The Cumin Club with Ragoth Bala feature #41 of Together Talks
Updated: Oct 25
"Together Talks" feature #41: The Cumin Club presented by KLS, freight company
Some Background on The Cumin Club
For today's edition of "Together Talks" campaign, KLS had the privilege to interview Co-Founder, Ragoth Bala of The Cumin Club. Meal kits and virtual restaurants serving authentic Indian cuisines in accessible formats. Always searching for that sense of belonging and a plate of our favorite comfort food is often the answer. However, creating those robust flavors from home is often difficult. Finding them can be impossible. They wanted to easily access the recipes they grew up with. The Cumin Club was the solution!
The Cumin Club - 5-minute meal kits at www.thecuminclub.com
The Cumin Bowl - healthy Indian bowls at www.thecuminbowl.com
2019 was the start of The Cumin Club. The company has 18 employees, 14 back in India, and 4 here in the U.S. Right off the bat the company faced turbulence with the Pandemic. Almost immediately after launching they had to shut down due to the crisis. Ragoth told us they shut down for 2 months straight and it nearly put them out of business. But they regrouped and came out if it more resilient and stronger.
For the first two years all of their brand recognition and awareness was attributed to word of mouth and organic advertising. But soon they realized they were starting to gain some real momentum so they built on that customer loyalty by offering a referral program. They also have recently ventured into paid social ads and influencers to continue to increase their brand exposure. The goal of the brand exposure isn't just to continue to grow the company and become a larger entity, that is just a byproduct. The true reason is much more authentic and aligns with their company mission. As Ragoth explained to us, "We want to make our product accessible to anyone in the world."
Sharing their Culture
Before we could understand the company we needed to know their why...We asked Ragoth how the company was started, what was the reason behind it and he shared, "I previously worked in corporate America and was going to school at night. My food options were limited being a Vegetarian. I was left with a falafel and rice or a caprese sandwich. My health took a hit and that is where the problem solving occurred. Around that time my Mom started sending me ingredients and meals from back home as a care package. The idea was born. I had friends try it out and they all said it tasted authentic. We were all on board and immediately began raising capital."
He called the 1st meal from his Mom back home he tasted the "aha moment". Tasted like home and it is something that can talk to me was what he told us. As he described, Meal kits existed and Indian food existed, but not combined. On average Indian dishes contain around 15 spices. For someone to run to the store to get all those ingredients is not practical. The group decided to create their own category. They aren't like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh because they focus solely on Indian Cuisine and their meals are ready in 5 minutes. They aren't like other pre-prepped meals because their food is not refrigerated or frozen, instead it is shelf stable and good for 6 months. And even more impressive they only use local ingredients from India for every meal curated here in the U.S. by Indian Chefs.
That was such an important aspect for The Cumin Club, to bring the authentic tastes of India, including region specific ingredients and dishes, to everyone here in America. "Often times you hear people say Indian food is spicy, that isn't true. It is flavorful. However many Indian restaurants here are not using true authentic ingredients and it is commercialized. We saw the demand to bring authenticity back to our food. But with that we need to educate consumers of what true Indian food includes and taste like." Ragoth told us.
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Ragoth understood the demand for authentic Indian food, but also realized the challenges that presents. He told us that most Indian food includes lentil which require soaking, an overnight process, then cooking takes about an hour. In the fast paced environment many inhibit, that is why most settle for Indian take out. They knew for their product to be as effective as possible, convenience was a factor. That is how they came upon the "ready in 5 minutes, just add water". The ingredients don't lose their flavor, the meal kits can be consumed anywhere, and important to The Cumin Club, their packaging is environmentally conscious.
"We are creating a future centric business model. There is no freezing packs, no refrigerated handling, none of those packs that are not good for the environment. This is important to us. It is one of our business pillars." Ragoth explained. They also put the same type of emphasis on the food itself. The company controls every aspect of the fully integrated supply chain, they do not partner with a co-pack or manufacturer. Controlling the quality, prep, process is vital to ensuring consumers receive the best product possible. They also don't use any preservatives or fillers, only natural ingredients. This promotes Vegan and Vegetarian lifestyles and they encourage consumers to read their ingredients as no product should have any surprises.
