By Maneka Gandhi
Vegans choose not to eat any animal products – no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey or other animal derived ingredients. They avoid fur, leather and wool products, and products that have been tested on animals, such as body care, cosmetics and house hold cleaning goods, or products containing animal ingredients.
The Swedish Ambassador told me that when he gave dinners at his home in Stockholm, if the diners were for people above sixty, he would probably just get meat eaters, but if they were for people under forty, he would, in any gathering of six people, get two vegetarians/vegans.
My Ministry just concluded the fourth national organic mela – 450 stalls. It attracted many thousand people every day. This time we had a vegan section and a vegan food court. It did extremely well – specially the vegan pizzas where the basic cheese was made of cashew. I took my office staff there for lunch and we loved the food.
Someone I know has started an online vegan shopping mall and it has 800 items on it already. He told me that he has no dearth of offers from people who would like to invest in his start up. The problem he has is with finding staff who will promote this properly.
Since more and more people are turning vegan and vegetarian for health reasons, it makes sense to start a vegan business. I just met two entrepreneurs in Nagpur, young boys who have created delicious milk made from almonds, and are now looking for someone to help them bring it to the market.
All over the world, vegan businesses are starting up. From Linda McCartney, who is one of the world’s top designers and only does vegan clothes, to Sonal in Gurgaon, who runs a flourishing ice cream business that doesn’t use milk.
For some years I was on the board of an English monthly called The Vegan. It is a very chatty magazine, interviews with stars who have become vegan, vegan events that take place daily in the UK, vegan recipes, and lots of ads from vegan companies. It is over 25 years old and is still making a profit.
Michael Ofei has, on a site called The Minimalist Vegan, listed 38 business ideas that, he believes, will do well and change the appetite of the buyer towards ethical living. I too believe that if the choices were available, people would gravitate towards more ethical ones: garments that were ethically sourced and made, for instance, or delicious vegan sweets and ice creams. I bought a packet of freshly made vegan marshmallows last week and finished them in less than ten minutes!
While the demand for vegan products is now mainstream and rising, the problem is with the supply. We need to help shift the demand by increasing the supply. Here are some of Ofei’s ideas:
Food & Beverages: the obvious one is a vegan restaurant/cafe.
Vegan pizzerias with home delivery options.
Gelato Bar with dairy free ice cream.
Nut Cheese Deli.
A food truck specialising in vegan burgers.
A vegan alcoholic beverage retailer.
Vegan bakery (few people know that breads have egg and milk in them, and are sometimes meat).
Freelance illustrator who services vegan friendly small businesses.
Company accountant or bookkeeper for online vegan entrepreneurs.
Specialist in project managing organic and vegan shop fit-outs.
A social media manager for vegan businesses.
Offer copywriting services to help build the profile of vegan entrepreneurs.
An all vegan childcare centre with community veggie garden.
Vegan wedding blog producing amazing content and advertising ethical wedding brands and services.
A series of online courses teaching people how to cook different vegan cuisines at home. You can become a vegan party chef. Host vegan cooking workshops.
Develop a dating app that accurately connects vegan soulmates together.
Create a concierge service in the form of a mobile app that connects all of the local ethical trades people with vegan customers.
Online vegan shoe retailer.
Organic clothing line specialising in everyday garments like underwear, sweaters, socks.
Tailored vegan suits for men.
Create a makeup line that is vegan, fair trade, organic and eco friendly.
Build a vegan friendly and chemical free nail polish company.
Start an investment fund specifically for ethical businesses.
Become an angel investor for vegan businesses.
Here are some more ideas on things to make:
Vegan pet food, vegan wine, body care, cosmetics, or go big and just open one vegan grocery store with everything in it.
Having a vegan business is great activism. It makes it easier for others to live vegan. So many carnivorous people I know say that they would change their ways partially if they could get vegan products easily and effortlessly. Make the market evolve. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.”
It is not difficult to run a vegan business online. All over the world there are thousands of shops offering non-leather shoes, boots, bags, belts wallets accessories. Food goodies includes mock meat and dairy products, along with home cleaners, toiletries, cosmetics, skin care, food such as chocolate, jams, chutney, pet care, general grocery items and household items. When I say vegan stores, I mean those with earth sustaining products: no animal testing, no harsh chemicals, no palm oil (India is the largest importer of palm oil and, not only is it dangerous for health, it is grown by destroying millions of acres of forest and turning it into plantations. The Orangutan is one of the many species that now face extinction because of it, and mostly locally sourced products so that fuel is not wasted in transport. Even the packaging is ethical and non plastic.
What are the items that should not be in vegan shops: T-Shirts that are made of BT Cotton (they should say ‘organic cotton”), vitamins and sweets that contain gelatine, palm oil as I said earlier, white sugar which is refined using bone, bone china, white paper or any white coloured product (bleach kills everything in the sea), chemical dyes of any kind (Rajasthan has lost most of its rivers due to these dyes. I went to see a river, near Udaipur, on my way to Sojat village which grows all the mehndi in India. The river was blood red and carcasses and the bones of animals and birds that had drunk from it, littered its banks.) I certainly don’t agree with vegan shops that sell silver, gold and semi precious or precious stones, even if they make them into cute little animals. All these are mined on forest land, and millions of animals lose their lives in the process. Why not have amazing glass jewellery instead. Silk, wool, leather, fur, suede, feathers, coral, beewax, pearls, anything made of bone; definite no-nos.
To run a credible vegan shop, one has to be very discerning and look at every ingredient of every item. It is difficult to find biscuits that do not have palm oil in them, for instance. But they do exist.
I have often said that the heart is a door. When it opens, it opens for all. Most vegan shops go out of their way to see that that not only are the products made of sustainable material, but also that they use less water and are not made in sweatshops (paying low wages for long hours of work to poor people). Some go even further and source products from democratic countries only (where do they find these??)
(To join the animal welfare movement contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peoplefor animalsindia.org)