On 2020 Grammy Award night, Keralites were in for a surprise when an official gift suite comprising PETA-approved vegan and wellness products had a package of golden turmeric wrapped cashews of 'Karma Nuts', a brand owned by Keralite Ganesh Nair. This year too, Karma Nuts found a place in Grammy's official gift bag which was handed to presenters and performers.
Ganesh, who hails from Kollam - the cashew capital of India - founded Karma Nuts in California in 2014. Very soon, he made this a popular snack brand in the US, where almonds and pistachios ruled the market till then.
Hailing from a family that has been in the cashew business for about 90 years, Ganesh introduced a unique cashew brand to the market. He retained the skin of cashews to add to its nutritive quality. It was a risky move, but the idea of shelled cashews hit the jackpot, becoming a healthy snack endorsed by nutritionists, clinicians, and now, the who’s who of the showbiz.
Ganesh completed his schooling from Infant Jesus, Tangasseri and did his engineering graduation (Bachelor of Technology) from the TKM College of Engineering, Kollam. He moved to the US in 1998 and earned an MBA degree from the University of California Los Angeles, and an MS in Health Sciences and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Soon, he joined Johnson & Johnson in its diabetes care division, working in multiple functions including setting up a not-for-profit diabetes institute training centre for health care professionals in Paris.
Ten years later, Ganesh joined his brother Hari Krishnan Nair to manage their family business Western India Cashew Company in Kollam in 2010. He realised that the tastier nutrient powerhouse cashews had no goodness value brand in the US, unlike its cousins, almonds and pistachios.
And he decided to act, “After decades of proliferation in highly refined snacks and fried junk food, I saw an opportunity to develop an alternative to the oil-fried cashews that were normally seen on
American supermarket shelves. Leveraging our experience in the business, my family had developed a process to keep the skins of the cashews after making it edible. Over 10 years, we perfected the process with significant R&D investments, launched the most delectable, crunchy and nutritionally-dense wrapped cashew as Karma Nuts.”
Karma Nuts, a homage to father
The name ‘Karma’ was a homage to his family and his late father Rajendranathan Nair, a Gandhian and naturopath, who was a firm believer in the philosophy of Karma. Ganesh points out, “I too believe in Karma in the sense that we need to focus on the action required of us at each moment. This inspiration is further reflected in our motto ‘Do Good. Eat Good. Feel Good.’ Karma Nuts was my attempt to bring together my expertise developed in corporate healthcare and my deep legacy.”
Unlike conventional cashews, wrapped cashews, dry roasted in their natural skin after making it edible, was unique in processing, antioxidant properties as high as blueberries, increased fibre, and
delivering more crunch, freshness and taste.
His wife Archana hails from Kerala but she grew up in Kuwait. The couple has a 10-year-old son Tej. The family flies down to Kollam during the summer holidays and frequently for business.