From TechnoServe Training to Shark Tank India

Aditi Madan went from a TechnoServe business training program to becoming the first woman entrepreneur on Shark Tank India. Here, this food business visionary shares her journey to national success after overcoming challenges and learning how to “unlearn” what she thought she knew.

Aditi Madan on Shark Tank India

How I Started My Business

I was born and raised in Darjeeling, a small city in northeast India in the foothills of the Himalayas. My grandparents raised me from the time I was one month old, and I grew up in a family of 14 – including many siblings and cousins. 

My childhood was filled with a lot of simplicity. We were always surrounded by nature, including many pine trees – which is how I came up with the name of my business, BluePine Foods. I have a lot of fond memories and beautiful stories from this time. 

I studied at a missionary school for a while, but there weren’t a lot of opportunities, so I eventually decided to move to a bigger city. While in New Delhi, I always craved momos (steamed dumplings), a staple food in my hometown. I could see that people in Delhi were interested in this type of food, but the city’s offerings were quite limited. 

Aditi competing on Shark Tank India in late 2021

In 2013, I competed on Master Chef India, placing in the top six. The Master Chef experience gave me a deeper connection to food and inspired me to connect with people from all walks of life. 

BluePine Foods, which we officially registered as a business in 2016, was born out of an excitement to share real, healthy Himalayan food with people across India and ultimately around the world. 

We started our company in 2016 and underwent many economic challenges, but were able to survive. I was then participating in an incubation program where I was learning a lot about business – particularly from more of a theoretical perspective. Then I found out about TechnoServe’s Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs program, which is a business accelerator, and decided to apply. 

During my interview with TechnoServe India, I was wondering if our venture would be selected. When we got the confirmation, it was overwhelming, and we were very happy because going directly into the accelerator program from an incubation program is a great opportunity. 

Over those two years, I have evolved immensely both personally and professionally. TechnoServe has been a great help because while the incubation period was more learning the basics, the accelerator focused on individual mentoring and support. 

Growing My Business with TechnoServe

Aditi shares how she improved her skills in the TechnoServe training program

My TechnoServe advisor was amazing. I was always looking forward to having her classes because she was energetic and would always keep me focused and grounded. We went through important business topics such as competitive analysis and market analysis. 

Something that surprised me was that I had to unlearn so many things to relearn new things. The program also helped me identify potential challenges and pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps most importantly, I gained a lot of confidence working with my mentor. For BluePine Foods, participating in the accelerator program has been a beautiful journey. 

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was a big challenge – both personally and for the company. I didn’t get COVID during the first wave here in India, but I did get sick during the second wave. I ultimately had to go to the hospital, but thankfully I was strong enough to recover and sustain the business at the same time. 

Strategically, much of our sales were online, so we could continue doing business even as many restaurants and other shops were closed. We are happy and proud to say that we never had to lay off our employees during the pandemic. Instead, we made it our mission to make them more comfortable during these difficult times.

As with any small business, there are always unforeseen challenges. But today, we face them with confidence.

Gaining National Attention on Shark Tank India

[In late 2021, Aditi appeared on Shark Tank India, pitching investors on her BluePine Foods business. She won $100,000 in startup funding and experienced a surge in sales.]

Competing on Shark Tank India was a great learning experience. It provided a big platform for entrepreneurs like myself to get connected with the right people. The experience helped boost my morale and re-kindled my hope in this tough economic environment. 

The investors are great mentors who provide the vision to take our venture to an unthinkable scale. Their strategic approach and great network will help businesses grow and reach a larger customer base. 

My Dreams for the Future

Aditi talks about overcoming challenges as an entrepreneur

I have a lot of dreams for my company and also personally. For example, I would like to see BluePine Foods as the number one Himalayan food processing company in India and even in the world. 

I’m also investing in a social cause of supporting blind and partially blind employees. We are training them and working to onboard more visually impaired employees in the coming months. We also want to support agro-entrepreneurs in rural areas, so we are looking at where we source our ingredients.

Persistence and consistency are key. Discipline, passion, and having empathy are some of the most important things. When we understand someone, we can treat them well and support them. 

Self-motivation is also essential. Do something that you love, and if things feel stagnant or you feel stuck, go out and do the things that bring you joy. Women have to self-motivate. Even if you have a family, husband, parents, etc., only you can know your business’s vision and future. Your community is there as a support system, but ultimately, success is up to you.