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Oral History Interview with Scientist and Intrapreneur Dr. Sudhakar “Shan” Shanbhag

My father comes up and stops immediately… He says, “You boys, don’t you think it’s a good idea, you work very hard, get good grades, get your diploma, your high school degree, then go to college, you study hard, get good grades and get your degree, then go to college, you study hard, get good grades and get your degree, good degree. Everything is good. Good degree. And then go to Bombay and get a good job. Don’t you think it’s a good idea?” Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Scientist and Intrapreneur Dr. Shan Shanbhag.

Dr. Shan Shanbhag is a business development advisor and mentor serving Central Florida and the world. Dr. Shanbhag shares expertise with entrepreneurs at 1 Million Cups Orlando, Orlando Economic Development,  Rollins College Social Entrepreneurship Hub, SCORE Orlando,  Starter Studio Orlando, UCF Incubators, and many other individuals, institutions and businesses. Dr. Shanbhag has a BS in Chemistry and Physics from Kanara College, Kumta, Karnataka State, India, a BS in Technology, Food Science and Technology, Chemical Engineering, from Bombay University, Bombay, India; and a MS and PhD in Food Science, Technology, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Biochemistry,  from University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. Dr. Shanbhag has 25 years of experience leading product development and market introduction with major corporations such as General Foods and Unilever.  Shan and his team introduced over a dozen products/brands that have generated billions in profit, including Crystal Light, Slim-Fast, Pop-Rocks, and Fruit ‘n Fiber. Dr. Shanbhag has authored 13 patents and over 40 provisional patents. He is dedicated to sharing knowledge with business start-ups, small and mid-size businesses as a “Business Sherpa”, a Mentor and Business Development Advisor. For 32 years he has dedicated himself to advising entrepreneurs in Central Florida as well as volunteering and mentoring business owners in our regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Listen as Dr. Shanbhag shares his wisdom and business brand expertise with our community.

Dr. Shanbhag, Part I, 42.55

Sudhakar Shanbhag and I was born in Haldipur, a small village back in India south of Goa, about 40 miles south of Goa in May 27, 1939. I am 85 years old.

Well, we’re thankful that you are here with us today, Dr. Shanbhag.

Is that where you grew up in that area of India?

I was born back in that village, small village, next to the ocean, Arabic Ocean [Arabian Sea] and I was there, until four years of college, with my parents. We’re a large family of ten, I was number five, third boy, fifth child. We were five boys and five girls. My parents married early, when they were young, that’s the system. And we were very, very, very poor. We were lucky in that respect, because we had at least two meals a day, comfort of our neighbors. We were lucky.

My Father and God

Then around age four, and my father is extremely religious. He breathes God, he breathes God, amazing, cleanest person, heart in every way, cleanest person I ever come across even today. So he prays God in every way, chanting mantras, and my question was, at age four, he worships God, he talks to God every day I know that, at least three times a day at least he talks literally, and he is so kind, and helping everybody that I know in the village, they respect him. How come I’m starving? This is a question to myself. I couldn’t ask anybody that. So immediately I said, “I don’t believe in you”. That’s what I told God, I don’t believe in you. Within seconds, I got scared. No way. I’m going to be punished. So no, no, this is what I’ll do. There is something beyond God, something big. I don’t know what it was at that time. This is what I will do I will worship my parents and my older brothers and they will worship you. So I was clean. I felt really good at that time.

My Mother and Family

So that’s how it all started, then at age five, we were about, I think at that time, about seven kids. I had two older brothers, and one younger brother and two or three younger sisters, kind of thing, so there were seven of us. This is our custom back then, boys eat first. So we got in the habit of eating first. Then on the same plate, my sisters eat. What is this all about? I couldn’t figure it out; it’s not fair. Then at the same time, I watch three nights within a one month period, because I am very observant, my mother eats the last. One night I saw around 10:30, 11 o’clock at night after my father ate and everyone had finished their dinner, there is no food left for her. She had to clean up the mess and goes to bed hungry. I was crying at age five.

Minimizing Suffering and Generating Happiness

Even today I remember those things we talk a lot at the dinner table, my son and my wife. So I wanted to do something about it. That’s why you could say my number one priority is minimizing human suffering and generating happiness. My highest priority is women and minorities and the kids and old, elderly who are unfortunate, I’m helping that’s where I spend every second, every minute possible. That’s a second turning point. Everybody has a turning point in life, people don’t realize that and that determines who you are, what you want to be, at the end. So those are two turning points. So there is one at age five that made me somebody that I ended up being today.

A Father’s Wisdom

Then at age nine is the most important one, in 1943 [1948], I remember, I was nine years old, my older brothers were about 15 to 16 years old standing next to each other just like that. My father comes up and stops immediately, and he’s not looking at me because I was nine years old and he thought I was not going to understand what he was going to say. He started looking at my brother and he said, “You boys.” Immediately my ears perked up. I’m here. In our dialect, he says, “You boys, don’t you think it’s a good idea you work very hard, get good grades, get your diploma, your high school degree, then go to college, you study hard, get good grades and get your degree, good degree. Everything is good. Good degree. And then go to Bombay (at that time we used to call it Bombay now it is Mumbai) and get a good job and get good salary. Don’t you think it’s a good idea?” And he walked away. That’s it. He didn’t say anything, do this, do this. It took no more than twelve seconds.

A Turning Point in Life

That turned our life. That’s the turning point I remember so well. And my older brother is the smartest in the family even today but he died about a year ago at 90. And I was the dumbest in the family and I’m still the dumbest in the family. He managed to get six scholarships. I remember that. He got his master’s in physics, and master’s in mathematics, and the rest is history. He just excelled… He did amazing things and he had an amazing family. And his family has four doctors and about eight or ten engineers. It is just amazing.

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry and Physics, Microbiology from Kanara College

I followed him. I wanted to go to college. I was standing there at the bus stop. Everybody that I knew was laughing. Why are you wasting your time? Why don’t you stay here and help your father? You are wasting your time. They insulted me. I couldn’t believe it. They’re all gone by the way. All my friends have gone. They insulted me. I put up with that. I managed to get a degree from there: chemistry, physics, and microbiology without buying a single book. I didn’t have a penny and I managed to do it… I never read a single book the way you guys read it, never in my life. I didn’t have that luxury. I had to get it from the library, skim it, get to know that, register here [brain] and build on it. That’s all I did.

