Supriya Sarin, Co-founder Vnya | Entrepreneur Driving Climate Action

A Conversation from The Climapreneur Show with Shweta Dalmia (Episode 2)

Supriya Sarin, Co-founder Vnya

It was very easy, like I wanted to change my profession, to something more productive from what I started years ago. Automatically, I am healing myself, my body, my family, my children, and I am healing the environment. So, it’s that easy you know.

Once you decide to make a difference, in a positive way, you will find a way.

How did you come up with this idea? What led you creating Vnya?

After exploring many trails our love for nature and animals and our growing passion for clean foods has led us here. It is a long story. We always believed in clean eating but, healing our body and soul with chemical free and naturally grown organic food was not always been a priority for us. We were leading hectic professional lives. We have been working for more than 15 years now. We always knew the importance of clean eating, but never found the time to implement it. In fact, we had no time to eat. We would eat our lunch at 4 in the evening, which we ordered from outside convenience.

Conveniences has taken over our lives. All of our lives you know. So yes, we were leading a very convenient but unhealthy life.

It never occurred to us till our four-legged boy “Leo” was diagnosed with an auto immune disease and he was being induced with steroids to keep his platelet count normal. And steroids as all of us know is a terrible terrible thing. It kind of kills you from inside. You feel they are saving you, but they are curing something and they are killing something else inside. So that’s when I turned a holistic approach. I sat one night, many nights rather; wrote to millions of doctors all over the world, while his allopathic was going on, to find out what is it. I read a lot about auto immune disease that he had thrombocytopenia. And I spoke to a lot of doctors. And then we zeroed down to one holistic doctor in Washington. Along with allopathic treatment, Leo is on a completely holistic diet for that. Which included organic food, which included vegetables, millets, eggs, everything that he was eating was organic. Along with that he was put on a plethora of supplements like Aloe vera, Amla, Wheatgrass , Giloy.

In fact, when we really started, our holistic doctor she prescribed a lot of supplements which are not even available here unfortunately. And I kept saying, no! we don’t have it and we don’t have time because Leo was not in a very good state. So, that is when she did her research. She found out about all these things which are available locally and since then Leo has been on that. It is been 4 years; Leo is 4 and a half years old. When he came to us after two houses, Ours’ was the third house. He fell sick immediately. So exactly it has been 4 and a half years, Leo has had auto immune disease. But the good news is has been off steroids or any medications for a really long time. The supplements though, he is still on the supplements which are again your normal aloe vera, amla, wheat grass.

I really believe that this is what has helped him to be completely healthy. He eats normal, he eats completely organic. Even for one day if we forget to get an organic egg for him, and we give him a normal egg, the next day Leo’s stomach goes for a toss. Immediately not even the next day, if we feed him an egg in the night according to his diet, then we take him for a walk, immediately if he has eaten a normal white egg his stomach goes for a toss.

He used to poop blood several times a day, pant vigorously, hardly eat anything, terribly weak and quiet. Now he is leaving on a healthy balanced organic diet that has changed his life our ours. So, this is what gave us the idea and motivation to take this professionally. So, this is what has given us the power to take this up professionally. I don’t like to use the word professionally because to be honest our aim is not just to build a profession around. It’s become our passion because we have ourselves have seen the change it has brought in our own child. And yes, the idea came from there.

What are your biggest learnings from your journey?

Every day is a learning, every person, everything I do, I learn something new you know. On a larger level on a larger scale, I will say my biggest learning has been clean eating, my journey with Vnya, advertising and my other profession has taught me to be honest and to give. While, not just to give others but myself also, give myself the opportunity the platform to be kind, be happy, and to live a wholesome life.

What gives you the strength to overcome your challenges?

Everything begins at home for me. So, my family, Leo, Kafka, my husband, my parents everybody, my mother-in-law. They all give me the strength. When I see smile on their face and now, Vnya is not just me and my husband. Vnya is actually my family. My whole family is included. I have kind of figured a way to make them a part of this journey. So, yes if they are happy, that gives me the strength, gives me the courage to do more, to push more, push my limits and be happy everyday even if there is something that goes wrong, I remind myself that I will overcome it because it makes me happy more importantly, it makes my family happy. This gives me so much more time with my family because now that everyone’s working together. It gives me so much time with them. My father he is been around, and my mother is been around all the time. They live in another city because of Vnya, we are spending much more time together. So, it makes me so happy and it gives me more courage and strength to move in this direction.

What does climate action mean to you?

So, that is one of the biggest reasons why Vnya started. Because Tilak and I, we are avid divers. I am more of a recreational diver but Tilak is slowly taking it professionally also wanting to become a diver. So, diving taught us a lot. While diving we travelled extensively. Diving is why climate action has become very important for us. Because we saw, we went to remote places ten years back and went there again after ten years. We saw the changes. The small town where people used to live their regular life 30-40 years ago has changed.

