25-year-old Sarrah Kapasi was sensitised to the problems faced by type-I diabetic patients early in life. Her father, Muslim Kapasi, was diagnosed with the condition around the time she was born. “Type-I is more severe in comparison to type-II diabetes, which is a lifestyle disorder. Dad’s pancreas were extremely weak, his health was deteriorating — at one point, it became very serious,” Sarrah recounts. That’s when Muslim, who is also a co-founder at D-Alive, decided to take charge and consult the best doctors in the country. But their treatment didn’t really help. Instead, a diet plan Muslim devised after consulting experts in other countries improved his metabolism miraculously.
He now knew what was good for his body but such foods were not easily available. It struck Sarrah that there might be a business opportunity here, and she decided to look closer at the ready-to-eat segment. She roped in her old friend Alfiya Attarwala to help her work on a list of ingredients and to finalise sweeteners that don’t cause a spike in blood-sugar levels. “I realised that even dry fruits, though rich in fibre, increased blood sugar levels,” says Attarwala.
Products of D-Alive are gluten-free, naturally sweetened and made of organic ingredients. “We want to provide holistic care to the diabetic patients, and also look to address other health concerns such as skin conditions, vitamin D deficiency and weight loss. Our products are designed to keep you full longer. Ghee, nuts with essential vegetable proteins and healthy fats such as seeds and edible gum are used,” explains Attarwala. The natural sweetener being used by the start-up is stevia. “One spoon of stevia helps us replace 15-16 gm of sugar,” she adds.
D-Alive Health’s product range includes Maai ka Laddu, made from moong dal, desi ghee and coconut sugar; cashew pistachio praline; Energy Pak and roasted peanut laddu. All of these are priced between Rs.349 and Rs.599 for 200-250 gm. Their products are expensively priced for the Indian market but Sarrah says that “keeping the target audience in mind and the price of the natural ingredients” this is as cost-effective as they can get.
D-Alive also sells glucose gels for Rs.99, which is used by people with low blood-sugar levels. It recently launched sweet sesame vinaigrette and sweet chilli sauce. “We want to be a 360-degree brand covering every aspect from food to accessories,” says Sarrah. Products in the pipeline include diabetic-friendly chewing gum, sauces and salad dressings.
At present, the start-up has 35 retail outlets in Mumbai, of which 15 are Nature’s Basket's, and are looking to expand to Delhi. Online, they are selling through Amazon along with other e-tailers for a national reach.