Bachelors of Science in Food Science and Technology, Chemical Engineering from Bombay University

So I managed to get my chemistry, physics degree and microbiology, Kanara College. Then I came to Bombay stayed with my brother and borrowed from my uncle some money to get another degree: Food Science, Technology, Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, Biotechnology. That’s the first time the word came: “Biotechnology”. It was not there before. It was, 1958, 1959 something like that. I remember that.

Education the Highest Priority

So I did that in Bombay and I managed to get all sorts of education. I was signing up for everything: chemical engineering, biotechnology… you name it I was getting into it. And managed to get top of the class kind of thing. I managed to get a job at Unilever. It’s called Lever Brothers back in India; that’s one of the largest companies in the world. They saw something in me that I was not aware of. I was just doing what I was doing. They saw in me creativity and leadership. I didn’t know what leadership meant. They didn’t tell me. But they were treating me well and they were paying me handsome. A lot of money to me. And that’s the best thing that happened. I helped my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews for education, all that’s what I did. Every penny of it. I begged, borrowed at that time. Education was the highest priority. I feel very good about it.

Courtesy of Shanbhag Enterprises

Unilever Coming to Me for My Signature for the Patent – Natural Unilever

At Unilever I managed to come up with two big inventions. One is a product here, I brought it here: darkening the hair and whitening the skin the natural way, the natural way. I have that. And there were some amazing things I did. I had to go to the hospital for the skin and hair from dead peoples bodies. All sorts of things I did and I got a patent for that and I still have that. This is a 1964 sample for: If a picture is worth a thousand words, this sample is worth a million words. This is albino guinea pig hair, white treated with my stuff, 1964, washed hundreds of times and that is converted into, it’s called Natural Unilever and then all the names continue. It’s a billion dollar business. And they came to me in the campus where I was, the marketing guy as well as the one who told me, they came to get my signature for the patent. So the patent belongs to them. I feel good about it.

Three Patents for Unilever

The other one is, we have buffalo milk. Buffalo milk is seven percent fat. Cow’s milk is four percent fat. Even for us it is difficult to digest. I came up with a natural way of modifying it. I came up with the dry baby powder for babies, and that’s a billion dollar business right now. Then I came up with condensed milk, that’s the third one I came up with. So basically there are three patents for Unilever, but they paid me handsomely. They treated me so well. I couldn’t have asked for better.

United States Patent Office, Patent Number: 3,472, 659 – Read more.

Providing Education

Because of that, I could help my brothers and sisters and everything. I could have managed it but I would not have been able to start this thing I’m so proud of. Of all of my accomplishments, that goes on the top of the list. My north star is providing education, not only a high education for myself, I am learning every day, that’s my north star. Every day I’m learning. I never stop learning. And I helped a lot of friends also I paid their tuition. I remember. I feel good about it. So that’s the way it started.

My Wife Rukhsana

So that’s the way it started. Then I came here. The lady next to me, I have her picture here, very nice lady is my wife’s name is, Rukhsana. We met at Unilever. We worked together. And she does the same. She works harder than I’m working. She’s a nutritionist, diabetes educator, functional medicine. She spends more time with her patients than I do with all these things put together. I call her like an angel. We are married since 1968.

Rukshana Shanbhag

Master of Science and PhD in Food Science, Technology, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Biochemistry from University of Illinois at Champaign

Then I came to campus and I managed to get two degrees. A masters as well as a PhD. Without buying a single book, without having a single penny. I came to this country with 44 pounds of luggage and $50.00 in my pocket and that’s it. Welcome to the world. I didn’t know anybody. I applied for eight universities. I got admission in all eight universities including MIT, Rutgers, Ohio, you name it, University of Illinois. My boss at Unilever was from University of Illinois that helped me to connect that. Everybody gave tuition free, all eight of them, including MIT. What is it I have to eat? So, I needed a teaching assistantship. Five of them sent me a teaching assistantship. Unfortunately, for my part it is fortunately, MIT was dragging their feet about that. When they come it is too late. I picked University of Illinois at Champaign Illinois, the best thing I did in my life.

Teaching Assistantship

That’s what I did I came here with 44 pounds of luggage and $50.00 by the time I reached the campus by Greyhound Bus and everything I got $32.00 in my pocket. Chairman of the Department came and picked me up at the bus stop and dropped me off at the YMCA, six dollars a night kind of thing. Then early the next day I went to the accommodation, dormitory and that kind of thing. I have to pay a hundred dollar down payment. Welcome. They …. were kind enough to loan me $200.00. Thank you very much. I came here with $2370 a year teaching assistantship. Right now, it’s about $10,000 dollars a year. Again, I managed it. I sent some money back home.

Masters and PhD

Best of all, I managed to get two degrees, masters and PhD, in record time... three years and two months. All course works and everything including a language. I was forced to take two languages. One for masters and one for PhD at that time. Why do I want to waste my time? English is my seventh language. If you consider British, then eight languages. I got punished for British [English] by a Japanese professor for spelling errors. I said, “I will hire somebody to translate for me.”

Record of Distinction in German

So anyway, I managed to get that degree. I managed to work hard in the summer for just getting at that time German, French and Spanish those three languages were allowed. Together, I took German and French. I studied in German. I got a record of distinction on it because I had practiced all these translations and everything. Same thing on the exam, I just translate it.

The Library

So I used to go to a library first thing in the morning six in the morning; that’s the second largest library after Harvard I understand. You can check it out, big time, beautiful building. Five story above ground, five story below ground. I used to go there, pick up the book, jot it down. And I was the last one leaving the library at midnight. Intentionally I misplaced the books, so I would have it. I didn’t steal it. Nobody could touch it, that’s an innovation. Everything is survival for me. Everything’s a startup.

Free Water and Bound Water Research for Convenience Foods

So I managed to work on free water and bound water we called it. Water in the product, every product has water in it; almost everything has water in it. Drying, we do the drying, so that nothing is available for microbes. Otherwise, refrigeration is technology so that they can’t settle too long there. Freezer, will kill it, they can’t breathe. That’s why they’re freezing it. Freezing came from General Foods again, Mr. Birdseye. Clarence Birdseye is the one who invented that. He began to see that. All the frozen foods are because of Birdseye otherwise we didn’t have it. So I did work on all the free water and bound water using nuclear magnetic resonance technology measuring that; that dictates the shelf life of all the products. That’s the reason you buy so many convenience foods now, my technology. That’s what I contributed to the world.


