All in a pot of tea.

Anamika Singh is a second generation tea sommelier who has been learning, absorbing, experiencing, creating and spreading the good word of tea for the past 30 years. She has lived her life largely in the mountains of Darjeeling & Dharamsala. Around 6 years ago, after working for a considerable amount of time with her father, Abhai Singh in the estate and exporting their teas to Europe and Asia, she decided to introduce India to fine, boutique, niche teas and thus, Anandini Himalaya Tea was born. Anandini means where the earth and the sky meet and something that gives you happiness. After two years, her brother, Kunal Singh joined the business and now they have grown as a brand.

They started with 7 blends, the tea sourced from their own estate where they worked closely with farmers and got the purest of flowers and herbs from the Himalayan region of India. They now have close to 150 different teas that include handmade teas, infusions, and tisanes and are very happy working with the hospitality industry as well as the wellness industry. They curate events and workshops based on tea and are also working with the Indian Hospitality Management institutes to teach the students about the beverage of the nation, so that each one of them can become brand ambassadors of tea.

Anamika believes that it was the obstacles in her life that inspired her to become an entrepreneur and she is glad to have chosen the path less traveled. She quotes that, “Working with my father was one thing but starting a business on my own was another ball game altogether. There was a phase in my life around 9 years ago that actually made me question my abilities, my thought process, me as a person and my responsibilities towards others who surrounded me. I had to snap out of it which I did with the support and love of my family and close friends. I just decided that I have to work harder, create something of my own, catch hold of that silver lining and begin with courage and hope and prove first to myself and then the rest, that I believed in myself, my abilities, my skills and that if the mind can conceive it, there is no way that one cannot achieve it.”

As with anyone starting out on their own, Anamika too had her fears. Her main concern was being one of the very few women in a male dominated industry and therefore, the apprehension of not being taken seriously in the business. She learnt the nuances of tea in their tea estate under the astute guidance of her father who has been her biggest inspiration, her guru and someone who always led the way for her to follow. After learning everything from scratch under him, she set up Anandini Himalaya Tea where she suspected again if the Food & Beverage industry would give her a chance as a tea sommelier and listen to her. In her opinion, tea has never been given the kind of significance it deserves and there’s very limited knowledge that people have about the different kinds of blends. This was a challenge for her as she wondered if she’d be able to hold the attention of people during meetings in the F&B industry. And this of course had a direct co-relation to how it would impact her business. Anamika quotes, “Their normal remark would be, ‘Tea is just Tea, how is yours any different?. People in India just didn’t understand the importance or the relevance of Single origin or Single estate teas. They still don’t. So it is an everyday challenge, but I love it. It keeps me going, changing one cup at a time.”

From her years of experience as an entrepreneur, Anamika shares her approach of starting a new business. She states that it’s crucial to have a business plan in place especially if you intend to create a brand. It is important to connect with financial planning organisations or government bodies that can help you register and further help you to figure out the way forward as far as finances are concerned.

She states that today it’s a huge advantage that we have accessibility to financial planning advisors, to discuss and figure out financial strategies as compared to earlier. Anamika quotes, “I think our biggest fear is of being seen as one who doesn’t know, hence we find it difficult to ask for help. But with all the infrastructure available to us today on how to take it forward, now is the best time to create your path.”

Anamika started off by putting her personal savings to establish Anandini Himalaya Tea. After a year, when she got an understanding of the market, she initiated the second phase where fresh funds were invested with the help of her family and friends to open a tea boutique and expand the market. This increased her outflow in a span of three years and as the founder/director of the business, she did not use any of the new funds for her personal use. When funds were required for expansion, marketing and new projects, they were again gathered from family and friends. She explains that they have not taken any debt from the market and Anandini Himalaya Tea is still a close family owned business. It was only since the fourth year of the business when she and Kunal have been able to take a salary. She mentions that all other profits are re-invested back into the company. They had consciously decided to not involve investing companies for further financing to keep their brand value intact.

However, she also highlights a few things that one should be cautious of while starting out on your own. She emphasizes that once you’ve established clearly what you want to do, which direction you want to take and who you want to partner with, it’s possible that somewhere along this journey you get influenced wrongly and get deviated from your core values that your brand talks about. This may all be in an attempt to reach your goals faster and in ways that might bring in the limelight quicker than expected. She mentions that it is absolutely crucial to keep going back to the drawing board and figure out where you started and how you started. She states, “Stick to the values and principles, choose your clients wisely. Be careful of how you put across your brand on social media. The world is watching. And if you are an entrepreneur, remember you reflect your brand and vice versa. Hence, with the powerful tool that the social media is, remember to keep yourself linked to the brand and see how you can reflect the best rather than give any negative impact to what you are trying so hard to build.”. Anamika personally has a checklist that she goes back to off and on. Additionally, she maintains a daily diary of her expenses and has a personal CA who helps her with her investments and to keep a reality check on her personal finances as well as that of the business.

