Kajol Sethia: Fighting animal cruelty one product at a time
Born in the Jain Marwadi family, Kajol Sethia, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and animal rights activist, has always been a vegetarian. But she only came to know and understand veganism when she went to university in Singapore. Most of the people she met and went on to become friends with were staunch vegans.
In 2015, she began her vegan journey by consciously choosing to eliminate everything that was animal-based from her diet. She claims that becoming a vegan improved her stamina. “I felt stronger than before,” she says. Today, she regularly participates in running events and trekking has become one of her favorite activities. She believes switching to veganism has helped her stay physically as well as mentally fit. In 2018, she launched Vegan Dairy Nepal, a plant-based dairy company that provides nutrient-rich alternatives for animal-based products.
As both her parents had successful entrepreneurial careers, Sethia believes she was born with the genes to become an entrepreneur. She was an aerospace engineering student at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). But her university offered entrepreneurial courses which gave her a good opportunity for a side hustle. She worked at Rolls Royce as an intern during the day and worked on her online business till two in the morning. She was just 21 when she began her first business venture of selling vegan items online in Singapore.
After graduation, Sethia returned to Nepal for a two-month break. She realized it was difficult to find vegan food items in Nepal. Viewing the crisis as an opportunity, she decided to continue with the project that she was working on in Singapore. To start with, she invited a few people to sample the soy milk and yogurt that her mother used to make at home. They all liked it and she soon started receiving orders too.
“I wasn’t as passionate about engineering as I was about business and I decided to stay in Nepal to build my brand rather than work for someone else,” she says. She knew it would be difficult but she also knew this was what she wanted to do. She wasn’t just going to run a business, she was also going to use the platform as a way to promote animal rights.
Sethia always loved animals. Even as a child, she used to feed puppies and cows. If she saw a stray animal in a bad condition, she would reach out to animal shelters and vet clinics to try and help them. When she was 24, she started participating in activities organized by PETA Asia. Back then, the Chitwan Elephant Festival used to happen annually in Nepal. The organizers used elephants for polo games. They were chained, beaten, and brutally treated. That’s when PETA reached out to her to step in and see what could be done to stop the exploitation.
Sethia gathered all of Chitwan municipality’s officials and issued a press release as well. Many locals came together to support her campaign after her team released a video on how elephants were being abused. The festival is canceled now and it was only possible because of her persistent efforts.
Vegan Dairy Nepal’s products are targeted not just for vegans. They also have non-vegan customers. The company has been offering different flavors of milk, including soy, coconut, almond, oats, and millet. They also have vegan cheese made with cashew and nutritional yeast which are being supplied to various restaurants in Nepal like the Roadhouse Cafe, Fire and Ice Pizzeria, and more.
Vegan Dairy Nepal offers authentic vegan options without compromising on nutrient quality. Their products are free from preservatives. Sethia says most of the ingredients are sourced from local farmers in Nepal and only a few unavailable items are imported from India.
Sethia is also mindful of sustainability. Vegan Dairy Nepal encourages its customers to either return the jars the products come packaged in or reuse them for various things around the house rather than throwing them out. The company’s co-founder also intends to invest in and collaborate with Climeworks, a Swedish company that eliminates carbon dioxide from the air, to rebrand her business as carbon neutral.
Apart from the business aspect, Sethia has been advocating veganism by educating others about its importance, not just for the environment but also for one’s health. But it comes with a fair share of challenges, she says. Nonetheless, she has been collaborating with the World Vegan Organization to do whatever she can to familiarize people with the concept and importance of veganism.
Sethia intends to make plant-based products more accessible in the local market. She is working to grow her brand and product line and make it affordable for all. She says when people buy vegan items they are taking a conscious step towards reducing animal cruelty, and making the world a better place to live in.
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