Then General Foods wanted me. At that time they had already Tang product, they had invented Tang. I know who invented that… [Mr. Al Clausi] made that. I used to call him my godfather. But it was like putting creamer – it was not dissolving. So they hired me for that purpose actually, they knew my work. So I managed to get it within four months. Tang, we used it for astronauts, that’s how we used that advertisement and it became a billion dollar business. It’s more popular in Brazil and other places, Tang than around here. It’s basically four to five things in it, chemicals, they’re natural. We made a concoction. It tastes good. We made it sugar-free and everything. So that’s the reason they hired me. I did that.

Microwave for the Kitchen

Then I was finishing at that time and they came up with another, they said. “Hey, they went to call their people at Siemens and the other started with an R [Raytheon], Amana, people who invented microwave at that time. Microwave principal, he had white clothes, white jacket and he was working on a microwave principal at that time and he touched his pocket. It was hot. He had melted chocolate. Wow! So then they wanted to make a microwave for the home, a kitchen kind of thing. So they came up with it, I have the pictures and everything… At that time it cost about $5,000. for a microwave at that time, means right now about $25,000 or $40,000 for the home. People said, “Don’t you go near it.” Pregnant women, you better not, that kind of a thing going on.

Microwave Product Line

So they said, “Shan,Tang is over. Fix that one. Help him out.” I said, “Okay. Give me this, this, this, and this. I told them. Give me three chefs.” They had eight chefs at that time. Three chefs, one packaging guy, one engineer, and one marketing guy, plus eight or ten people under me and I’ll make it happen. And we did. Within four months we came up with the thing. Line of profit with about 25 different products ready for microwave. Only thing is, we couldn’t use the word microwave.

So, these are food products that are going to be microwaved?

We helped them come up with the microwave. A beautiful microwave that could be in the kitchen.

So this is the oven that you are working on first?

I helped them build the oven. They’re building it like a monster and people didn’t want to go near it and all that. So I took that out. So this is where I’m bringing my marketing. I never took a marketing class. I never took a financial class. I never took an economic class. I never took a business class. But I’m a businessman. So I did that.

Quick Cook” ProductsTastes So Good

And what I did was I basically came up with about 25 products. We have so many different products. We have 300 stews. We have anything and everything. We came up with a product, beautiful, amazing, “so quick and tastes so good” and we put that in the promotion. And nobody knew it as microwaved, I didn’t call it microwaved. It’s a quick cook. Everyone, they cooked it. Wow! Wow! It’s a popular thing now. Everyone has a microwave now that’s what’s created. See the impact I created.

United States Patent Office, Patent Number: 5,004,616 – Read more.

Food Scientist

So, that’s how it got started. Then, here is my problem, I was a food scientist, the project leader, the group leader, typical corporation ladder. And then I got the responsibility for an entire corporation later. I wanted to get in on the development side rather than – they said you are going to be principal scientist, you are our guru. I don’t want that. The reason I came 10,000 miles is to do something at my number one… how everybody makes a buying decision. At that time, I wanted to know how people make that decision, a buying decision. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be with a focus group, ideation, that kind of a thing.

Request for the Development Department

So there is a development department there. I wanted to go there. They said, “No.” They didn’t want me there. They were jealous. I have a PhD and a damned Indian. I knew what they were talking about they didn’t have to tell me. They didn’t want me. I went on for three months and then I started writing about my desire to go there in my weekly handwritten report that goes from boss to boss to boss. It reached up the line and they got scared. Amazing order came from the top: “Damn it. Get him.” So they called me for an interview. We sat down and talked about it. It was supposed to be a promotion. No. It doesn’t matter to me. I will work at the same level. And they were just dragging their feet, I could see that.

“In Charge of an Entire Development Department…”

I said, “Let me do this.” I put it in writing, I will work with a demotion. Let me take it one step further, I’ll work for free for three months. Then the best thing happened: I got it. Long story short, I was in charge of an entire development department, brand new, everything new that were not in the business. I did one part, 36 PhDs under me and I had access to 150 other PhDs in the corporation. Everybody’s brain I had access to. So I was level one staff member I called myself. I paid the thing and got the best of other people. And they moved me in 18 years, ten different positions; wherever there’s a problem. And most of the time it’s a people problem, was president in marketing, ad marketing and all of that going on and I was the one hashing it out and making it happen… So I had an amazing time at that time. I came up with all sorts of things.

Pop Rocks

I have a prop here invented by Bill Mitchell he has more than 40 patents, genius marketing guy. [Bubble gum Pop Rocks]. I had to commercialize that, the whole project. We made 72 million dollars in two years: Profit. And we were scared to death. We sold it to a Japanese company. Because if they don’t pop, you break the jaws, we didn’t want to get into that. We were really conscious about our brand name and everything, the numbers. But I was the one who commercialized it. He was the inventor [Bill Mitchell]. Myself and my team that’s the one thing: We did it.

Meatless Meat

A lot of things, we did so many things. I created at that time “Meatless Meat” we called it. Cholesterol was a big, big thing. A very big problem. I had a big group, three, four five years total. I moved some of them, I brought them in to help them out. We had about 12 patents, three of them are under my name, myself and another. I came up with everything: sausage, hot dog, lean strip, everything. Here is an example: Crispy Strip. This is it. This one is there since 1976.

Yes, I have a copy here of the patent from the United States Patent Office database. This is your juicy sausage analog and process. This one as you noted was filed April 1, 1974. The background shall I read it?


“In recent years, considerable research has focused upon developing new technology for producing meatlike, protein-containing foods from various vegetable and animal protein sources. Economics provides a major incentive. It would clearly be advantageous to substitute the more efficient process of growing vegetable protein for the rather inefficient process by which animals convert the proteinaceous vegetable materials into meat. This is especially true where the ever increasing human population is feared to be out distancing our ability to provide grazing land for meat producing animals. Moreover, recent efforts have also been directed to avoiding certain natural products which may be undesirable from religious, ethnic or health reasons…Excerpt from Juicy Sausage Analog and Process, United States Patent 3,922,352. November 25, 1975.

