Ahimsagram is a social enterprise, primarily working towards sharing about wellness; inspiring, wholesome plant-based food systems. It is supporting people in transforming their kitchens by giving them the knowledge about the ‘why’ of healthy foods and sharing the skills to actually bring it into their day-to-day lives with ease and joy. On one side we are offering online learning programs for people from all over the world and locally we are also running a cafe that serves wholesome plant-based foods and we also deliver healthy sweets and bakery products throughout the country. Our products are largely organic as we believe that our individual choices have an impact on the health of the planet.
In its vision, Ahimsagram sees that our actions have far-reaching consequences on the health of the planet as well as our own. Thus it has chosen to create a business that brings deeper understanding and practice of health in our lives.
In order to understand our work, it will be meaningful to know the story about what led to the creation of Ahimsagram! Shammi, who has been the founder, had been living in Mumbai and working as a cinematographer when he developed breathing issues. Instead of jumping on the regular solution of taking inhalers, he went into looking for the reasons for the disease and others who believed in the magical power of the body and its capacity to heal. He came across people working on self-healing and also the work of ‘The Health Awareness Center’ (THAC) in Mumbai which made him see that diseases are an outcome of what inputs we give to the body (which could be food, sunlight, air, rest, exercise, etc) and live while respecting the laws of nature. For healing, we need to work on what we are putting into our system and be aware of its consequences. He thus began his journey into conscious foods and moved to a plant-based diet using ways of preparing the food that caused the least damage to its nutrients and to make sure that it was easy for the body to digest it. This helped him eliminate the toxins from the body and take care of his physical wellbeing.
Soon he realized that physical well-being is connected to emotional well being and he got attracted to Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Seeing great value in it he also began sharing it as traveled across the country and sometimes abroad too. He saw the beauty in building a world where we can listen to each other and find ways to meet our needs, instead of living in a space of right/wrong and punishment reward.
Being a community person he has been connected to various sustainable living community initiatives where it became important to understand how to govern in these groups with a sense of collaboration. This attracted him to self-management systems like Sociocracy and Holacracy and he wanted to create an organization that would share NVC and also be governed with collaborative systems, in effect a Teal enterprise. That was the time he created Ahimsagram about five years ago, primarily as a laboratory for practicing and building collaborative processes. While all this was going on he had been working and experimenting with wholesome plant-based foods at a personal level for more than a decade.
After having developed the knowledge about collaborative systems Ahimsagram moved to turn his learnings and build food as a business, so they built a vegan and organic cafe space and ran it with Holacracy while integrating NVC in its day-to-day practice at Ahimsagram. In this part, Shammi had Lyla FreeChild Join as a co-creator and has taken charge of the food business. She is passionate about leading a life of wellness and has been an avid learner and enjoys researching about living a life that is aligned to natural laws.
Is one of their gifts to the community and has offered healthy food to people. Their food is made while retaining the nutrients so they steam their veggies, don’t use any aluminum or Teflon vessels, have sufficient raw options, its vegan and largely organic. No white sugar or wheat.
Due to lockdowns, they were operating in the online delivery space more but once again they are relaunching the cafe by providing healthy meals.
In most cafes and food establishments you see more men, and that too in leading positions. Ahimsagram has consciously had women team members who are learning new things each day not just about food but about relating to each other, expressing themselves, and are more able to bring up the challenges that arise while working with each other and process them. The capacity to listen to each other is enhanced here and so is the capacity to empathize with each other and that too when there is a disconnect with another person.
Besides, the team is also aware of mental health challenges and people here try to become aware of their triggers. They have discussions about such issues and look at ways of taking up power and having the ability to speak up honestly even if it may create conflict. There is no shame around conflicts and the space has processes around conflict transformation.
Year-long training program to transform your kitchens!
