• October 1, 2020 1:09 am

Reporting From Delhi

​ ​The Diabetic Chef

ByMihir Srivastava

Aug 22, 2020

A prodigious entrepreneur, 23-year-old Harsh Kedia, taught himself to lead a quality life despite diabetes and is now helping thousands of others to do the same

Harsh Kedia is a jovial 23-year-old, full of zeal to help others. Adversity has given meaning and direction to his life. His never say die attitude and zest for life have made him an endearing man with unparalleled achievements. Yet when talking about him one gets the feeling, it’s just the beginning.

He was 12 years old when Harsh was diagnosed with diabetes. During his early teens, his being overweight only added to the complications he faced. It wasn’t easy finding the right balance of diet and exercise for a sustainable lifestyle.

“Things were going bad,” he says remembering his early teens. It came as a shock that there’s a long list of things that he cannot eat—and some of which he liked a lot. His sugar levels were out of control and doctors were contemplating whether to put him on insulin or not. But they finally settled for oral drugs.

Diabetes is controllable, not curable. If not controlled, it can have a corrosive effect on organs like the kidney, heart, digestive system, liver, not to forget the eyes. Harsh at one point suffered from glaucoma, caused by damage of the optical nerves, vital for good vision— another complications of diabetics. To control diabetes is not easy, it calls for an active life, and meticulous control on the intake of sugar and calories. And there is more to controlling sugar than avoiding everything sweet.

Harsh is from a family of businessmen, his father, elder brother and his wife run their own separate businesses. His mother, a homemaker, is also diabetic. Change, like charity, starts with self. Harsh took charge of his destiny, educated himself about the aliment to size up the monster and took all the required steps.

He did it on his own so as not to add to the worries of his parents. “I used to deal with it myself,” he says affirmatively. After some testing times, and incorporating necessary changes in his lifestyle, he brought in the much-needed balance. Harsh lost some 30 kg.

While dealing with his health issues, he graduated in Economics (Honours) and started working at the age of 17. He did odd jobs in various fields and gained experience and business skills. All this while, he experimented with food, particularly for diabetics.

After he controlled his diabetes, he wanted to help people at large with his knowledge and insights. He started many companies, like House of Kedia—which was about clothing, grooming and happiness that also runs an advertising agency. His latest projects — ‘A Diabetic Chef’—which as he describes as, “India’s first exclusive diabetic-friendly desserts organisation. Bean to Bar. Vegan. Stevia Base.”

“Who says diabetics can’t eat chocolate?” asks Harsh, a self-taught nutritionist par excellence. He explains, unlike the popular perception, all dark chocolate isn’t safe for diabetics, something that his own family didn’t realise. A majority of dark chocolates have 30-40% sugar component, some have high amounts of Maltitol or in simpler words, sugar-alcohol, which is good if used in moderation but lethal in high doses—that’s what they use in ‘sugar-free’ chocolates, he informs.

Even the popular sugar-free and Keto diets have whey and fat, which makes it unsuitable for diabetics. He cautions against vegetable oils used in the chocolates as it “never get digested in your system.” Specially made for diabetics, he uses the best of Belgium chocolate and ensures that it’s rich in fibre and, needless to add, is devoid of any harmful ingredients.

Harsh loves to read and not many people, even his friends, know that he’s into gaming bigtime. He loves dogs and good things in life. He’s focused on his work and wants to use his knowledge for the general good.

Last year, he participated in Gulf Food—the world’s largest annual food and beverage trade show, a 1,000,000 sq ft exhibition space where 5,000 exhibitors from 120 countries display the latest innovations and new-to-market products. Harsh was a chef there, proud to be representing India, and perhaps the only one who had to offer food and recipes for the diabetics. Back home, in the past few years, he has expanded his operations, and now can deliver packed food to “15,000 pin codes.”

Charity is an essential component of his business philosophy. He’s willing to help anyone in need, particularly diabetics. A part of his earnings goes towards ensuring that poor diabetic children get dosages of insulin, which costs about Rs 30,000 a month. “We aim to help underprivileged kids with type 1 diabetes by donating a part of our proceeds for their monthly insulin requirements,” he informs.

He’s concerned about poor knowledge and awareness about diabetes in India, particularly in rural areas. As per the International Diabetes Federation, 80% of the estimated 366 million diabetics globally live in low and middle-income countries, and half of these cases remain undiagnosed.

Harsh conducts management classes in premier business schools like the Indian School of Business. He likes his drink—particularly gin and tonic. He leads an active life, exercise, and dance—though, the lockdown has affected his usual routine. With every passing year, he’s focusing on expanding his businesses.

“I take it as my personal responsibility to create awareness about diabetes all over the world,” he says. And, by doing so, save thousands of lives and help people lead a quality life despite and in spite of diabetes.

(Cover: Harsh Kedia, after turning his life around wants to help people dealing with diabetes a healthy life)