United States Patent Office, Patent Number: 3,922,352 – Read more.

To me, this seems so timely to today. It’s so visionary.

This is always, even today, I think about the future not today. Today will be yesterday before you know it. And at that time, that one is 1974, 75 or something, nobody knew. We spent, this is the problem with our management: lack of vision. I want to say something; it is unfortunate. In spite of them we did this thing. We came up with this: this is the crispy strips… It’s still a patent since 1975. And this is the one we used for home use test. We sent it all over the country. We had to have minimal so many thousand customer feedback and everything.

Crispy Strips

This is a sample, gave it to everybody. Based upon this, we proved we had a 72 million dollar national market for this at that time. 72 million right today is about a half billion in today’s world. Now you can see Beyond Burger, all those guys are doing that and they are what, four to five billion dollars right now. Unfortunately, we are doing it and we are manufacturing it at the Evansville plant, we converted the Evansville Plant… all stainless steel and beautiful, you know. And we’re doing it. We got all the results. We want to go for it. But the top guy was really dragging his feet. Mr. Producer, chairman, he was not signing. We wanted to get going on, commit for advertisement and everything. That’s a lot of money. We’ve already spent 24.5 million dollars for this. And he was dragging his feet. “No I need this… I need this.”

2.2 Million Dollar Budget for Advertisement for Television

And we managed to get more and more data. And one Friday, we got all the data from all over the country. At that time it we didn’t have Internet or anything. They flew it in… Saturday, they’re ready to present it and these guys are on the golf course. We presented to all the board members. Here it is, present it. And he was so reluctant, he signed it. 2.2 million dollar budget for the commitment of advertisement for television and he cursed, “Damnit.”. Signed it. And we celebrated. We’re celebrating. That happened Saturday. We celebrated. We gave the okay to ad agencies, the get go.

Oscar Meyer

Thursday of that week they announced we bought Oscar Meyer. One of the conditions is no non-meat products. He knew. He couldn’t tell us. See that’s the problem. General Mills lost a lot of money because of that. Anyway, we were so pissed off. We were high on the list and I had a tough time to handle people’s emotions and everything. And we did, that’s fine. Now it’s all done. That’s one thing. And there’s dozen of other stuff like that. In spite of them, we did it.

Crystal Light

Crystal Light is an example. I was working on Tang and Kool Aid and all those other products. I was helping. I came up with sugar-free products, that was a big deal. But we wanted to domyself and Mr. Jim Kilts- that’s another story. Jim Kilts one of the very successful executive actually. And he, knew how to treat people. He was a technician at the Kool Aid plant and he went to evening classes at the University of Illinois in Chicago and got his BA in business administration. He got a degree and he comes to headquarters White Plains, NY as one of the guy in the development department, marketing guy. And they want to call me the marketing manager, no director he called me. He can’t be director he doesn’t even have an MBA [Jim Kilts had a BA]. So he was working with me and we came up with the Crystal Light idea.

NutraSweet $149.00 a Pound

Hey, we knew we can’t do that because management won’t like it because we had a ration at that time for aspartame, NutraSweet. I got another story on NutraSweet. We could have owned the whole NutraSweet business. We could have half and half. We had a chance at that. So NutraSweet was rationed. $149.00 a pound at that time. Think for a minute, at that time. Right now, it’s five or six hundred dollars a pound. It was like gold under lock and key. And I had the responsibility to use it in all the current existing businesses like Kool-Aid, Tang, all those things. But I wanted to come up with new things. And we are very good at the powder beverages, number one in the world. But nothing like Coke or Pepsi. So we thought we would come up with this thing.

AK Project

I had an idea. I thought I would come up with an adult beverage. We knew management won’t like that. In fact, we almost lost our jobs over it when they found out about it. And we started working, I told my team managers, sharing this is a part of NutraSweet, this new team. So they did it and we came up with it. I wrote AK, project name is AK. What is it? He said, “Project is AK. AK, what is it?” “Adult Kool-Aid. That’s it. Nobody else knows except you.” Because I didn’t want it to go up the line. They’d kill me. So we did it. Developed the product, focus group, ideation, all those things, all over the country.

Raquel Welch Paid One Million Dollars to Market Crystal Light

And this is what it is: It came with a package. It came with a tub. This is all of it. People copied Pringles at that time coming up with this thing. We copied Pringles concept. This is the original product. And we almost got fired once they found out about it. It was too late. It was printing money. Well, we came up with Crystal Light. Crystal Light, we didn’t like it, the name. We gave four different names, and said to come up with a name. This is the best name you can come up with? Deadline. To hell with it. Now it’s a household name, Crystal Light. You know what we did basically, we hired Raquel Welch. I have worked with her a lot. She’s beautiful, but very, very smart by the way. In fact, we paid one million dollars to her at that time. Now it’s five or six million. That’s it: her face. Ladies, you want to look like her, you have to drink Crystal Light.

1.7 Billion Dollar Profit

That’s all we did. See the beauty about it, is all in the marketing. You can do anything you want to, unless you can convince them, to get to their heart not to their brain, emotionally, that’s where it is. Our other lady is Linda Evans, Dallas. She got half a million dollarsThe third one was we used Elvis Presley’s wife. So yeah three people we hired and made it a household name. Everybody loved it. Then later on, we showed this, Raquel Welch commercials started coming in and everything. Then it went up, Crystal Light, by 20 percent within two months. We were trying to figure out what happened? All of them are men drinking Crystal Light, drinking pink lemonade. I couldn’t believe it even today they drink it. That’s the power of this thing. It’s a global brand. Mostly in this country, but it’s a global brand. Crystal Light is still there. Crystal Light is printing money still. It made already 1.7 billion dollar profit, not revenue, profit. It’s sickening. Your margin is like 90, 95 percent in margin. It is just unbelievable. So that’s the way to build a business. That’s how to organize.