Lately, Ahimsagram decided to coach people in transforming their food practices and re-design their kitchen and food systems, by way of a year-long online course ‘Embracing Wellness’. It is meant to support wellness seekers to learn to create delicious nourishing food, have more energy and vitality by empowering themselves with knowledge & skills of living with the laws of nature so they can experience vibrant health.
The knowledge that Ahimsagram has picked up over more than a decade will be offered in bite-size modules through an online year-long program, with sharing of the vision, theory, DIY sessions, and coaching so people can be empowered to actually change their food systems and practices. This way they can offer their learnings to people beyond borders using videos, audio, text, and webinars, etc. If anyone is interested to know more about this course they can sign up here.
Lyla is leading this part of the program and it has touched many people’s lives by transforming their kitchen and promise to extend this to whoever is seeking this knowledge in their life from any part of the world. This is going to scale up Ahimsagram’s impact.
The way you do anything, that’s the way you do everything! So Ahimsagram is also working on the sustainability aspect and has minimized the role of plastic in their online deliveries, which took them a long time before they could delve into sending their food across the country. They have at times also designed 100 percent plastic-free packaging with recycled papers and send Diwali sweets to people all over the country. It was highly appreciated for their health part and the care and sustainable practices in its packaging. They make their own bio enzyme, compost their organic waste, and have their own small kitchen garden in whatever small patch of land it has.
It has inspired people by them walking their talk and encouraging and supporting them in building their organic gardens. Wherever Ahimsagram is situated it enjoys connecting with the neighbors and sharing their ideas that touch the community there. They have also worked towards building green ecosystems by planting trees with diversity to make space for the natural habitat of birds and animals. It has also been part of a movement for saving a forest patch being turned into an industrial zone and has been part of the initiative to mobilize the community for it. While doing its business it has also adopted and cared for the street dogs and worked with people who are into animal care.
The Ahimsagram Foundation
Lately, Ahimsagram has branched off and created a non-profit organization – Ahimsagram Foundation – which is working on two primary areas. 1) It wants to make their work with food accessible to people across all sections of the society so they plan to establish community kitchens and train people into healthy cooking so as to turn existing food spaces to serve wellness inspiring foods, and 2) they see that we need to work on making our habitats ecologically designed and are working on building green eco-zones around their city to make it more conducive to other beings and also providing clean air to the people of the cities.
Ahimsagram as a Teal organization
If the world would move to higher consciousness, how would our organizations or businesses look like? Yes, with all the diverse organization design work that Ahimsagram is doing, it is a ‘Teal’ organization or one that has a governance system where the team members experience dignity and autonomy towards their work and also at the same time operate effectively and interdependently with others while moving forward to meet the purpose of the organization. This takes effort and it is not easy, but with the right processes and practice, an organization can become a more evolved organization.
Also, there needs to be a space where each role filler can bring up their tension and process with their team members who are impacted by their work. Besides, this approach tensions as a normal occurrence and as an opportunity for growth and evolution.
Ahimsagram has inspired many people to bring healthy food into their lives with their courses, it has provided opportunities for people to come and learn about building collaborative organizations or made them aware of their communication and shared NVC, thereby encouraging them to share their honesty while holding care for the people around them, inspired many into sustainable living. It has served healthy food to the people in their city and even offered it online across the country.
One of the key learnings that Ahimsagram has had is that there needs to be training or sensitization around mental health issues or making the team trauma-informed if we expect the team to work with care and effectiveness.
Learn more about Ahimsagram
About the Author
Shammi Nanda. Ahimsagram, India
Shammi grew up in Jaipur in a neighborhood where he could go and eat in any house, which give him a strong sense of valuing the community. He has been engaging in community initiatives since childhood which has now become his profession by creating a business that operates to bring wellness to the lives of the community members through healthy food.
At present, he has founded a social enterprise, Ahimsagram, and wants to show the world that business can work with high integrity and collaboration while promoting the health of individuals and that of the planet. He along with Lyla Freechild has also created a nonprofit that would show the world that sustainable community initiatives can be effectively organized.