Commercialization has reached every nook and corner, it’s unbelievable. It takes me to reach that one particular place three days, when you go there you see now plastic everywhere. Where people used to walk on once upon a time, they are on bikes. For short distances as well. Progress is good you know. I am not against plastic, I am not against bottles, progress is good. Why should they not have electricity, why should they not have motorcycles, when in the city, city folks have all. As long as we are closing the circle. For example, you buy a pack of chips, but after you eat that pack of chips, what do you do with the plastic packet? As long as the plastic packet is going back to the system productively, it’s getting recycled.

What are you doing to the waste you have generated? I must find a way to close the circle. The planet is hurting, and it is time for us to heal it. Our habit makes our habitat. Sustainable farming, living and consuming is the way forward. It is made possible with very small, conscious and do able decisions.

Starting by consuming organic and not toxic food, which is the easiest way right? Nontoxic food, organic as well as biodegradable and plastic free products can help us move towards a healthier life and environment. So, it’s a hand in glove, you start with organic eating, by that you are supporting the soil, i.e., the ecosystem, that is where your food is being created. But if you do fertilizers, if you do plastics, if you throw plastic in the fields, it will be of no use at all. You can use that plastic, you can recycle that plastic, people are making roads, bags, so many products with plastics. Use it. If you are creating something, re use it. There is no problem as long as you reuse it, as long as you are not destroying what is important to you.

You have to realize environment, this climate, the environment, ground, the soil we are polluting, is not for our own good. We have to be selfish. We take the word selfish in a very negative way, no, we should be selfish in a positive way. If I am selfish and we want to take care of our child, our family, we will automatically want to eat organic food, we will automatically not want to eat something which is in a plastic, and the food which we get in these plastic bags, are not good for our system. So, I want to be selfish, and what am I going to do for being selfish, is I am going to stop eating this plastic food. I am going to start eating organic food, which will help the soil to become richer and it will help me in turn to make my body, my soul, and my child and my future generation.

So, at Vnya we are extremely committed to finding the best ways to utilize our excess produce and packaging and maintaining a low and zero waste policy in all our processes. We believe in closing the circle. You generate waste, ok, fine! you want to buy that chips, like I said, ok, fine. But now to find a way to put it back in the system productively.

You have to be accountable, you don’t destroy your own land, your fellow creatures with it. You have to be selfish, but you have to know what being selfish in a positive way means.

At Vnya you can find naturally and locally grown food while reducing plastic waste just like golden days. We are your typical old day “kirana store” where we encourage you to bring your own bartan (utensil), your own utensil fill it with clean wholesome produce verses you the now very convenient plastic packaged non-nutritious produce, simply put organic, non-adulterated, low or zero waste living is what we believe in, what we encourage.

Before starting Vnya did you have any fears and how do you feel about them now?

To begin with, I had very typical fears, like I still do. Being from a very middle-class family, I am completely self-made, completely self-made. Whatever, let’s speak monetarily, that is my biggest fear, right? That’s the reason why we work like the way we work. We don’t know how we will do; we just work like machines. So, that was our biggest fear when we started, because whatever money we have made is our own, we have worked really hard for it, and putting that money in a business whose future we weren’t aware of. We know the good parts about it, but from the business point of view, we weren’t aware of, to be very honest. We still aren’t. we were of course fearful of that; how will people respond? Will they be able to understand our intention more than anything? Because for me also, as a consumer, my purpose is to buy something and comeback home. Not realizing how I contributed to the environment shopping from that particular shop. So, that was our fear, because, we have lived their life, we had done what we fear right now. All of us are doing what we fear in any profession, somewhere or the other you are a client right? You are a client to a shop, whether is clothing, whether its food or anything. So that is a fear when we started, that is still a fear. But I am not going say its completely gone but yes, but that good thing with Vnya which is happening is that we are spending time with our family, in my environment, my system, my family system. That kind of help me to overcome that fear.

One piece of advice you would give to your younger self.

I would say that one piece of advice that I would like to give my younger self is, I should have not run after the money. I should have not run after these regular businesses. I should have given much thought that time. I should have. Because I was capable, and I am capable of much more and so are all of us. So, we should definitely not bow down to the societal pressure, and what your parents’ expectations are of you. My parents had no pressure on me of course, so I did what I had to. But I had built all the pressures on myself. So, don’t pressurize yourself. Don’t try to escape by saying, “Oh, my family would like it this way, or society will like it this way, or my boss would like it”, don’t pressurize yourself. All the pressures that we fell are coming from outside, are not, they are coming from your inside world. So, tell your inside world, “its ok”. You take your time, figure it out for you, it will come to you.

One piece of advice, you will give to the youth.

Same thing. Just go by your guts, give yourself time, listen to your inside self. Your world is all inside. Outside is something that you know, everybody has their world going on inside, ok. Don’t ever compare yourself to someone else, don’t ever compare your journey with someone else. Everybody has got there one individual journey. Do not bother, do not worry about what’s going on in that life, this life or where you stand according to your surroundings. You have to always look inside. You have a huge, there is a universe inside you. Look there. Look inside you. Every day, every morning, talk to yourself. Ask yourself, where do you want to go? How do you want your life to turn out? Just concentrate in your universe inside not outside.