‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ – The Vegan Society
World over, there is a conscious movement towards a lifestyle that is focussed around sustainability. Greenr Cafe, founded by entrepreneurs Mohit Yadav and Nitin Dixit, capitalizes on this shift to green sensibilities through a holistic experience that propagates conscious consumption, sustainable design, organic food values, and a sense of community. DSSC catches up with Mohit Yadav to understand what it means to adopt a more sustainable food philosophy.
How would you sum up the philosophy that is at the core of Greenr in terms of its concept, food, and values?
At its core, Greenr aspires to kickstart a new movement in the Indian restaurant industry; one that facilitates accessible and affordable conscious eating. We also aspire to build a community space that allows change-makers and emerging brands to reach out to a wider audience, as a way of promoting community building from the ground up.
What inspired you to bring forth a restaurant concept that propagates a sustainable lifestyle, and celebrates vegetarianism and veganism?
The strong belief that the time to act in the interest of the planet and towards the well-being of its people is now! People today are starting to question what they are eating; you see this change in the choices of products that are now available on supermarket shelves, and in what the average neighbourhood restaurant offers. This is a very positive trend, which we hope will grow at least at somewhat the same pace as in the West, if not faster given our local considerations.
As a restaurant that caters to a niche need of the industry, how do you stand tall among other mainstream restaurant options?
We are happy in our niche segment in the restaurant industry, which is becoming increasingly aspirational for the mainstream. As a business, it is best to stay focussed on a speciality and carve out a space for oneself. This offers more longevity. Greenr’s biggest differentiator is that our food is almost entirely devoid of processed ingredients and chemicals since everything is made in-house.
Starting out, both Nitin and I were never inspired to adopt mainstream food formats, and you can now see a noticeable shift in the tastes of the traditional mainstream customer. They are tired of the multitude of similar options available to them in the market.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced while balancing between promoting sustainable living and the existential need of running and remaining in business?
There have been challenges. At Greenr, we’ve always adopted the approach of giving any situation our best shot; surviving and growing as a business that has an outlook geared towards long-term success, has been absolutely imperative to us. Some of the key challenges we’ve had to overcome have been around the availability of ingredients and food components, but we addressed this by building our own supply chain. We make almost everything in-house. It was a daunting task in the first few years of operation, but the market is catching up quickly to what we have to offer, and our patience is being rewarded. In addition, we constantly strive to evolve with respect to the products we have to offer as well as the experience, so as to find the right fit in the market.
What according to you do the future consumption patterns seem to be gravitating towards? Will we continue down this road of eating less meat and poultry, and more fresh vegetables and whole foods?
As we become more conscious of our health and well-being, we will definitely be moving towards a more plant-based diet. This includes eating more whole foods, preferably including ingredients that are locally sourced and harvested. In the Indian market specifically, the current trend towards veganism is still largely dominant among the hyper-aware and/or affluent sections of society — though this seems to be spreading to the other demographics rather quickly. There still remains a large wave of people in India who are just becoming economically empowered, and with that, the cycle of meat and poultry consumption will continue. Our hope is that this consumption pattern is short lived.
As far as the evolution of food and beverage industry is concerned, the rising awareness among consumers is going to push for greater transparency, with more customers expecting full disclosure in terms of ingredients used in prepared foods. Overall, the trend will definitely tilt toward healthier foods as that is the clear direction being taken by influencers across Tier 1 cities. Who would have ever thought that Virat Kohli would turn vegan?
How would you describe the audience or profile of the average diner at Greenr?
We have been warmly surprised by the varied profiles of customers who have walked into Greenr and enjoyed a meal with us. As a general practice, we want to remain open towards our customer profile. After all, what we are offering is a healthy alternative to mainstream food. This means that now you can have your favourite foods and not feel guilty about them at all — most people are quite happy with that proposition! Additionally, our focus on superior quality of ingredients offered at affordable price points, allows us to serve a much larger audience. Having said that, I suppose our core customer is generally creative, open-minded, global in their outlook, health-conscious, and sensitive to environmental issues.
There is a strong focus on community building at Greenr, with it not only adhering to a framework of sustainable guidelines, but also functioning as a successful co-working space. How important is maintaining this business model to the success of Greenr?
Beyond the café, the focus is not simply on providing a workspace to freelancers, rather it goes deeper in that it encourages real social interactions and meaningful exchanges. Community building is at the core of our vision which gives space to creative people to feel at home in the company of other sustainability and health enthusiasts.
What are some of the dishes from the Greenr menu that you would recommend to those trying vegan food for the first time?
There are a few dishes — the Downtown Beirut Falafel Burger, Bangkok Street Tofu Bowl, and the Austin Jackfruit Roll — would be good to start with.
After having spoken at length about sustainable food choices and conscious greener living, we ended the rendezvous with Mohit by firing our signature DSSC Rapid Fire at him:
Favourite dish from the Greenr menu?
That would have to be the Shroom Balls Pizza.
Three essentials every vegan kitchen should stock up on?
Cashews, nutritional yeast, and coconut everything.
What do you know about veganism now that you did not know starting out?
The endless possibilities of creating with plant-based ingredients.
If you had to pick one dish to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would stick to the all-time comfort of dal, roti, and sabzi.
Describe Greenr in three words?
Making vegetarianism sexy.
Your dream guest list of diners to have over?
We are actually really happy with our regulars and would only ask for more.