This edition of the ‘Food For Thought with Vegan Change Makers’ interview series is all about International Women’s Day! Women are ruling the plant based world and this post is dedicated to all the incredible vegan women change makers, leaders and role models that are working every day to make the world a better place for every living being:) Happy International Women’s Day Ladies! You’re an inspiration:)
This special issue features Shasvathi Siva, a strong female role model in the young but growing plant based industry in India. From starting as a friendly neighbourhood food blogger and vegan cheese maker to transforming into a successful plant based entrepreneur and the Founder of Cowvathi, a cow friendly food startup in India; her journey of change is a true inspiration:)
- Name: Shasvathi Siva
- Location: Mumbai, India
- Change Maker Category: Plant Based Entrepreneur
- Enterprise Name: Cowvathi
- The Year the Enterprise was founded: 2017
- The Elevator Pitch: Breaking stereotypes about vegan cheese and plant based food with a delicious vegan food product range as an alternative to dairy products
- Products: Vegan Cheese, Dips, Yoghurt & Plant Based Milks
- Website: www.facebook.com/cowvathi/
- Personal Instagram Handle: @shasvathi
- Enterprise Instagram Handle: @cowvathi
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your story? When & why did you decide to go vegan?
I’m a simple, happy-go-lucky girl from Chennai, who moved to Mumbai about 12 years ago along with my family. After we moved to Mumbai, we welcomed two beautiful dogs into our home. They changed our lives upside down. My parents were the first ones to make the connect. My dad visited a dairy farm and decided to go vegan overnight. I took more time than he did, finished my research and watching a fair share of videos before making the choice to give up all forms of dairy. I wouldn’t say that was an easy journey, but once I reached this side, I realised the grass is truly greener here.
When, why & how did you start your enterprise and what is your vision/mission or dream for the organisation?
I worked in advertising as a writer for 5+ years, and constantly carried around the weight of not feeling fulfilled. I really wanted to contribute to the vegan world and the growth of veganism in India. Cowvathi was only a blog then, so I decided to take her forward and create her into a brand itself. When I started the blog, I had no idea that one day I’d turn it into a brand. But I guess I had already begun my journey without even realising I had. My vision for Cowvathi is that one day I want to set up a quaint cafe with all kinds of affordable vegan food:)
What’s the story behind the name Cowvathi?
My father had bought this farm set of animals. I wanted to take the pig from the set, but he loved the pig too much. After putting up a fight, he finally settled on giving me the cow. (Thank goodness he did, huh?) I took days trying to come up with a name for her, but just couldn’t. I was trying too hard. Then one day the name ‘Cowvathi’ just popped into my head while I was fast asleep. I got attached to the name and decided to stick with it.
What were the main challenges you faced as a plant based entrepreneur & how did you overcome them?
Entrepreneurship is all about challenges. All kinds of them. But as a plant based one, I think the first challenge is explaining to people why this is important and why I am doing this. Other challenges include delivery, cold storage, etc; which I’m still figuring out as my journey progresses.
Tell us a little about vegan cheese. What goes into the process? What can it be used for? And how does it compare to traditional dairy cheese in terms of the taste/texture/eating experience?
The vegan cheese I make is from Cashews. It’s quite versatile & can be used for making pizzas, pastas, lasagnas, sandwiches, Maggi (Noodle Brand), & so much more. It’s a different experience from Cow cheese because the ingredients are completely different. But having said that, it does give a very cheesy flavour. I’ve received very good feedback for my cheese, especially the Vegan Garlic Basil Cheese.
What is your typical daily vegan meal plan? What do you usually eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks & dinner?
I LOVE FOOD! A typical day for me includes mainly South Indian food. I start the day with 2 huge glasses of fruit smoothies; move on to Poha/Upma (Savoury Breakfast Dishes) for breakfast; lunch is mostly Rasam (South Indian Broth), rice and a vegetable curry; snacks include fruit/steamed veggies/salad; & dinner is a repeat of lunch. In the middle of this, I manage to dunk a couple of mugs of Chai (Tea) too. And I occasionally binge on vegan junk food as well.
What is favourite vegan comfort food/dish?
Rasam Rice. Maggi. Curd Rice.
What is your favourite vegan friendly cooking ingredient that we will always find in your kitchen?
“Veganism goes beyond food, it’s a lifestyle change.”
What is your favourite vegan/cruelty free item of clothing/fashion that we will always find in your wardrobe?
Veganism goes beyond food, it’s a lifestyle change. Even clothes. Everything I own is fabric made from plants and plant derived materials, and not animals. You’ll mostly see me walking around in a comfortable pair of cotton pyjamas and a cotton top/t-shirt.
What is your favourite vegan/cruelty free personal care or lifestyle product that we will always find in your home?
Kajal (Eye Pencil/Liner). I cannot do without Kajal at all.
What is a product or ingredient that you were surprised to learn is not vegan and/or a product or ingredient that you were surprised to learn was in fact accidentally vegan?
Uncle Chips (Indian Chip Brand) are not vegan! But Oreos are vegan:)
What is the most common veganism/plant based/cruelty free lifestyle related question that a lot of people ask you & what is your answer to that?
“But there are no vegan places next to my house“: I tell them that there is no need to have a vegan cafe next to you so you can go vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a one-time meal plan. You can eat vegan anywhere and everywhere.
What is a common veganism/plant based/cruelty free lifestyle related stereotype or myth that you often come across & that you want to address or break?
That veganism is expensive. It really isn’t if you learn to start making use of your kitchen smartly.
What’s your favourite veganism/plant based/cruelty free lifestyle related Book/Movie/TV Show/Podcast that you would recommend to others & why?
I don’t really have a book or movie for reference since they affect me too deeply. But I really liked Okja (Netflix), in recent times. I’d also like to share some of the biggest vegan inspirations on Instagram.
What advice would you give to people/aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start plant based enterprises?
Go ahead & be part of the change! We need to build veganism in India to a much larger extent & work really hard to make it mainstream. But also make sure you know the shortcomings & the difficulties in running a business. I’d suggest that you work with a fellow vegan company for a couple of months; so the learning can only help.
What are advice would you give to people who want to transition to/continue to maintain a vegan & cruelty free lifestyle?
DO IT! It’s more than important for the animals, the planet & your own health. It’s very possible to live vegan today anywhere in the world. The animals will thank you profusely:)
I hope you enjoyed the second edition of Food For Thought with Vegan Change Makers! I would love to hear your comments or feedback about other interesting questions I could add to my interviews in the future! I’m also looking for other exciting vegan change makers to feature in my upcoming interview series. If you know anyone who is making a difference in the world of veganism (anywhere across the globe), then please leave me a message on my Contact page with the details! Thank you:)