Anuva Kakkar, the 23-year-old entrepreneur behind Tiggle, an Agra-based D2C organic hot chocolate brand, has come a long way in a very short time despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. From selling hot chocolate cups to commuters outside DLF Phase-3 metro station in Gurugram to launching its brand of hot chocolate powder and selling over 2 lakh packs through 2021, it has been a mercurial increase.
Made from premium cocoa from a 40-acre certified organic family farm near Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, Tiggle today sells three “premium” varieties of hot chocolate powder: Light Hot Chocolate Mix, Dark Hot Chocolate Mix and Jaggery Hot Chocolate Mix. So how did this entrepreneur from Agra start her business in such a difficult time for trade?
A love for hot chocolate
Born and raised in Agra, Anuva grew up in an upper middle class family with a small business owner father and a banker mother. After graduating in Business Administration in 2019 from Banasthali University, she worked in a startup called Urban Company (formerly UrbanClap) in Gurugram. It was while working there that the idea of creating Tiggle first came about.
“I am a hot chocolate lover. One day while working at Gurugram, I started craving a cup of hot chocolate. As a young person starting his professional career, I had to travel or order from a cafe and spend only 200 rupees for a cup. I could only afford it a few times a month. Instead of finding a budget for my hot chocolate cravings, I thought why not make it at home. It turned out to be a terrible idea due to the lack of quality hot chocolate mixes on the market,” recalls Anuva, in conversation with The best India.
Simultaneously, when she visited 24/7 outlets or any retail store, the only hot drinks she could find on their shelves were tea or coffee. Meanwhile, in the cold drinks section, she would see a variety of products. That’s when she thought of creating something new and innovative in the hot drinks section and elevating hot chocolate to the status of tea or coffee.
Then it’s time to evaluate those ideas and determine if they are worth pursuing. It was then that she began researching and creating her own basic hot chocolate recipe using simple ingredients found on the market. The next step was to determine if there was a demand for such a product. Asking friends and work colleagues didn’t seem like a good idea at the time, as she feared bias in their comments. She wanted strangers back.
“So I bought this big pot at the market, designed and printed a few brochures, made about 25 cups of hot chocolate, bought disposable cups and decided to sell them for 30 rupees a cup outside the metro station DLF Phase-3, a popular waypoint for employees from different companies returning home.On the first day, I asked different store owners and salespeople if I could set up a booth near them for 30 minutes. It was not easy because many of them immediately rejected my requests,” recalls Anuva.
Fortunately, a biryani shop owner was kind enough to let her set up a stall. Anuva recalls how the moment was filled with nervousness, sweaty palms and shaky legs as she started handing out her brochures and selling cups of hot chocolate.
“Within 50 minutes, however, I was able to sell all my mugs, all while taking feedback. It gave me confidence. The next step was to figure out if I could convince others to sell it for me. After having sold my cups for a week next to the biryani stand, I ended up partnering up with a kiosk inside the metro station in January 2020. They took monthly rent from me and sold my hot chocolate. morning, I would get up around 5 a.m., make a few liters of hot chocolate and take it to the kiosk owner who sold it for the rest of the day,” she says.
In the evening, during post office hours, she collected her earnings for the day and asked the opinion of the owner of the kiosk. On weekends, she would hang out with the kiosk owner, sell the hot chocolate, and take feedback from customers coming in and out of the subway station.
It started with 2 liters of hot chocolate a day and increased to around 10-12 liters by the end of the first month due to growing demand. Instead of 5 a.m., she started waking up at 4 a.m. to prepare her hot chocolate recipe and distribute it to not one but several kiosks in the station.
This continued for another two months, but she realized it was not scalable. That’s when instead of selling cups of liquid hot chocolate, she turned to making a quality hot chocolate powder unlike those found on the market, which include a thousand ingredients. different.
The idea was to make something premium and affordable.
A company born during COVID-19
“I started reaching out to people in this field to formulate my hot chocolate powder recipe. In March 2020, I was in Himachal Pradesh, selling my hot chocolate mix to cafes and taking their feedback when the pandemic hit. Although the pandemic interrupted my vision of starting a business for a long time, it also gave me time to learn about online advertising, marketing, how to package a product, etc. I also spent the next four to five months talking to various people and finding farms and farmers in India growing top quality cocoa,” she recalls.
During that time, she ordered and tasted cocoa samples from nearly 50 different farms across the country. Tiggle’s vision was not only to achieve premium cocoa, but also to find ways to positively impact the farmers who grow them. They eventually partnered with the only 40-acre family organic farm in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu.
“The reason we partnered with this farm is because of the consistent quality of their cocoa, the freshness from the farm, and the direct impact we could create on farmers,” she says.
The whole process of cocoa cultivation in the farms includes manual picking of cocoa fruits, mulching, fermentation, harvesting, sun drying and grinding. As Anuva explains, the process of consistently growing good quality is tedious. The fermentation and drying process are the stages where there is a high chance of attracting molds or fungi to cocoa.
“The farm we chose has done the best job of ensuring that the cocoa grown is mold free. The Pollachi farm practices organic cocoa farming without chemicals or pesticides,” she adds.
Once harvested, there are different methods of roasting cocoa. Tiggle Hot Chocolate is available in two different flavors – dark and light. The dark variant contains Dutch processed cocoa (treated with an alkalizing agent to reduce the cocoa’s natural acidity) and the light variant contains naturally processed cocoa.
“When we started Tiggle in January 2021, we were buying around 5-10 kg of cocoa per month, but now it’s around 400-500 kg. This cocoa is shipped directly from Pollachi to our manufacturing unit in Agra. We spent the first year of our operations selling directly through our website running Facebook and Google ads. Before launching Tiggle, we worked on developing a well-designed website. After developing the product, we built an online community around it, giving our customers the latest news on every new development,” she says.
The seeded business recently started selling on Amazon and Flipkart.
Anuva was alone in preparing the hot chocolate mix in the garden of her house with the help of her mother, packing and shipping the packets to customers. Today, she employs five women in her manufacturing unit, all of whom had lost their jobs during the lockdown. His team now has 12 people, including freelancers and contract workers.
“We will spend the coming year finding ways to expand our manufacturing capabilities and considering ways to secure external funding. Last year was about getting our base in place. Recently launching our first hot chocolate mix made with organic jaggery (which we source from a farm outside of Pune), we plan to launch more hot chocolate flavors. Our goal is to elevate hot chocolate to coffee status,” she says.
(Editing by Yoshita Rao)