Caring and extremely understanding parents. B.Sc. Maths (Hons) and MBA degrees. A career graph that kept soaring, taking her all over the world. A loving and supportive husband. Two adorable children. A very handsome dog. Monika Dodeja Chowdhry’s life was a fairy tale.
Monika had an enviable job with one of the Big Four consulting firms when she finally decided to give in to an idea that had nagged at her for a long time. She decided to quit the rat race and do something ‘different’ on her own. But her idea of turning entrepreneur was not about a tech-startup or owning a huge venture which she would build from scratch and eventually sell to someone even bigger. Her ‘different’ was about doing something close to nature, empowering sections of society who need attention and doing something which didn’t require her to be tied to a desk with a laptop through the day.
Combining these very different and very confusing prerequisites to extract a magic potion seemed almost impossible. So she kept debating with herself, trying to figure out what she really wanted to do.
In 2016 her husband mentioned a school friend who was unable to get entry into an Entrepreneurs Training Course at the Directorate of Mushroom Research, Solan since the course was in very high demand. Monika was intrigued enough to check details but forgot about it after a while. Strangely, she kept going back to check on the course off and on for almost a year. She applied for the November 2017 batch but didn’t get an entry. By that time the idea had become an obsession and she planned ahead for the next batch, studying everything that was available online. She finally attended the course in April 2018.
After returning home, she rented a small room to experiment with her newfound knowledge, very successfully. She has now leased a bigger agricultural plot to grow mushrooms – the new love of her life.
Bags in the growing room at The Mushrooms Hub
Oyster mushrooms growing on a bag
Monika currently grows different varieties of oyster mushrooms (check featured image for plucked mushrooms from her farm), building up rapidly towards the farm’s capacity of 200 kg per day. Her expansion plans for The Mushrooms Hub (https://www.mushroomshub.com/ ) include setting up more rooms to increase produce capacity and also bringing in varieties like Shiitake and more. People swear by the excellent quality of her produce and she is now hoping to take baby steps into institutional supply.
A delicious stir fry with Monika’s oyster mushrooms
Monika considers herself at par with her farm workers and does almost everything they do. Eventually, she plans to create a more inclusive work environment by hiring people with hearing disabilities and training them to be financially independent. She also hopes to inspire the local village families to let their women work, breaking social barriers and taboos.
In a world full of aspirants gunning for that elusive pot of gold at the end of a very slippery rainbow, people like Monika stand out as differentiators. More power to Monika and her Mushrooms…