#Digital Women Hub

How Ahana Gautam Is Unjunking The Snacking Industry With Open Secret

Ahana Gautam
Ahana Gautam took a one-way flight from the US to India to provide healthy snacking options in the Indian F&B (food and beverage) market. Born and brought up in a small town in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, Gautam went on to study at IIT. But her true awakening came when she attended Harvard Business School. That’s when Ahana found her purpose. A seat at Harvard is responsible for making a difference to the world. Her goal was to build a homegrown brand to help people explore healthier snacking options.

How Ahana Gautam went on from being an engineer to a food freak

How did the idea strike her? Ahana recalls whenever she would come back home from her school, she munched on the junk packaged food available in the house. As a result, she became overweight and would fall sick often. That was her primary motivation to create products with zero sugar and all-purpose flour. 

While studying at Harvard, she realised customers abroad had a variety of healthy snacking alternatives to choose from. At the same time, back home, her sister-in-law would often complain about not being able to find healthy yet tasty snacks for the family. This raised an intriguing question for her. Why do Indian families need to eat junk? And that’s how Open Secret was ideated and later started up in 2019.

Talking about the F&B Industry, Ahana says that by 2026 India will have a $30 Billion valued health food industry. India has one of the most unhealthy packaged foods in the world, and there is a lot of scope. 

Business tips by Ahana Gautam 

Ahana believes that businesses must never outsource the most difficult challenges they face. Hence it is inevitable as founders to build your team and company’s culture yourself. Ahana believes that if business leaders don’t look at challenges as opportunities, they cannot grow. 

People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. I urge you to dream big, to ignite a fire within yourself, and I do not doubt that you will figure it all out. If I can do it, you can too – Ahana 

Her biggest inspiration to start her business was inspired by the struggles her mother faced while raising her kids as a single parent in a small city. Her mother pushed her to take on challenges otherwise reserved for men. Her company Open Secret is dedicated to single mothers who have to face judgements and guilt every day for feeding ready-to-eat snacks to kids. 

No matter how healthy our product is, if it doesn’t taste good people are not going to buy it, says Ahana. To set that expectation right, they aimed at “mom-approved” snacks. 

She battled many challenges also, Right after Open Secret started operations, COVID-19 debilitated businesses. At such a crucial juncture for a newborn business, digital medium helped them to scale up. While working from home, Google Hangouts became the lifeline for seamless communication among their team members.

Ahana Gautam is building an inclusive workplace at Open Secret

Ahana has launched the Open Secret Mother’s Program – an initiative to help Mothers return to the urban workforce with flexible working conditions. This resulted in more than 50 mothers returning to the workforce in a span of a few months. It was a priority for Ahana to provide employment opportunities to mothers from the local communities. Ahana proudly recalls that more than 50% of the C-Level leadership at Open Secret are women. 

While looking for a location for setting up a manufacturing industry, she visited locations with shabby toilets. For her, providing proper working conditions to the people working on the assembly line was a priority. It is interesting to note how women founders care about little things that matter, clean toilets for women in India is largely an unaddressed issue. 

Ahana Gautam’s advice to young women

A young girl once wrote a letter to Ahana about how inspiring it had been to see a woman CEO, which validated all her choices. 

As a girl with roots in a small town amidst prejudice and gender bias, she chased her dreams voraciously. To those who are exploring something different than expected of them, she says, “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. I urge you to dream big, to ignite a fire within yourself, and I do not doubt that you will figure it all out. If I can do it, you can too”, she signs off.

In partnership with Google.