Listen: Part II (44:17)

Dr. Shanbhag, Part II, 44:17

General Foods

So again, I had a project to work with these amazing brilliant, brilliant marketing guys. Because I was the one in General Foods at that time, knew everything going on in General Foods because I was a part of the board. They admired me. I was a peon, but they admired me from a technology point of view. I was sitting there. They also want to find out from me. What is going on? What is going on? So they used to book a flight, when I was flying, they used to book a flight so they could sit next to me and spend three, four, five hours flight. They’re all CEO’s all over the place now. I’m not kidding, Jim Kilts is one of them. He became a chairman of General Foods and Kraft, no Harvard MBA. He began that. Then he became the Gillette guy, then he became the Proctor and Gamble guy. Now he’s his own… Jim Kilts, check it out. Another one is Barry McCarthy, he’s the one who worked with me on this microwavable product.

The French Fries

Yes, I had French fries, chicken and fish. All those things can be done and we had it. In fact, Ore-Ida wanted to join. It was a startup at that time. We raised 25 million dollars in a startup, amazing, and I was part of the team. Again, you can see my name will be there, but I usually have my managers or the technicians their names are included I wanted to be part of the team not me. You know, I guide them and everything. The best one of all the things I would say, how we created Crispy Cooking which is now AirFryer. Crispy Cooking, these guys are so brilliant – working with Dr. Nabil El Hag, Egyptian guy. He was a bodyguard for [President] Nasser at that time. He was in wrestling, participated in the Olympics, all that, amazing. But he’s so difficult, insulting everybody. He’s so smart, they can’t put up with him. So he was creating a lot of problems. Top management told me to fire him. I said, “No. Don’t count on me. No, the reason is he has the brains. Others are a little bit nervous about that because they feel they are inferior to him. Yes, they better feel it unless they catch up with him. He’s done everything I’m asking him to do ahead of time. I have no problem. That’s my problem isn’t it.

United States Patent Office, Patent Number: 4,931,298 – Read more.

Creating Convection

I kept him and made it happen. That’s what we were working on at that time, you could see when we put in an oven, there’s static. Heat goes from outside to inside. It takes it own time, burns the outside. So we thought we’d come up with a tray with the holes created… situated that the air goes like this in the oven. Convection we created. That’s what happens when you put french fries in the fryer, they sizzle the inside. So that’s what we did. And then we came up with a box and we had French fries, fish and all those things.

Yes, I read your patent yesterday on that. It was amazing. It’s fascinating.

That’s old. But that’s how you invent.


See, I will talk about thinking outside the box... We are basically static thinking: two plus two equals four. This is what happens. You have to be, otherwise you would have errors. But I don’t. It started at age five. Teacher asked, What is two plus two?” “Me. Me. Me.” And they all say, “Four. Four. Four.” This typical thing happens. I was sitting on the side like Mikey and said, “Why not five?” Just like that. I have no idea why I said that even today. Everybody started laughing. Before they stopped laughing, I said, “Why not 22?” I visualized this cross between them. You know what she did, she asked my older sister in the other room to come and hold my nose and slap it. That’s the best thing that happened in my life. Never gave up two plus 22. Now it’s at two million two and two billion two. That’s what it is: Innovation. That’s what I do. Everything I do, any business. See there’s a reason for everything happening… Every day I’m getting better and better. My brain works a little bit differently.

Growth Mindset

Everybody is born with neurons. And actually people don’t realize, women who are six months pregnant, that’s where it starts. Those babies at that time, they have 86 billion neurons. I don’t know how they ever measured it, but 86 billion. But they’re learning at that time. Six months old. They’re learning through vibration. The minute a baby’s born, it’s called growth mindset. Learning, that’s what I want to talk about: Growth Mindset. They are running full fast, at that time I would say IQ wise, better than Albert Einstein. Almost every baby except for some people who have some sort of difficulty, they are all born with a growth mindset.

Why? Why not? What if?

And the breastfeeding time they’re picking it up, what mothers say. That’s why they say, mothers better be careful. Then the father comes in the picture, they’re taught, they’re absorbing it. Learning, learning. There is no inhibition. Everything is possible for them. They are going for it. And then brothers and sisters, then they end up in the school system. Two plus two is four; if you say five – out. That’s the system. And before you know, babies the minute they start talking, ask three questions literally a hundred times a day average. Why? Why not? What if? Those are the three questions. Some babies ask mom, drive them nuts. That’s where it starts basically....

Education and Healthcare

Actually, I am in the healthcare business. I am in the education business. I have about eight or ten education projects going on. One of the things is I’m talking to a lot of people out there. They better take initiative. The thing is to, like pregnant women now you have yoga classes and meditation classes and everything. That’s good, excellent. But why not start, women who are three, six months pregnant, why not tell them what exactly happens there so that they behave properly. We tell them: don’t smoke; don’t drink. That’s good. But why don’t they know that, so that they behave. That’s a precious time…

“Going to the Root Cause…”

I go to the root cause of the problem. Everything has a root cause. When you really look at it, there’s no more than a dozen things for everything we do and they are all people related it. There are about a dozen people in the world who are creating it. That’s the reason for all the stress and anxiety and everything. So I’m trying to get to the root cause. Everything I do has a root cause. So it becomes easy for me.

“I look at how the Future is going to be…”

Then the other thing I look at, is how the future is going to be. Everything I look at 30-40 emails come to me before 5:10 am. Everybody knows, what my brain is looking at so far. Right now, I am helping one young lady from Pakistan on a jewelry business. So that’s the kind of a thing, my thought processes. We are unique, human. We can think and we can manage the thought process. Other times not…

Phillip Morris

Right now my emphasis is going, since I worked with General Foods for about 18 years. It was one of the best times in my life. Then I left and started my own business because Phillip Morris bought us. I knew they were killing people and they were lying. And they wanted to buy us so they could get the protection of health food, health. They had guts to ask us. But Unilever, bought us within three or four months. To seal our system, to tell our presentation to him and his, our board members. How come you spent 450 million dollars in the last five years in R&D? Isn’t it too much? What do you have to show for it kind of thing. 450 million. Right now, it is at 3 or 4 billion dollars at the current. Anyway, they all chickened out, all the men and women. They dump it in my lap to defend that. Okay, that’s fine. I said, no problem.

