Sakshi Chhabra Mittal for HELLO! India© HelloIndia

Sakshi Chhabra Mittal On Her Attempts To Heal The World Through Food

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Noor Anand Chawla

To look good, you need to feel good. I believe happiness is a big part of health. That’s what I’m working on. Our focus is on health, not just vanity,” proclaims Sakshi Chhabra Mittal.

One look at this svelte, confident and charming entrepreneur — also an investor and founder-CEO of UK-based ‘Food As Medicine’ subscription service FoodHak — is sufficient proof that she practices what she preaches.

As wife of entrepreneur Shravin Mittal and daughter-in-law of the founder of multibillion- dollar Bharti Enterprises, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Sakshi has an illustrious family name to live up to. Yet this intelligent and forward-thinking young woman does it with aplomb.

High school sweethearts, Sakshi and Shravin set up their home and enterprises in London, but their heart still resides in Delhi, where they were born and raised. This is evident when we meet her on a sultry monsoon afternoon at her in-laws’ residence in Central Delhi, where she’s on a short visit with Shravin and the children while schools are shut in the UK.

Even after many hours of shooting, Sakshi is the quintessential queen of cool. She doesn’t bat an eyelid as the conversation shifts from the technical jargon on the nitty-gritties of her food startup to her daily mommy schedule, which includes school drop-offs and bed-and-bath routines. Sakshi truly is an example of someone who has it all — not because of any proverbial silver spoon, but because she believes in her goals and works hard to achieve them.

In 2017, as she juggled her first pregnancy with her role as a successful corporate professional working with Japanese multinational SoftBank, Sakshi was diagnosed with a rare disease, obstetric cholestasis, which leads to the breakdown of the liver.

“It was a scary and stressful time for me, and my previously busy professional life, managing a large team and jet-setting across the world, came to a standstill as I had to care for my health. There was no known cure for this rare disease, so I put my degree in biotechnology from the University of Birmingham to good use and sifted through thousands of research papers seeking an answer.” “I was astounded to find so much evidence of food being used as medicine, which wasn’t being talked about, especially by healthcare professionals. So I teamed up with doctors who advocated the use of lifestyle changes and alternative medicines, and we worked together to create a line of food that healed from within. Our meals are plant based, contain alkaline vegetables to increase the pH levels of your stomach, are gluten-free, dairy-free, anti-inflammatory and have low GI,” explains Sakshi.

As an experiment, Sakshi pushed a soft launch of these clean and healthy meal plans by serving them only to the patients of the doctors she had partnered with. She rented a kitchen near her SoftBank office, curated clinically verified recipes, and woke up at 5am every weekday to give instructions to her part-time team before moving on to her regular day job.

A short while later, viewing the incredible demand for her meals, the rising popularity of the health and wellness market segment and the realities of the pandemic, she quit her job to take this concept to the next level. And thus was born FoodHak in 2021.

“It became evident to us that many people were suffering from serious health issues and looking for solutions, but there were also many people who did not have health issues, yet were striving to eat better simply by eating clean.”

The success of her venture in the short time since its launch has been nothing short of astounding. FoodHak meal plans are now available for next-day delivery across the UK. Their Instagram account has crossed the 50,000 mark and is growing stronger every day.

Sakshi certainly dons her entrepreneurial hat with poise, but FoodHak is merely one of many feathers in it. Despite graduating from university in 2008, smack in the middle of the international recession, she landed a sought-after internship at Pfizer, one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies, through sheer gumption.

“I hustled to get the Pfizer internship. Back in the day, every Thursday, pharma C-suite executives would network at a place known as The Arts Club in London. I managed to make my way in as a young student, and noting my interest and knowledge, one of them offered me an internship. While researching for them, I came across the head of regulatory at Pfizer and convinced him to hire graduate-level interns to bring some youth into the business. And I became their first one!” she beams.

Having got the work experience she desired, Sakshi moved to The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania for an MBA, a move that helped her make the switch to becoming an investor. Noting her skills, she was soon recruited by SoftBank, where she was designated the investment director for their vision fund.

She credits her tremendous professional growth to her tenacity and the support of her husband and parents.

“I really lucked out with Shravin, first as a boyfriend and now as a husband. He has always been so secure in his own skin that he’s happy to push me to be a better version of myself, especially in my career. Without him I’d never have done even a quarter of the things I’ve done, including being the first female investor at SoftBank in London. In fact, I was even the first pregnant person in the London office and never took maternity leave. They put a nursing room together for me for the first time ever!”

Refusing to compromise on being hands- on parents, both Sakshi and Shravin prioritise their children and divide their roles of rearing them equally.

“Shravin supports me in subtle ways that make all the difference. So if I’m busy, he’ll happily fill in for me. Plus, he’s my biggest cheerleader. When he launched his own fund, Unbound, he publicly declared his goal to have 50 percent women as investors — an astounding figure, considering currently, barely 10 percent of investors are female! He’s a confident man who doesn’t need a woman to be beneath him, and I really appreciate that.”

When they need time off from their busy lives, Sakshi and Shravin enjoy travelling. They are also movie buffs and ardent sports enthusiasts. In fact, their romance blossomed over their shared sports captaincy at the British School, New Delhi, in the early 2000s. Even now, they enjoy playing tennis and golf, as well as swimming and hiking together.

It’s refreshing to see one so young manage multiple roles with such composure. Smiling, Sakshi shares, “I was told you can’t have it all when you’re a mother. Though this may sound controversial, I disagree. You can have it all; you just have to keep trying harder till you find your balance. No parent or professional is right or wrong. If you focus on being yourself and pursue your happiness in the form of your profession, it doesn’t mean that you’re compromising on your family life or being a bad wife or mother. You can have it all. It takes some time, but when you get there, it’s so worth it.”

Cover photo credits

Photography: Raju Raman; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair: Altaf Shah; Makeup: Manjari Malik

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!