Full of ideas, Rachna Parsad’s one idea turned out to be a million dollar idea. This million dollar idea is Gourmantra Foods, a company that produces spices sold in local grocery stores across North America. In five years, the idea of selling blends from small foil bags has grown to be a full blown company with emphasis on taste as well as presentation. The business started off from a booth in Main Street, Markham and a $1,000 investment. It was instant success, and grew from there. That summer they sold their masalas at a number of different local festivals.
Later in 2005, Rachna’s sister Mona put together a business plan on their idea for a course at Wilfred Laurier University. The professor loved the idea and Mona got an A. The professor advised them to enter a competition between Laurier, University of Waterloo and University of Guelph. The competition was won and “we got a lot of press coverage,” says Rachna happily. The simple idea was now tested among consumers in a broader market. And, of course, there was great worth in it. Rachna Parsad, the CEO of the company is in the business with her mother and sister. She gave up her corporate job to be an entrepreneur. “There are about 300 people associated with our company, brokers, drivers, sales people, and manufacturers,” Rachna tells us. Not only does Rachna manage the business, she is a mother of a four-year-old son and a nine-month-old daughter. And she is still filled with energy and enthusiasm to do more. Increasingly, not finding Mr. Perfect or Miss Perfect is the concern in many South Asian families. Many people speculate that girls are too educated and too ambitious and are the reasons for late-age marriages. In Rachna’s opinion that’s not it. The real problem is to find place to meet with people. “Meeting new South Asians,” is a problem. Additionally “if you’ve grown up in the South Asian environment, maybe you identify better with that” so you look for a South Asian partner. Of course, “marriage is a lifetime commitment, and you have to find the person,” she reflects.
Rachna is also one of those young mothers who want her kids to be raised by the family and not a baby sitter. Having her parents and in-laws close by has been a great resource for her. The excitement of having a grandchild was so great that Rachna’s mother-in-law did an early child education course “just so she could understand how to raise children at this age. She does a lot of activities with them. She’s better than any daycare,” Rachna tells her, with gratitude for her mother-in-law. With love for culture, Rachna defines being Canadian as “Canadians are their culture first and then Canadian. It’s not like America, where they are just Americans. It’s not a melting pot but it’s a cultural mosaic. So you get to keep your heritage. Whenever I’m travelling I say I’m Canadian of Indian descent. That’s who we are.” She wants her children to not only learn Hindi but also to understand the Indian culture and to relate to it. To that end, she is thinking of having her kids got to a summer school in India. Although her mother-in-law is much more into her son’s school’s activities, lately “my mother-in-law has put her foot down and said the teacher has asked that you go,” so now Rachna participates in her son’s school activities.
The next step for Gourmantra Foods is to develop a TV show called “Finding Her Mantra.” “Finding Her Mantra” is “about east meets west, about our cultural heritage and the interaction with the Western culture; how to run a business, and how to deal with two kids. It’s how I navigate through life. I’m pitching it, let’s see. I’ll keep my fingers crossed..I want to put Indian food in the mouths of as many Canadians as possible and Americans and make it as popular as Chinese food or pasta.”