Revenue Wise – Improve Product – New – Line Extension

So I met with the CFO and everything and I made a presentation. I told him, “Okay, here’s the thing. Remember, here is the way we do it. One is we revenue wise or profit wise, one is a cost reduction. Everything has to have a cost reduction without hurting the quality of the product. The other one is without increasing the cost, we are to improve the product. Everybody or I don’t need you on my team, that’s okay. The other one is in your domain, I want you to come up with something new, entirely new. So that we replace ourselves. I want you to kill our own business. Cannibalization. Otherwise, somebody is going to eat your lunch. The other one is a simple one, line extension. It’s the same product, having more flavors and that type of thing. So four different managers, everywhere I go, I assign each one… I know all of them and all of the businesses. That’s what I do. I used to do that. So every division, I asked them to give me their input and they gave me their input. I collected it and presented it.

Fruit n’ Fibre

I started putting cost reduction two million or three million or five million. Cost reduction alone for the last five years was about 275 million dollars. They said, uh-oh, we asked the wrong question. They realized that. I was up to something. Then talking about new products, oh, by the way, have you heard about Crystal Light? Crystal Light had made at that time, already a $150 million dollars profit. So I had other new products, I had Fruit n’ Fibre, mine alone has a lot there, but I was collecting everybody else’s.

Courtesy of Shanbhag Enterprises


At that time we came up with the Maxwell House “good to the last drop” campaign. What a very few people understand “good to the last drop” means what? It tastes so damn good you drink the last drop. That’s what it all means. And we had come up with Sanka, that’s an orange color. Sanka is a decaf. You don’t have to say decaf. Everybody knows it, the whole world. See those are the things... So they said, “Stop, stop.” I said, “No, no, no. Let me finish it.” I took them through. They felt so little all these high paid executives. You work with the strength. So I felt good about it what we accomplished.

$25 Million Invested in Startup

Then I said, to hell with you. You are hurting people. And then I started my own business. At that time, immediately I started what you call a startup company which is this thing. We got funding from Citigroup at that time, Barry McCarthy, investment group. They put together 25 million dollars invested in us. Then we had an amazing plans…

Patents Sold to Ore-Ida and McCain

Unfortunately, it was so difficult because we had to be integrated with potato… [chicken], fish going all that kind of a thing. It’s big, big – so Ore-Ida wanted our technology. Actually, they wanted me to join them. I said, “I’m not.No way I’m going to move to Idaho. So we managed to sell a couple of patents. One patent to Ore-Ida; other patent to McCain. They got it. I helped them for a while to make that happen. All those things I’d created.

Shanbhag Enterprises

At that time, SlimFast approached me. Because I had started my own business at that time, ’92, Shanbhag Enterprises with Google and everything I had created Horizons International…. And, I get a phone call, “Hey. Shan, I want you to come out…” Mr. Danny Abraham is the one who invented SlimFast. And his buddy, had met me somewhere before and he said, “I think it would be a good idea if you could come over and we’ll have dinner with him.” And that’s what I did. I was in Boston and I flew there [New York City] and his Rolls Royce picked me up, you know, and takes me to dinner… up to two in the morning.

Two AM Boardroom Meeting with SlimFast Inventor Danny Abraham

And then he brings me into his office, Lexington Street on the 23rd floor, I remember that, in the boardroom and opens the door at two in the morning. I got almost heart attack. Everyone of my food products, he had it there: SlimFast on it. I said, “You’re crazy. You could end up in jail.” He said, “No, no.” He wanted me to work for him. I said, “No, way. I’m mine own boss.” And I had heard about him a little bit, he’s so difficult to work for. So I said, “No, I’m free. But I’ll help you out.” That’s what I did. I helped him for a couple of years and I helped him come up with this, SlimFast bars.

Oh, I bet that is very popular.

This is the first nutrition bar in the world and we came up with it. This is another story. No factory, no patents. We came up with the product and handwrote the formula. One of my mentees, he started a business and I used his lab and everything to make it happen. I used to come to New York, I used to live in Boston, I used to have an apartment in Ithaca, I used to go back and forth. Amazing things. And this is the best thing that happened. This one, I called the contract manufacturer for him, a second individual, and he did advertisement. He’s very, very good at it. So that’s how we built a business, and then, globally, I would say.

Advertising for SlimFast

Then we thought, we wanted to continue building this, you know. I was guiding the whole team, not in detail, but I was guiding the whole team. And one day when we were working with an ad agency, I wanted to get a picture of a half dozen young ladies. Beautiful, simple, ordinary ladies, all ethnic groups. Bring those pictures and show it to us and he brought it. A couple of ad agencies competing. And they brought it in and they put it on the wall. Immediately, all of us, picked the one picture. We jumped on it. And we told her we want you to come back the next day with the same clothes… the ad agency wanted to take a picture of her. I came up with this tape. I got a tape [the measuring tape] and what did I do? I told her to hold the tape like this and she looked like this. Ladies, you want to look like her? You have to drink SlimFast. That’s it.

And it became at that time in Life magazine and on television. It was at that time this picture, way back. And, all that going on and we got excited about it. The old man, the guy who owned Slim-Fast was doing something; he was negotiating with Unilever, selling. Unilever wanted to buy them. He was negotiating for two billion dollars. This hit the thing, sales went up just like Raquel Welch, right up.

It’s a timeless photo. It would work right now.

You know what happened? We got 2.3 billion dollars. This picture is worth three hundred million dollars. It’s all invention, this is what it is. It’s an archetypal thing. What are you trying to communicate? People are – Wow, I want to be like that. That’s why a picture is a million words. That’s what I do, everything, I think that’s the way I see about it.

Dream Big

So I think that the bottom line is anybody can be whatever they want to be. That’s what I do, that’s what I try to help people. I want people to dream: Big. That’s my job. Dream big and tell me when you’re successful how that will look to you. Because believe it or not when everybody is like – when they are born they have no clue what they are doing. Even if your family is filthy rich and educated and everything. You bring only 25% of that stuff in your DNA, your neurons. All the rest of it, you do it. You’re making it. They can help you. You have to be ready to do it. They can help only so much. It’s your initiative. That’s what I like to do is people tell me your dream – you know your strengths more than anybody else. I pick up minds. I read minds, by the way. I read everybody’s mind…

What Does Success Look Like?

Immediately, paint a picture long term, ten, twenty, thirty years from now. Think like that. Immediately, I want to bring you to three years, close by. What does success look like? Then image comes to one year. There’s an importance for everything, close by. What is that? That I can think in my head. And then tell me three months from now. Tell me one week from now. Tell me before you go to bed tonight what you are going to do tomorrow that will go in the right direction. Otherwise you’re not going. See? And I register that in my brain. I have more than a hundred business models here. Everybody has a business model. Everybody’s climbing a mountain. Everybody’s climbing a mountain. Personal life, career and business. Doesn’t matter. Because you’ve never been there before. Everybody was a startup once upon a time: Apple, Walmart. Everybody was a startup. They made it to the top of their mountain. And collectively they went on building it while others are complaining. See that’s what it is. That’s why few succeed where others do not.


You should be curious all the time. Curiosity is the foundation for creativity. If you’re not curiousyou should be a kid, a large kid. I tell people, be a big kid. Why? Why not? Ask that question. Otherwise you don’t make it. Somebody else will eat your lunch. You can keep on complaining. That’s not going to work out. That’s why I teach people to first, be curious, that’s where it starts. The start of creativity.


Creativity is the foundation for inventions. That’s how we come up with inventions. Inventions are the foundation for innovations. And somebody called Thomas Edison said, “Innovation without implementation is hallucination.” Everybody’s innovative… That’s the reason they don’t make it. That’s the difference… So I can pick it up. I enjoy it. I enjoy so much helping others. And I can see everybody. In the healthcare area I have about eight, ten businesses. Unbelievable. One is, one of my teams is Hands-free Nurse Team at the University of Florida. They pitched on Wednesday. Wednesday they pitched at Daytona Beach

And this is for 1 Million Cups?


Because you work with so many different organizations in Central Florida. You work with 1 Million Cups, the Orlando Economic Development Corporation, Rollins College, Entrepreneurship Hub, SCORE Orlando, Starter Studio Orlando, The UCF I-Corps, UCF Incubator, all of those organizations.

Yes, 1 Million Cups is the one all over the country we have them. And I was under the impression there is a strict rule, six minutes pitch. Not true. Daytona Beach, their pitch already is on Facebook. You should see it, it is amazing. I have pictures they put together, my team did an amazing presentation they did on the Hands-Free Nurse.

We are blessed, in the center for our community, people have no clue, because I know this inside out because I moved here in around ‘92.

How did you happen to move here?

That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked it. Because I was working, I was flying all over the world. I had access to a company plane, Learjet, all that. Going to Battle Creek every Wednesday evening, coming back Thursday night. Going Tuesday morning to Dover, Delaware planning, so I had a meeting there. So I used to go there and then anywhere else my president, he had about eight private planes. So the presidents they had access to them, but he was signing up for me. So I had access to it. I was going all over the place, all over the world. I had over a 140 focus groups all over the world. I managed myself about 40 of them for like Pepsi and Lipton, all those things I created…

Buying the Solution…

See people don’t realize, everybody says I have an app, I have a website. It doesn’t mean a thing. Those are all tools. Nobody’s buying your app. They’re buying the solution for their damn problem. That’s what it is. And your job is to make sure you get deep into the problem, make sure there is a really big problem, people are suffering and it is going to stay their problem in the future, too, otherwise you are wasting your time. You have to visualize the future. Potentially, if I solve that problem for these people, they are going to change as they go… The other one is you have to make sure they like it. You have to work with a person who is going to pay for it someday. They like it. They love it. They become your advocate and they can’t live without it. Otherwise you don’t have a business, that’s the problem. You have to make sure you don’t kid yourself; make sure really they can’t live without it. And then once you get them, don’t you dare lose them. That’s the other thing. That’s why people say growing the business is a sure death, instant death. Four to five years you’re going to die. You have to scale the business. Big difference.

What’s the difference?

Growing the business, I can grow my business by getting another factory, buying another hundred people. I could add another couple of trucks. But my costs go up too and before you know it I’m gone. Oh, nobody’s buying your product, what are you going to do with all those damn trucks? So that’s the typical thing, growing the business.

Scaling the Business

But scaling the business, is you want to have a business model to start with that is really – I visualize the business model by the way. Everybody’s business model I visualize by helping them build it that it will be so sound, so solid, that it is tornado proof, hurricane proof, and termite proof. Think for a minute. That’s the kind of thing you should have as a business model. And I do that because I have a death certificate in my head. I write a death certificate in my head while I look at it when they make the pictures. I’m not enjoying this by the way. I’m not enjoying it, but that’s what it is. I write it in my head. I just did it in my head….

Everybody’s a Startup

Everybody’s a startup. 90-95 percent fail. Doesn’t matter how many degrees you have: MBA, DBA, CPA, MDP, PhD, they still fail, 85 percent. It’s more than that... I have right now more than 170 teams. And I wrote this one page, I don’t know if you read it. It goes to 600 people all over the globe. President of Rollins and everybody I know, I send them. They are not asking to stop sending yet, so it goes. Starter Studio publishes it and it goes around. Then NEC [National Entrepreneur Center] publishes it. It goes to 10,000 people.

I read one of them that you wrote about the importance of thanking people. It was so beautiful.

I have a hundred of them total.

“The Power of ‘Thank you.'”

You have to celebrate. Everybody should celebrate. Thanking, but sincerely though.

I read on the UCF-I-Corps website that you’ve been dedicating yourself for 25 years mentoring startups in Central Florida.

It’s more than that. Right now it’s 32 years. Since 1992 I was nothing but helping others. And I started playing golf every day. Then ballroom dance. I know about 18 or 19 different dances. It is easier for men, it is a better mental exercise than bridge or crossword puzzle or anything else, because you have to lead the woman through it. You have to think ahead of the next step otherwise you’ll step on her. Women can dance today the Cha-Cha. And I can dance, while she’s doing Cha-Cha, I can lead her and I’m doing either Rumba or Cha-Cha or Bolero. I can do it with my feet...

Helping Others 100 Percent of the TIme

Anyway, kind of a thing I used to do, but then I said, oh, that’s a waste of my life. So I focus 100 percent now nonstop, that’s all I do: help, help, help. I have about 15 or 20 younger generation, 18 years old, I’m helping a lot. Then a lot of moms, have single moms with two or three kids, deadbeat dad kind of a thing, so I’m helping them also. So that’s the kind of a thing I spend my life with, plus I care about the elderly.

