She is a Bangalorean who has lived, studied and worked across the globe before ending up in Gurugram because her husband works in public policy and can’t be anywhere else. But she is running a food start-up that makes millet-based products out of choice. Meghana Narayan, 44, is the co-founder of Wholsum Foods, the holding company of brands including Slurrp Farm and Millé. Before turning entrepreneur Narayan has been an athlete, academic and consultant.
Narayan was a competitive swimmer for eight years and represented India in the Asian Games in 1998, SAF Games and other international competitions. She holds a degree in computer science and engineering from Bangalore University before studying computation at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and then topped it off with an MBA from Harvard. She also worked at McKinsey for about a decade across two stints in the United Kingdom and the United States.
While in the consulting world, the 44-year-old ran the public health practise and child nutrition was a focus area for her. “Feeding children is a non-trivial issue,” she says, sounding invested and interested at once. “After I moved back to India in 2012 and had my daughter, most food that I found in the stores was a combination of maida, Dalda and sugar. Everyone, especially children, needs something more nutritious and healthier than that,” she says. She quit her job in 2015 and co-founded Wholsum Foods and Slurrp Farm products hit the market in 2016.
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Today, the brand has found an investor and a prominent face in new mother and Bollywood star Anushka Sharma and that has helped turn the focus on eating better and done wonders for the brand itself.
Narayan speaks to Lounge about her mentor, why she stays away from her phone in the morning, the power of compounding and how starting your day early really helps.
Who do you consider your mentor?
My swimming coach, Nihar Ameen, was my first mentor. He showed me the power of compounding… 1% better every single day creates magic over the years.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor’s guidance?
He taught me a technique called progressive relaxation. To this day I use this intense combination of meditation and visualisation of what can be to centre myself and play to win.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
For me, it has always been about paying it forward. I have been given the gift of many mentors over the years and each one has brought their superpower to me. I try hard to do exactly that for my colleagues.
Describe your morning schedule?
I wake up between 6 and 6.15 am. First thing that I do is squish my 10-year-old daughter and spend time with her while she eats her breakfast. I get a strong cup of filter coffee around this time. I also exercise three times a week. My brain is the smartest early morning, so I do all of my deep work before the day’s calls and meetings start.
What’s the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Staying away from my phone the first thing in the morning.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth?
Unfortunately, there is no one place to get your answers. I find talking to as many people who have walked the path I am trying to walk very helpful. As one entrepreneur told me: “Let me tell you about all the mistakes I made so you can go make new ones".
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How do you unwind? Do you pursue any serious hobbies?
I love spending time with friends and I love sleeping. I do love the mountains and as a family we try to take short breaks as often as we can. These trips involve hikes and lots of conversation. No serious hobbies at this time. I am raising a child and a company. And, like I said, I do love my sleep.
What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have made your professional and personal life much easier?
Start early, and keep slots in your day that allow you to think — you need to step back to step forward. Do what gives you joy.
What do you look for when choosing food for your children?
Not far… Slurrp Farm is the right answer to this. More seriously, my 10-year-old has been raised on whole grains and no junk… so that makes her the easiest kid to feed.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness