Suhasini and Anindita Sampath’s story: Between work breaks, at midnight, while movie-watching, during boredom – snacking slips in slowly into the cracks of our daily routines and, relative to the junk content of the food, warmly settles into the spaces inside our tummies and thighs.
As addictive and irresistible the habit to snack is, the baggage of calories, toxins, unhealthiness and consequent body image issues that come tagging along kickstarts a vicious cycle of self-loathing, stress-eating, self-loathing, stress… you get the gist.
More so for women, for whom beauty standards and ideal body size are constructs that society says contain their worth. And the cost of adjudging this tricky terrain often results in women going down extreme roads.
There are women who completely lay off snacks, depriving themselves of that sugar craving when it strikes, satiating their hunger vicariously through food videos online; then there are women who in straddling the pressures of ascribing to the ‘perfect’ waist fall into them and end up devouring more than they want to.
This dilemma was precisely what inspired in sisters Suhasini and Anindita Sampath the idea of a healthy snack brand.
“Late evenings at work meant fried samosas, noodles or sugar-loaded foods. We love these, but deﬁnitely wanted more out of our snacks,” the Sampaths tell SheThePeople in a conversation. Out of this industry gap, YogaBar was born in 2014. In only seven years, the sister entrepreneur duo has built their snack label into a prominent brand valued at Rs 100 crore.
As they grow in size, the Sampath sisters’ dream of transforming people’s relations with food is supplemented by the motivation “to show young girls that gender has nothing to do with how well you can run a business.”
Suhasini & Anindita Sampath: On A Mission To Change The Way Women Look At Food And Health
“Busy foodies” – that category of young overworked professionals who barely just have time to even salivate at the thought of fulsome, decadent meals and have to make do everyday with quick, sad cups of flavourless instant noodles – are how the Sampath sisters too can best be described.
Anindita, co-founder and CEO of YogaBar, was a manager for Ernst & Young in New York, while Suhasini, co-founder and COO, was a manager for KPMG in Bengaluru. While both were tied to the United States via work and education, the sister duo was inclined to set up their entrepreneurial idea for snacking back home in India.
The only thing perhaps people here love more than their fried snacks is harbouring mistrust for women leaders and entrepreneurs at the top, financially independent and bubbling with ideas for change. Business is largely still seen as a boys’ club, with women pushing through the glass ceiling with every new innovation they propose. Did they face any such roadblocks?
“Fortunately, we never faced this challenge in the business,” the Sampaths say. “Everyone around us and in the business supported and appreciated our work and efforts irrespective of our gender. Our gender was never posed as a possible barrier to our entrepreneurial success.”
In fact, they say women love them, with the brand leadership of two women and sisters extending a trust factor to the female customer base. For instance, the idea of the founder (Suhasini) herself feeding their bars to her year-old daughter invokes a kind of sisterhood offering comfort and inspiration to other women navigating their motherhood journeys.
“We are a young company and we are just starting on our journey but we will always be bound by a few guiding principles,” they tell us.
“When we use the word ‘fitness’, we are referring to a state of health and well-being”: Sampath sisters, YogaBar
To that end, are there preconceived notions of women’s health and ideals of what their bodies must look like that the Sampath sisters’ enterprise could possibly strengthen? Are they working towards breaking down body stereotypes that hound women across ages?
“No, health does not have a gender… right nutrition is important for everyone irrespective of gender. The same is reflected in our sales, with about a fair distribution amongst our customers. We do believe that fitness and health is a major factor when most people consciously choose what they put in their bodies,” they say.
The “guiding principles” they speak of for their brand also includes steering clear of images that might hamper their endeavour for body positivity among women. “YogaBar would never imagine what a woman’s body should be like. Everyone’s journey of the body is different and beautiful, irrespective of their gender. We choose to not use models of only a certain kind for our ads because we do not believe that a body needs to look a certain way to be healthy.”