“I See My Product Line…”

Ill give you an example of what makes me happy. Monday, I recently stopped by Publix or Whole Foods, anything food, Best Buy, I see my product line, Air Fryer, it’s a bestseller, a billion dollar product. And it’s only $29.00. I couldn’t believe, this is my product. That’s the beauty of it – they’re everywhere. So the thing is to me, it’s very easy. It comes to me. I visualize everything like a business model.

Scientific Intelligence

I will share with you how my brain works. Anybody can master it. See everybody has neurons and I have neurons also. Luckily for me, I know how they connect to each other, that’s how they communicate. I know exactly what they do and I have more than the majority of them. My neurons should be dying, as you get old they should be dying. But I create more of them. I wish somebody could measure how many neurons I have. So you have artificial intelligence, I have scientific intelligence. I do intelligence faster than an IBM computer, right now. Because remember when I talked to you I said, tell me what you’re going to be one year from now. And I know I’m going the right direction that’s all I have to know, your north star. But I don’t know, stop in between one year – what is that? I want to make sure you’re taking the right direction. So that’s why, I’m painting those – this is what it will look like when you’re successful – and paint it here. I’m helping them to get there. My connection that tells the neurons.

Emotional Intelligence

And then I have one thing extra, I have emotional intelligence. See I know before I start anything with you, I know where you are going to end up two, five, ten, twenty years from now…. Everybody has a mountain in my brain. Cat mountains, dog mountainsSee, I separate, everybody’s separate. And while I’m doing it, I’m 100 percent focused on this. I have a lot going on in my life. I have a lot I have to do after this. One thing at a time. You can see how happy I am...

Dr. Shanbhag thank you very much for generously sharing your intelligence and your knowledge investing in the future entrepreneurs of our region. It’s an honor to have you visit the Library today and we look forward to hearing more about your genius in our community.

Thank you again. Thank you for this opportunity. I love it.

Interview: Dr. Shan Shanbhag

Interviewer:  Jane Tracy

Date: May 10, 2024

Place: Orlando Public Library

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SlimFast Promotion

Slim-Fast advertisement created in collaboration with Dr. Shan Shanbhag who suggested the model hold a measuring tape.

Creative Innovations and Implementations to Build Successful Brands and Businesses

Courtesy of Shanbhag Enterprises. Dr. Shan Shanbhag is a business development advisor and mentor serving Central Florida and the world. Dr. Shanbhag s...

Shanbhag Family Graduates

Courtesy of Shanbhag Enterprises. Dr. Shan Shanbhag is a business development advisor and mentor serving Central Florida and the world. Dr. Shanbhag s...

United States Patent Number: 3,472, 659

3,472,659 - PROCESS FOR PREPARING CONDENSED MILK OF IMPROVED STORAGE CHARACTERISTICS. Girish Prasad Mathur and Sudhakar Pundlik Shanbhag, Bombay, Indi...

United States Patent Number: 4,931,298

4,931,298 - PROCESS FOR PREPARING POTATO GRANULE COATED FRENCH FRIED POTATOES. Inventors: Sudhakar Shanbhag, Pound Ridge N.Y.; Joseph J. Cousiminer, M...

United States Patent Number: 3,922,352

3,922,352 - JUICY SAUSAGE ANALOG AND PROCESS. Inventors: Robert T. Tewey, Irvington; Sudhakar P. Shanbhag, Tarrytown, both of N.Y. Assignee: General F...

United States Patent Number: 5,004,616


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Oral History Interview with Dr. Shan Shanbhag, Part I

​Interview: Dr. Shan Shanbhag

Interviewer:  Jane Tracy

Date: May 10, 2024

Place: Orlando Public Library
Dr. Shan Shanbhag is a business development advisor and mentor serving Central Florida and the world. Dr. Shanbhag shares expertise with entrepreneurs at 1 Million Cups Orlando, Orlando Economic Development,  Rollins College Social Entrepreneurship Hub, SCORE Orlando,  Starter Studio Orlando, UCF Incubators, and many other individuals, institutions and businesses. Dr. Shanbhag has a BS in Chemistry and Physics from Kanara College, Kumta, Karnataka State, India, a BS in Technology, Food Science and Technology, Chemical Engineering, from Bombay University, Bombay, India; and a MS and PhD in Food Science, Technology, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Biochemistry,  from University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. Dr. Shanbhag has 25 years of experience leading product development and market introduction with major corporations such as General Foods and Unilever.  Shan and his team introduced over a dozen products/brands that have generated billions in profit, including Crystal Light, Slim-Fast, Pop-Rocks, and Fruit ‘n Fiber. Dr. Shanbhag has authored 13 patents and over 40 provisional patents. He is dedicated to sharing knowledge with business start-ups, small and mid-size businesses as a “Business Sherpa”, a Mentor and Business Development Advisor. For 32 years he has dedicated himself to advising entrepreneurs in Central Florida as well as volunteering and mentoring business owners in our regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Oral History Interview with Dr. Shan Shanbhag, Part II

​Interview: Dr. Shan Shanbhag

Interviewer:  Jane Tracy

Date: May 10, 2024

Place: Orlando Public Library
Dr. Shan Shanbhag is a business development advisor and mentor serving Central Florida and the world. Dr. Shanbhag shares expertise with entrepreneurs at 1 Million Cups Orlando, Orlando Economic Development,  Rollins College Social Entrepreneurship Hub, SCORE Orlando,  Starter Studio Orlando, UCF Incubators, and many other individuals, institutions and businesses. Dr. Shanbhag has a BS in Chemistry and Physics from Kanara College, Kumta, Karnataka State, India, a BS in Technology, Food Science and Technology, Chemical Engineering, from Bombay University, Bombay, India; and a MS and PhD in Food Science, Technology, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Biochemistry,  from University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. Dr. Shanbhag has 25 years of experience leading product development and market introduction with major corporations such as General Foods and Unilever.  Shan and his team introduced over a dozen products/brands that have generated billions in profit, including Crystal Light, Slim-Fast, Pop-Rocks, and Fruit ‘n Fiber. Dr. Shanbhag has authored 13 patents and over 40 provisional patents. He is dedicated to sharing knowledge with business start-ups, small and mid-size businesses as a “Business Sherpa”, a Mentor and Business Development Advisor. For 32 years he has dedicated himself to advising entrepreneurs in Central Florida as well as volunteering and mentoring business owners in our regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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