits. With our kits, customers cook tasty, authentic and diverse food easily at home.

Our kits are curated into thoughtful geographical collections. We spotlight cultures cuisines with strong appeal but limited mainstream exposure. For example, we currently offer recipe kits inspired by the Caribbean (Cuba, Jamaica, and Grenada), the Middle East (Lebanon, Turkey and UAE), the Indian Ocean (Kenya, Oman and Sri Lanka), and Singapore (Chinese, Malay and Peranakan).

Our recipe kits boast a shelf life of a year because they do not contain chilled items. This makes them both scalable and flexible. They are suitable for vegans and meat-eaters alike because customers buy their protein separately. They also suit diverse shopping “missions”, from short-term impulse buys (e.g. a customer looking for dinner tonight), long-term cupboard planning (e.g. a customer stocking the pantry in advance), to gifting (e.g. a customer delighting a friend with a gourmet treat).

Overall, Naksha Recipe Kits are innovating the shelf-stable meal kit category by expanding customers’ eating experience to a wider, more diverse catalogue of cuisines. We are pushing the category’s boundaries in terms of flavour, design and usability, and we are proving that convenient home cooking is fully compatible with amazing flavours, beautiful visuals and careful attention to detail.

Was Dubai the perfect test market for your range?

Dubai has extraordinary culinary diversity and offers an embarrassment of riches to foodies. Being in a milieu with people from many countries and cultures was a perfect opportunity to immerse ourselves in new cuisines and identify lesser-known dishes that we thought had the potential to go mainstream. 

Though relatively small, the Dubai market also provided an ideal “laboratory” for launching the product. Consumers are relatively affluent, have exacting standards, are spoiled for choice, and are generally open to new flavours and ingredients. There is also a significant minority of British consumers, meaning that the UAE grocery market mirrors certain key dynamics in the UK grocery market. Starting up in Dubai was rewarding and challenging in itself, and we still proudly retail in the UAE, but it also happens to have been a perfect springboard for our expansion into the UK. 

What was the moment you knew you would get behind Naksha Collection and make it happen?

During the pandemic, we spent a lot of time cooking at home. We tried to travel the world in our kitchen through the medium of food. Because many of the dishes we cooked demanded specialist ingredients which were only available in bulk, we spent too much money and ended up with a surplus. It was fun, but it was expensive and wasteful. 

We sensed that recipe kits – containing perfectly measured portions of specialist ingredients – would be a good solution. However, we noticed that all comparable recipe kit concepts focused on generic recipes in mainstream cuisines such as Indian, Thai and Mexican. (Think butter chicken, green curry, fajitas, etc). These products kept one within one’s comfort zone and didn’t tell interesting stories about the places they supposedly came from. It was almost as if they want to suppress the heritage of the food, rather than celebrate it. We believed that the general recipe kit concept could be elevated and applied to a much richer variety of delicious, off-the-beaten-track food cultures. We knew that we would be thrilled to discover thoughtfully curated recipe kits with hand-crafted ingredients, great taste, beautiful design, fascinating origins stories - but sadly they didn’t exist. So we set about making a challenger brand that would fulfil this dream.

What do you bring to the recipe kit sector that your predecessors want?

Demand for world food is growing fast. Our kits are innovating the category by looking beyond mainstream cuisines such as Thai, Indian or Mexican. We focus on regions that have huge appeal but limited exposure. Our kits unlock flavours, ingredients and origin stories that customers may be less familiar with but which, when they come across, absolutely love. 

We work with local chefs and artists to create the most authentic recipes possible, meaning that cooking with Naksha is the next best thing to actually travelling to those places in search of gourmet food. Other recipe kit brands have a much narrower and more conservative scope. They play it safe. That may have made sense in the past, but as the culinary horizons of UK consumers widen, it is essential that options exist to satisfy their evolving tastes.

What’s the best decision you’ve made for your business so far?

We were inspired to create the product when we became aware of the ‘Local Business Incubator’, a competition run by top UAE supermarket chain Spinneys and Waitrose during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. We entered the competition (despite having zero F&B experience), won it, and had the opportunity to launch our recipe kits in dozens of Spinneys and Waitrose stores across the UAE. We entered because we had total confidence in the quality of our idea and knew that with Spinneys’ support, it would be possible to turn it into a viable product.

What started as a bit of fun, with us creating experimental recipe kits for our friends during lockdown, resulted in a fledgling start-up with a presence in both the UAE and UK. Taking the plunge took courage but it has proven to be a fantastic decision.

Tell us something about your brand that we might not know?

Naksha means “map” in Sanskrit. The name is a nod to my heritage, given that I am from India. But it also reflects the underlying concept. Our recipe kits are intended to guide the user, to lead them on journeys, and to help them explore the world  – just like a map does. 

Did you always suspect you’d end up as an entrepreneur?

I gave up a full-time, well-paid corporate job to co-found Naksha. It was a risk, especially considering I had no experience in the food and beverage sector. Some people counselled me against it. But from the outset I knew that I had to skills and motivation to make it happen. 

I have always been very hands-on and collaborative in how I work. I enjoy speaking to people, fixing problems and getting things done. These are all key attributes of entrepreneurs. I also had complete confidence in the core Naksha idea. Although the concept wasn’t fully formed at the beginning and has undergone numerous iterations, a proposition that makes it easier for ordinary to folk to cook interesting cuisines at home set up has a simple logic and powerful appeal. That made it easier to take the risk of becoming entrepreneur. Had circumstances been different (for example, had we not had the opportunity to pitch our idea to Spinneys and Waitrose in the UAE), I may never have started this business. But as it turned out, I caught the entrepreneurship bug now and am loving the process of growing and developing the brand. 

What is your favourite collection and why?

They are all very good. However, if pushed I would point people towards our Singapore Collection. It was co-created with the Singapore Tourism Board with recipes designed by a Michelin star Singapore chef. So it comes as close to being the “official” taste of Singapore as anything out there!

Tell me about your vision for the coming 12 months?

We take huge confidence from the overwhelmingly positive response of retailers distributors and potential users in the UK. Our dream list of retailers (Harrods, Whole Foods, John Lewis, Selfridges, Waitrose, etc) have all either confirmed that they will retail our products or expressed interest. We are speaking to many others and look forward to communicating good news soon. We know we are in an enviable position for any new food brand and we are excited to make Naksha a huge success. This will require investment, however. We have bootstrapped everything so far but now are looking for external funding to help accelerate our growth in the next year and beyond.