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Keerthi Priya: From BITS Pilani to Empowering Farmers and Women through Koh! Foods and Nurture Fields

Keerthi Priya: From BITS Pilani to Empowering Farmers and Women through Koh! Foods and Nurture Fields


Keerthi Priya, a graduate of BITS Pilani (Hyderabad, ‘15) in the B. Pharm program, is the Founder and CEO of Koh! Foods and founder of Nurture Fields. She did her MBA and PGDM from IIM Calcutta. Later, she worked for companies like Jana Finance Bank, Lokal, and DY Works before starting with Nurture Fields and Koh! Foods. As she describes herself, she truly is ‘A self-driven individual with proven ability to work in challenging environments. Believes in developing simple, creative, efficient, and scalable solutions to complex problems

Can you tell us about your life at BITS and how BITS contributed to your life?

During my time at BITS Pilani, I experienced a transformative period that significantly shaped my perspective. Hailing from a tier-two city, the transition to BITS opened up a world of opportunities, mainly through extracurricular engagements, club involvement, and nurturing relationships. These experiences fueled my creativity, honed my skills, and instilled confidence in executing ideas. One notable aspect of BITS is its supportive environment, enabling students to explore diverse interests and strengthen their abilities.

Despite pursuing a degree in Pharma, I delved into research under Prof. Punarau, collaborating with a Ph.D. student in the lab. This hands-on experience expanded my understanding of research and laboratory practices. Additionally, my involvement in the Pharma Council and the Telugu Samithi Editorial Board underscored the value of building meaningful connections during my academic journey.

Can you take us through your journey from being a student at IIM Calcutta and choosing the path to becoming the successful entrepreneur you are today?

Post-BITS, my aspiration to address food wastage and support marginalized farmers led me to consider entrepreneurship in the food industry. I recognized the need for a more informed approach and pursued an MBA at IIM Calcutta. This decision provided me with the necessary business acumen and emphasized the importance of creating impactful and sustainable ventures.

Ultimately, my journey reflects the power of experiential learning, interdisciplinary collaboration, and leveraging education to drive positive change in society.


You worked in various companies before you started with Nurture Fields and Koh! What were some of your career's key milestones and learnings until that part?

After completing my MBA from IIM Calcutta, I started my career at a major bank, where I worked directly under the CEO, Ajay Kanval, managing various responsibilities. This role was pivotal in my professional journey, as it exposed me to the dynamics of a large corporate environment and the nuances of executive leadership. Working closely with the CEO, who has extensive international experience, taught me invaluable lessons in communication, decision-making, and organizational structure. Following this, I transitioned to a startup called Local, where I served as the operational head, overseeing operations, strategy, and content development for regions in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This experience provided me with hands-on insights into building and managing a startup from the ground up, including financial management and team leadership.

Can you share how Nurture Fields and Koh! Foods originated, including the ideas behind them and the initial challenges you encountered during their inception?

During the inception of Koh! Foods the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, prompting a shift in focus towards food security and health awareness. This period spurred my decision to venture into the food industry, recognizing the growing demand for convenient yet nutritious options, especially among working individuals and households facing time constraints.

Koh! Foods operates by collaborating with marginalized farmers, procuring diverse fruits and vegetables for dehydration at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. This approach aligns with my background in Pharma and my passion for sustainability, which drive me to address challenges in the food sector.

Establishing the company posed several challenges, including farmer engagement, factory staff training, and overcoming age and gender biases as a young female entrepreneur. Despite initial hurdles and societal stereotypes, the journey revealed unexpected support from farmers and communities, highlighting the potential for positive change in traditionally patriarchal spaces.


Can you elaborate on your sustainability efforts, including collaborations with farmers, advocating for pesticide-free cultivation, and empowering rural women through employment initiatives?

My business approach focuses on two key areas. Firstly, stemming from my background in a village community where girls face early marriage and limited opportunities, I aimed to inspire change by showcasing what women from our community can achieve. This had dual benefits: encouraging parents to recognize their daughters' potential and empowering girls to believe in their capabilities. Hence, I structured my company with a workforce predominantly composed of women, providing them with technical skills and computer literacy training.

Secondly, I aimed to support farmers by introducing new crops like beetroot, moringa, and carrots, which align with market demands. We also trained them in sustainable cultivation methods, emphasizing the use of biopesticides and fertilizers to ensure the quality and safety of our products. This holistic approach benefits all stakeholders-from soil health to farmer livelihoods, factory employees, and ultimately, consumers-creating a positive and sustainable ecosystem.


How do you stay ahead of changing consumer preferences and market trends in the food industry, adapting your strategies accordingly?

We continuously innovate by following industry trends and developing new products like blends. Our focus extends to B2B partnerships, including clean food brands sourcing ingredients from us and expanding into international markets like the US and UAE. While food habits change slowly, we're attuned to emerging consumer awareness regarding additives and health concerns, aligning our offerings accordingly. Our products don't aim to change habits drastically but cater to existing preferences, considering cultural preferences like savory breakfasts in India. Balancing innovation with customer preferences remains key, ensuring our approach remains customer-centric.

Can you discuss the challenges you've encountered as a female entrepreneur and how you've overcome them? What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs in male-dominated fields and entrepreneurs overall?

This is a favorable era for female entrepreneurs despite prevailing discrimination. I've learned and applied the importance of seeking support and speaking up about challenges, leveraging platforms like social media and women-focused groups. The startup ecosystem, including initiatives like 'Startup India,' has provided crucial financial backing and resources for my venture.

My advice to fellow entrepreneurs, especially women, is to proactively seek assistance from anyone who can contribute, whether it's mentorship, funding, or expertise. Overcoming the imposter syndrome is key; expressing concerns and seeking help fosters progress. I've personally experienced the positive impact of reaching out within my network for various needs, such as marketing strategies, with remarkable responsiveness and collaboration. Embracing opportunities and vocalizing needs with empathy can lead to meaningful support and growth.

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