When asked about her success mantra, Anamika generously shares her thoughts with us. “Believe in yourself. Remain true to yourself and be you… Bravely! You are responsible for creating your path the way you want it. Listen to your heart and follow your dreams. There is no way that they will not manifest! Do not rush into anything without having done your homework. And in this entire process, do not forget yourself and the time you need to give to yourself. If you grow, your mind breathes and then your brand grows. Take out ‘me time’ always even if it is for just 30 minutes in a day. Spend time in solitude. It has helped me so many times when I was caught in a road block. Build a network of people who support you and believe in your dreams and last but not the least, stay away from negativity. Your time is precious. Respect it. Life is beautiful, we just have to learn to savour it sip by sip.”









There’s a new Spice Girl on the block

This one is not to be confused with the famous girl band from the 90s. Singapore-based Namita Moolani Mehra is a mom of two and is the founder of Indian Spicebox. Her brand is about enabling families to eat more wholesome home-cooked meals, including healthier versions of restaurant favourites. Simple recipes are packaged with wonderful organic spices that provide not just amazing flavour, but great health benefits as well. The best part is that for each Spicebox Kit she sells, 10 street children in India are fed a hot meal. Namita states, “We have funded over 60,000 hot meals and our goal is to provide 1 million meals by 2025.”

Namita is also a writer and has published two cookbooks out of which one is a children’s book published by Scholastic. She also writes for several online publications including Sassy Mama. She founded Indian Spicebox a few years ago after spending 15 years in the corporate world, primarily working as a digital strategist at ad agencies in New York after which she spent five years at Facebook in both New York and Singapore. Indian Spicebox was born as an idea in 2004 when she was living in New York and surrounded by friends asking her for recipes and information about spices. It wasn’t till a decade later that she quit the corporate world and founded it as a business.

Namita’s drive to make a difference was her main inspiration to become an entrepreneur. She wanted to give back and do something with meaning and purpose. Therefore, by creating something of her own that would be purpose-driven and make her feel excited about getting out of bed, she wanted to put her strengths in service of something meaningful. After working at one of the world’s best companies (Facebook) with the most incredibly talented people, and supported by tremendous resources, she was afraid of going off on her own. She was worried about not having the teams and resources to keep her motivated and productive.

A year before starting her own business, Namita worked for a VC (Venture Capital) firm which was an eye-opening experience for her to a great experience. It gave her a good understanding of the start-up world and financing better. “Frankly, I had no clue about funding businesses and there are a lot of different routes and options out there for founders and small business owners. It is really important to know your options, network with other business owners and founders, attend start-up conferences/events, read the blogs, soak up as much information as you can and also consult financial planning advisors to get a clear understanding of that part too.” says Namita. She invested her own savings from her previous jobs and advocates engaging financial advisors and companies who can help to manage money and investments for you on the personal front and for the business.

There are several things one should be aware of while starting on their own. Namita shares a few from her experience, right from being prepared to feel alone, to being constantly in battle mode to ensuring that you hire and delegate early-on. Hire interns and invest in a good
website developer and designer. She also emphasizes to take the time to create and build a solid brand right at the onset (as all touchpoints matter) and most importantly, investing in quality.

Amongst other things, Namita also highlights that it’s important to surround yourself with people you trust. She states, “If you find good partners, vendors, interns, freelancers—hold on to them and keep investing in good people. Also, build a solid brand upfront. Invest in good designers, brand building experts and digital experts who know how to present your brand and offering via critical touchpoints. Have several mentors or your own personal board of advisors – the people you can trust and use as soundboards. Work with a professional coach. I’ve been working with a coach for over five years now and she anchors me tremendously behind the scenes. As I’ve mentioned earlier, engaging financial advisors to keep you on track with your money management is also crucial. Remember, you can’t succeed alone. So, the people you surround yourself with, are the ones who will ultimately determine your success.”






Love at first sight!

Rucha Mulay, founder of R Pilates Studio in Pune is also the pioneer of equipment Pilates in the same city. Having flown for British Airways as an international cabin crew for 10 years, Rucha’s love for Pilates was a discovery during one of her trips to London that set her on a journey from where there’s no looking back. She was introduced to Pilates by a friend on that trip and says that it was love at first sight for her. She began frequenting the studio as it was healing her backache and soon she decided to bring Pilates to Pune.

After relinquishing her flying job, she enrolled herself for ACSM CPT (American College of Sports Medicine) then did all her Pilates certifications one by one. In 2013, Rucha started teaching mat Pilates classes at a gym and also started personal training at home. In 2014, she started her own Pilates Studio, R Pilates in Pune with only 1 reformer in a small apartment in her parents’ building. Today, she has a beautiful 1000 square feet studio in the most plush area of Pune with all the Pilates apparatus imported from Sacramento, California and a big family of 6 Pilates teachers, 150 clients and another branch opening soon.

Rucha’s inspiration to become an entrepreneur was her passion for fitness and Pilates. She believes that Pilates changes lives and she wanted her Pune people to have access to that through a dedicated studio in the city. As someone who doesn’t come from a business family, she was apprehensive about a few things while starting out. Return on investment, being a critical factor. Having invested a substantial amount in education and equipment, her fear was whether Pune people would be willing to pay the kind of money Pilates trainers charge in Mumbai.

