UNCG Alumna Turns Family Recipes into Healthy Dips

Posted on March 28, 2024

Photo of Mehek Khera in an outdoor setting.

Mehek Khera ‘16 M.B.A. fondly recalls childhood meals, ones that her great grandmother made from hand-me-down recipes. Now the UNC Greensboro alumna, born in India, has brought those family recipes to the United States with her Niramaya line of dips.

The dips, now available in Sprouts Farmers Markets, will soon be available in 900 nationwide Albertsons Companies’ grocery stores, including Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, and Shaw’s.

Khera, who immigrated to the United States when she was 24, named her company after a Sanskrit word she learned from a blessing her great grandmother shared. As Khera explains, “niramaya” means “wellness for all,” and it reflects what she seeks for herself and her customers.

Mission Driven, UNCG Educated

Kera learned about the UNCG Bryan School of Business & Economics from an admissions counselor in India. She then immigrated from India to Greensboro to work on her master’s degree.

A sense of mission was something UNCG Professor Vidyaranya Gargeya, who is now retired, helped instill in Khera while she was a M.B.A. student at UNCG. “The Bryan School gave me the foundations of business,” she says. “And Dr. Gargeya changed my life at the time.”

Tuisha Stack, her graduate adviser and now administrative director for graduate programs in the Bryan School, was also a strong support.

“Mehek was one bright eyed, hardworking, and eager student,” says Stack. “She never missed a professional development opportunity and was an active member of our Spartan Women in Business chapter. What has stayed with me about Mehek is her humility given how brilliant she is.”

Khera says UNCG gave her foundational knowledge that has served her well during her career.

“It was a very flexible yet very rigorous program that welcomed a cohort of students from around the world,” she says. “I graduated with a deep understanding of supply chain and marketing … as well as a lot of industry contacts, prospects for jobs, and great friends.”

A Company Born Out of Adversity

Between school and part-time work, Khera says she was putting in 16- to 18-hours a day and not eating well.

“I had developed some autoimmune conditions, as well as some chronic ailments, and I collapsed one day at the Los Angeles airport,” she recounts. “That was a wakeup call for me to do better in taking care of myself.”

Khera decided to pursue a post-graduate nutrition certificate at an online institute based in New York, and from that experience, Niramaya came to be.

“I realized that what I grew up eating back home in India was so nutritious, and I had never stopped and thought about it because it was so delicious,” she says.

Khera saw opportunities to fill the gap in American grocery stores for Indian food that’s nutritious and accessible for American consumers. She also saw a way to improve her life and that of others.

“Food is a difficult industry to be in, but still I chose that because of a mission inside my heart to make life better for others,” Khera says.

Product photos promoting jar of Niramaya Super Greens Saag.

Marrying American and Indian cultures

Khera, who lives in New York City, considers the Niramaya dips to be a fusion of her two cultures —American and Indian.

“American consumers love dips as a snacking product,” she says. “And dipping in India is a favorite choice to eat flatbreads like roti and naan.”

Niramaya’s vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free dips are made from sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, beets, and other plant-based foods, she says. “They can be used as marinades, as dipping sauces, or as toppings to your favorite bowls.”

Khera takes pride in the fact that the dips can be used straight from the jar, with no cooking required. That makes them easy for busy working adults like her.

“People don’t have time to cook, and they don’t have time to sit and think what should be in their food product,” she says.

As Niramaya’s sole full-time employee, Khera says she wears multiple hats — juggling fundraising, networking, running day-to-day operations, marketing, planning for the future, and more.

“We are trying to position Niramaya as the next Indian American snacking company,” she says.

Dean Banks Digs Dips

Dr. McRae Banks, Margaret & Harrell Hill Professor of Entrepreneurship and dean of the Bryan School of Business and Economics, saw Khera’s dips were available at Sprouts Farmers Markets on social media.

When the dips appeared on shelves, he eagerly purchased all three to try and to share with family members who are vegan or have gluten and dairy allergies. At checkout, Banks told the Sprouts assistant manager of Khera’s connection to the Bryan School. The Sprouts team got excited and started planning a promotion on the spot.

“I have no doubt that Mehek will achieve her goal of becoming the Indian American snacking company,” says Banks. “The reception she has enjoyed from supermarket chains has come quickly and come big. With her healthy dips, Mehek has tapped into both a desire and need in the marketplace.”

To business school students everywhere, Khera offers advice.

“It doesn’t matter what profession one chooses, whether it’s a full-time job or entrepreneurship, that calling should come from inside of you,” she says, “or from an inspiration that you feel so deeply about that you’re willing to take on the challenges that come with that decision.”

Story by Dee Shore and Amy Burtch, AMBCopy
Photography provided by Mehek Khera

Product photo of six jars of Niramaya food products.

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