Priyasha Saluja's The Cinnamon Kitchen Story Is The Stuff Of Entrepreneurial Dreams

A viral TV moment paired with intelligent marketing and quality product offerings marks this entrepreneur's journey and we're here to unpack it!

Published On Mar 07, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


In the digital age, grabbing the attention of social media users even for a day, can work wonders for a business. Even better than traditional marketing campaigns if we may dare say. Take fidget spinners for instance; the trend exploded in 2017 after gaining traction on social media, with many small businesses capitalising on the craze by producing and selling their own version of the handheld toys. Which is why when we got the opportunity to chat with The Cinnamon Kitchen's Priyasha Saluja, we immediately wanted to deep dive into her culinary journey that began with battling PCOS symptoms and turned into a thriving venture showcased on Shark Tank Season 3

Her pitch, now the most viewed pitch in the show's history, reflects not just a business but a passion for healthy eating. Priyasha reveals, “I was diagnosed with PCOS as a young teenager. At the time, there was limited knowledge and conversation around PCOS and its symptoms. I grew up facing a lot of challenges and shame around my symptoms and health condition. Even the best of supermarkets only had food that claimed to be healthy but was actually laden with sugar, artificial flavours, preservatives and so on. Later on, when I moved from Delhi to Bombay and had access to a kitchen space, I ended up doing countless experiments on my own to make food healthy and delicious at the same time. I documented my journey of healthy eating through an Instagram page that gained a lot of attention and following. The idea was to post recipes and encourage people to heal their body through the power of nutritious eating, just like I had. I soon realised that people wanted to eat healthy but lacked the time, resources and inclination to prepare snacks for themselves. This insight lead me to start The Cinnamon Kitchen.”

It's not just clever rhyming and wit that fetched Priyasha Aman Gupta’s offer of INR 60 lakh for 5 per cent equity at an INR 12-crore valuation. She notes the importance of thorough research for entrepreneurs when pitching to potential investors for television or other ventures. In addition to getting their own numbers right, entrepreneurs must grasp the scope of their market and the industry at large. A well-defined business plan and growth strategy are essential for effective communication with investors, ultimately conveying their vision convincingly and ensuring that investors genuinely see and believe in the long-held vision. 

She elaborates by saying, “During the days leading up to the shoot, I made a list of things I wanted to include in my pitch. That’s who I am, I’m a list nerd. I’m organised with work almost to a point of madness. Then, sitting in my office, I was wondering how I’d like to stitch the script together. I vacated an hour for two days each dedicated to it. Nothing came, I sat wasting time and it was making me anxious. On the third day, the Shark Tank script really came to me. Sitting in my office, sipping coffee after lunch, I wrote it all in one go! As I started putting my thoughts on paper, I realised I couldn’t do it for two days because I was trying to be someone else. A serious business woman with a very strategic sounding number led the pitch. Through writing the pitch, I realised that the only way to go about it was to be who I truly am and have fun during the process. The rhymes, the humour, it all! Once I had written the whole draft, I laughed and smiled and knew it didn’t need to be altered.” 

You heard that kids…it's about infusing a bit of business acumen with a lot of yourself to make an elevator pitch. And where did Priyasha's gut feeling about keeping her pitch personal get her? “Well when the episode went live, we knew it was going to bring a change. We did expect good growth for The Cinnamon Kitchen in terms of sales as well as our number game on Instagram . But, to my surprise, if I talk about the Instagram handles, The Cinnamon Kitchen has seen a slight growth in followers whereas my personal account has grown from 1500 followers to around 70k in a few days. I’m still absorbing this. On the other hand, the business as of now is seeing 4 times the growth and we are getting recognised by people. We went viral on Instagram with our pitch and because of that we are getting a lot of collaboration opportunities which will definitely help us grow further,” she says excitedly. 

Unlike food being traditionally associated with the matriarch of the house, the food industry has largely struggled to be an equal opportunity space. Most celebrity chefs and bakers happen to give the impression of food entrepreneurs having an unofficial boys-only club. But the past decade has seen a shift in that trend. Priyasha opines, “In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the food industry with more women breaking barriers and making significant strides as chefs, bakers, and food entrepreneurs. Women have started to demand and create spaces in various aspects of the food industry. Women are exploring and showcasing a wide range of culinary styles, reflecting diversity in their approach to cooking. This includes embracing and popularising regional and international cuisines that may have been underrepresented.”

She goes on to brag (a well-deserved one at that!) that many women in the food industry are leading the way in promoting healthy and sustainable eating habits. There's a growing demand for nutritious and plant-based options, and women entrepreneurs are catering to this trend by creating innovative and health-conscious food products. Talking about her own experiences, she confesses, “I have been given equal opportunities in my household and even more I would say when compared to my brother. Women have already been in the cooking/baking industry since ages. There are various female chefs and bakers who are famous. I think it’s just a segment of people who have this opinion that only males are leading the industry because of some old TV shows.”

From amaranth and almond cakes to flourless almond butter cookies, The Cinnamon Kitchen redefines healthy desserts, catering to diverse dietary needs. Talking about the USP of her recipes, Priyasha explains what makes her food PCOS-friendly. “PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can be influenced by diet and lifestyle factors. I make sure the ingredients used in a particular recipe sit well with each other. I always aim for a well-balanced distribution of macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. This can help manage blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy throughout the day. At The Cinnamon Kitchen we choose complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) to help regulate blood sugar levels. We choose sources of healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, and olive oil in our products. These fats can support hormone regulation and overall health. Some individuals with PCOS may choose to moderate dairy intake, hence our entire range is vegan! The portion sizes of our products are also well calculated as mindful eating plays an important role in maintaining the disorder.”

Priyasha's dedication to clean eating goes beyond just sourcing the right ingredients for her food. Sustainability also takes center stage, with plastic-free, bioplastic, and zero-waste practices in kitchen operations and packaging. The brand's commitment extends to reusable hampers, offering cashback incentives for returns. And beyond the kitchen, Priyasha shares her expertise through baking and cooking classes, influencing over 1,500 students. Her Instagram serves as an addictive scroll for delectable recipes, showcasing a brand that seamlessly blends passion, health, and sustainability. 

Priyasha's business doesn't exist in a silo. She likes to go out and talk to people about her passion, which in turn helps her business grow as well. She reveals, “I didn’t face many challenges when it came to promoting PCOS-friendly foods as I was sharing my journey via my Instagram handle and had already built a community for the same. So, I already had my customers with me from the beginning.” But it's the Indian market we're talking about where women's health is rarely talked about and largely ignited (still!). Priyasha elaborates on this by saying, “The lack of education and awareness about PCOS can be a significant hurdle, particularly in the Indian landscape. PCOS is often associated with menstrual irregularities, acne, and weight gain, which may be stigmatised or considered taboo topics in some cultural contexts. This can lead to a reluctance to discuss symptoms openly, hindering awareness efforts.”

So how does Priyasha ensure she stays ahead of the curve for her business and the people it touches? “I am an avid reader. I read books and articles that help me stay updated with the evolving nutritional needs and preferences of individuals with PCOS. We promote healthy eating. All our products have one or the other nutritional value added to it. We raise awareness while doing business via being transparent to our consumers about the ingredients that we use,” she concludes.

Photo: Priyasha Saluja