Dan Riegler, Co-Founder of KARANA

Daniel Creates Delicious and Sustainable Plant-Based Food

What’s your story?
I have always been passionate about both food and sustainability. After working on a number of agriculture and aquaculture related projects in Southeast Asia, I began to realize how connected they both are. It was extremely important for me to build something that added value across the entire supply chain, down to the farmer level, and that offered a net positive improvement in terms of environmental impact, nutrition, and consumer experience.

My Singapore-based company makes deliciously indulgent Asian comfort food from whole-plant ingredients, starting with dumplings and baos. We want to prove that eating in a healthier and more sustainable way doesn’t mean sacrificing or compromising on what we know and love. To do this, we take ordinary and underappreciated whole plants and transform them into meats, one of which is a “pork” made from jackfruit.

What excites you most about your industry?
Getting people to think about sustainability through food, because rather than restricting their choices, we are offering them new and exciting options. Eating is something we can all relate to, and people are now realising it also has a massive environmental impact. Making people happy through food, while significantly contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating other issues associated with the current animal agriculture system is an exciting prospect for the future.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have spent 7 of the last 10 years in Southeast Asia and feel very much at home across the region. When I arrived, I fell in love with the food and it’s one of many things that keeps me here.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
There are so many, for different reasons. I love the energy and pace of Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh, and Bangkok always draws me back. But it’s hard to beat Singapore for the convenience, infrastructure, and access to different markets.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Start a business that you’re passionate about.

Who inspires you?
People who face adversity without compromising their principles. There are countless examples, but a timely one is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is managing to keep science and reason at the forefront during a chaotic time and in an uncertain environment.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Probably nothing. I focus on what is ahead, and hope I have enough time to achieve most of what I’d like to do. I try to live in the moment, as much as possible. 

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It’s been fascinating for me to see the resilience of people in adapting to pretty drastic new conditions, such as remote working, which even my parents are embracing, and are pretty good at. It shows that we are able to shift deeply ingrained behaviors, when necessary, and that we will be able to come together, as a planet, to weather pandemics, make changes in our diets, and otherwise prepare for the next impending crisis, which, in my opinion, is climate change.

How do you unwind?
In more ordinary times, travel is what always re-energizes me. More recently, I have started cycling again.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Kampot, Cambodia because it is an insanely beautiful, preserved colonial town, on a river meeting the ocean, surrounded by mountains, that has amazing food, and as much adventure or luxury as you want, without feeling overly touristy.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits,” by C. K. Prahalad. This book inspired me to think outside of my comfort zone and look for less obvious opportunities.

Shameless plug for your business:
Please follow us across social media channels @eatkarana and watch for our upcoming new product launch!

How can people connect with you?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews

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Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.

Connect with Callum on Twitter and LinkedIn
Download free copies of his books at www.callumlaing.com

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