The company focuses on providing the highest quality dishes for their consumers which is why they are not just mass producing typical Indian dishes. As Ragoth told us, "Our super power is the regional ingredients we use. We have the ability to constantly highlight different regions and provide an entirely new experience to consumers for authentic Indian food." The Cumin Club has proceeded to evolve to 35 dishes in total available through their website and Amazon. They offer weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly subscription packages for 5/10/20 meals. The company also has 7 restaurant locations known as The Cumin Bowl!
Changing the perception of Indian food has been one of the biggest hurdles for the company. But remarkably that hasn't stopped their success. Recently the company just sold their 1 Millionth meal kit! In that span they have served over 40,000 customers. Ragoth shared with us one of the most humbling moments was back when the Pandemic began, "We started issuing refunds because we were out of inventory to restock pending orders. We apologized, but there was nothing we could do. We started receiving responses from the customers with open orders telling us to hold the money and send the meal kits when we have them, no matter how long it took. That put it into perspective we were really building something that we had this type of loyalty only 6 months in as a fresh, new brand. Fast forward a few short years and one day we looked at our progress and saw we hit one million, we couldn't believe it!"
As Ragoth mentioned the education process is challenging and as he referred to it scary and daunting as well. But with that comes an opportunity, for which the company is willing to help instill change and growth. Another component is in the last 5-10 years the transition from animal protein to plant based protein. Ragoth told us, while they support plant based, they also understand their product is offering ACTUAL plant protein, not manufactured protein. Lentils, the "OG" of plant protein, as Ragoth called it, is what they want to promote.
Ethos and Building
The Cumin Club is not only committed to bringing India here to America, but incorporating the lifestyle as well when applicable. As Ragoth explained to us, "We call it East meets West." The company's unique perspective on culture because they have explained such different ones in their lives. He continued, "Any culture can have good and bad he shared, but we are trying to fuse the best of both together to create the ideal setting for our company, our product, and our community."
They continue that type of support and inclusivity with their charitable acts. Ragoth told us, their charity is not for the brand exposure, but rather because it is near and dear to their hearts. In India they continue to create more employment as their factory floor employs more than 100 people. Here in the states part of their Ethos is not wasting any food. Instead anything close to expiring is immediately donated to local charities.
We asked Ragoth his favorite part of the company and he didn't hesitate...FOOD! :) Being able to work for a good company that he is passionate about means so much to him he shared. He also told us that his wife and him eat the meal kits 3-4x a week. Making products not only you enjoy but thousands of others and one day millions has really left him grateful.
What is next for the Cumin Club? Ragoth explained that for the remainder of the year they want to increase their relationships with the D2C model including more communications and transparency. Along those lines they want to start entering the retail channel to find other avenues to reach consumers. Ragoth touched on when they hit 1 million meals served earlier and he also called that the most joyous moment to date. But the reasoning behind it once again just beautifully tied back to their goal of educating and changing the narrative, "We fed tens of thousands of people to reach 1 million meals. It is something to be proud of for sure, but also feel and take on more responsibility. This isn't a side project or an experiment, this is real and it increases how much attention we put towards quality and consistency. We did something right for the first million, we want to build on that for the next 9 million."
The quick pitch as Ragoth explained, "Ramen for Indian food but WAY better ingredients (lentils, rice, beans, veggies). We took the convenience of Ramen but replaced it with the goodness of Vegan and Vegetarian and provided something not only good, but authentic." And chasing that first 10 million meals aligns with the 5 year vision plan Ragoth shared with us, "Make Indian food accessible anywhere in the U.S. And for people who live a Vegan or Vegetarian lifestyle, which is becoming more and more prominent, Indian Food can be a catalyst."
Go purchase a subscription from their website (WE DID!) and use the coupon code "KLIMSON25"for a 25% discount!
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KLS wants to thank Ragoth for sharing the story of The Cumin Club for today's "Together Talks" feature. Keep up to date with The Cumin Club by following their blog on their website, check it out here. Follow along for their journey with their social handles below!
The Cumin Club has also been featured in the following articles:
And the following podcasts:
Klimson Logistics Solutions - The Cumin Club with Ragoth Bala feature #41 of Together Talks
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