Taking baby steps in the beginning, Rucha started on a very small scale where the overheads would not leave her restless. Initially, she invested some savings of hers from the British Airways job and her husband helped her too. She specifies that she didn’t take any loans. She gradually started adding equipment to the studio and when she felt the need to scale up, she calculated her figures, did a lot of homework and then made the move. The overheads were going to be 10 times more but the way their work had increased, she was confident that they would do well. “I had a very clear picture of our business in my mind.” states Rucha.


Having landed firmly on her feet with her venture, she shares her approach with us. “If you know exactly what you want to do, start small, watch the response, make your mistakes and learn your lessons in a small set up. Once you have tested the waters then dive in into the big pool. Always count your figures backwards. Give your business a strict teething period and make sure it picks up pace gradually. Set goals and talk to your team regularly.” While starting a business or even while scaling up, we know that finance is the key component. Since personal savings become a big part of investment in it, it is quite natural for one to experience that they are low on that reserve for a while. Rucha experienced the same after moving to a bigger studio where her overheads increased manifold and her personal savings took a back seat. However, she continued with her basic savings like PPF and left them untouched. Now that the new set-up too has been established well, she has been able to focus better on building up that reserve for her personal savings and has defined separate financial goals for herself and R Pilates where she has started two separate SIPs for future capital investment and her own retirement.

Rucha shares some wisdom nuggets generously for budding women entrepreneurs. “Unless you dive in, you are not going to be able to show your swimming skills. But do not dive in if you don’t know how to swim well as just moving your hands and legs in water won’t take you to the shore gracefully. Know your capabilities, know your limitations, work around them, have a plan B ready always and don’t think mediocre. Think big .”



PPFAS – CAGRfunds conviction recommendation

PPFAS Fund Report

Parag Parikh Long Term Equity Fund (PPLTE) is the only equity fund that is managed by the investment team of PPFAS. As a recent entrant in the Mutual Fund Industry (fund was launched in May 2013), it is not the most popular fund in the market. At least we do not see people including them in the “Top 10 Funds to invest in 2019” list (Frankly, we find such lists to be very silly).

There are several reasons why we believe that PPLTE is a good addition to the portfolio for investors who exhibit all of the following traits:

a) Looking to add equity exposure
b) Willing to not withdraw their investments for 7-8 years
c) Keen to add some overseas diversification to their investments
d) Unwilling to risk capital erosion in lieu of high returns
e) Want to prioritize downside protection for times when markets don’t seem to be too ecstatic

If you think you are the one we are referring to, you should contact us to check if this is a worthy addition to your existing portfolio.

Reasons why we like PPLTE

Sector Allocation

PPFAS Sector Allocation

Several things stand out when we look at the sector allocation of this fund.

a) 22% of the corpus is kept in liquid resources, waiting to be deployed when opportunities emerge. Some might say that this will drag returns down (since liquid resources at best earn you around 6-7%), but let us tell you that investing in businesses at a price that seems affordable is better than buying something expensive. Also, investing when one finds good businesses to invest in is also an important consideration for long term wealth generation

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price” – Warren Buffet

b) Substantial overseas exposure (~28%) adds to geographical diversification (orange bars are completely overseas). Out of this total overseas exposure, around 9.7% is in Google and 4.3% in Facebook. That adds to some real diversification to your portfolio! (Source: PPFAS Feb – March Factsheet)

Skin in the game

7.07% of the AUM represents own equity of the key persons in the fund management team. When people who are managing our funds have invested their own savings into the same, we know the commitment is for real. It is a good corporate governance practice to have their own financial being is linked with that of the investors. We give them a big thumbs up for this one.

Out-performance with focus on downside protection

As can be seen from the chart below, the fund has outperformed its benchmark (Nifty / BSE 500 TRI) at all times considering point to point returns. In terms of Alpha, the fund ranks #2 within the Multi-Cap category. PPFAS Performance comparison

However, out-performance is not what excites us. Active funds, after all, are supposed to out-perform their respective benchmarks.

What seems interesting and commendable to us is the ability of the fund to protect the downside during times of correction. Let us look at the 3 year rolling returns of the fund. The highest rolling return is 25% and the lowest that the fund has given over a 3 year period is 10%.

PPFAS Rolling Returns

This means a lot of things for you as an investor if you would have held your investment for a 3 year period at any point in time:

a) You would have generated a CAGR of at least 10% even if you would have exited at the very low point of the market which was some time in the second half of the last year

b) You would not have seen a negative return for a 3 year period on your portfolio EVER

c) You would not have lost your peace of mind over losing your money

For investors who are uncomfortable with too much volatility, the above means a lot. We believe that the reason the fund has been able to demonstrate this performance is because of its patient and down to earth fund managers – Rajeev Thakkar and Raunak Onkar. Although this is not a guarantee for the future, the above track record during testing times gives additional comfort to investors.

Mr. Thakkar is quite active on twitter and we suggest you follow him to understand his ideology if you are an existing investor or are likely to become one.

In case you have any further query, do reach out to us on