Diaspora Co. turmeric founder Sana Javeri Kadri on building a better spice business
Starting from scratch, working with farmers, building a brand, and avoiding the wellness market.
The grocery store spice aisle — even in the nice places — is usually one of the dustiest, least inspiring sections of the shop. An afterthought, even though spices can transform a meal.
Sana Javeri Kadri, the 26-year-old founder of Diaspora Co., is trying to reinvent the modern spice brand, starting with the supply chain. She has spent the last few years finding the best Indian spices, starting with turmeric, sourcing them through equitable business relationships with farmers, and bringing them to the US market, largely through direct to consumer e-commerce.
Javeri Kadri says she “started the company as a dystopian art project, in a lot of ways,” buying a one-way ticket home to Mumbai in post-Trump frustration, thinking her research on spices might make an interesting feature article, if nothing else. “And I turned it into a business. And it’s exciting.”
With one full-time employee — herself — and four part-timers, Javeri Kadri has bootstrapped to almost half a million dollars in revenue last year, triple her sales from 2018.
I’m excited — and optimistic — about startups like Diaspora Co., which try to reinvent categories by sourcing the best products and improving their economics, rather than just chasing some “functional” wellness trend.
In addition to spices — the best turmeric I’ve ever cooked with, plus chillies, cardamom, and pepper — she has also collaborated on things like turmeric popcorn spice, granola, and okra pickles. Also important, she’s paying good wages to Indian farmers. Based in the Bay Area, she’s planning a friends-and-family fundraising round to help drive growth this year.
Javeri Kadri and I spoke about how she got started, the changing consumer culture around home cooking and spices, and her plans for Diaspora Co. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation, which took place late last year.
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