Weekly Startup Profiles > Rage Chocolatier
|Was it the velvety texture or the creamy darkness? What drove her chocolate-making hobby to a promising business within 18 months? The surprising answer: 'Packaging,' explained Rashmi.
Premium, made-to-order chocolates for corporate and personal gifting.
Having worked in market research before her MBA, Rashmi was loathe to return to a 9-to-5 job. She knew that she wanted to start something on her own. The question: what?
Her father provided the opening. He asked that Rashmi make chocolates as Diwali gifts for his friends and clients. The chocolates were very well received, and the friends in turn started requesting chocolates to send out as gifts.
She started out "very, very small." "For me, catering to the initial handful of customers was more of a pastime," she smiles.
Rashmi may have started small, but the word spread shockingly fast.
A lady to whom Rashmi had sent chocolates invited her to put up a stall at a festival mela. "From here another contact told us about more such exhibitions." Rashmi also invited friends to her home, where she displayed her chocolates. One of her first clients, Wadhwani Foundation/NEN, sent chocolates to its supporters, and a box of the chocolates reached Mindtree Consulting. Mindtree provided her first large order: 150 kgs of chocolate for a company festival.
What's driving this growth? Rashmi believes that the chocolates are catching on because corporates are looking for a different type of gift to send clients. "People usually give mithai or dried fruits for a happy occasion. But mithai doesn't have a long shelf life and dried fruits don't necessarily come under the category of sweets. Whereas chocolates fit the bill well," she smiles.
And right now, there are no real options in the premium chocolate category. "There are a regular chocolate bars, and there are the foreign chocolates that come in elegant acrylic boxes. But there were no customized premium chocolates for gifting purposes in India in the late 90s and early 2000's," says Rashmi.
However, it's not just about the chocolates, believes Rashmi. She feels that packaging is critical to engaging the corporate market. Here she discovered another untapped opportunity: "There were no chocolates that complied with the house colors of corporates, with their taglines, logos."
Soon she started getting orders from banks including ABN Amro and HDFC, hotels, jewelry stores and car dealers.
If only all returns on investment were so good. "The costs were miniscule," Rashmi says, "Under a lakh as initial investment." Rashmi's father was her 'Angel investor', providing the initial capital for the dyes and moulds, the packaging, and the costs of the stalls in the exhibitions.
Already, Rage is making great profits, and Rashmi is plowing the cash back into the company to fund the growth.
Like many new entrepreneurs, Rashmi originally relied on friends and family. "I remember during the Mindtree order I called up some of my close friends 'SOS' and they all came over to help with the packing of chocolates, " recalled Rashmi. "In the beginning when my dad came home the whole house used to smell of chocolates," she laughs.
Today Rage employs two chefs and a team of eight people for packaging.
Training requires a great deal of focus. "We had women who came in to pack chocolates during season time and I had to constantly keep track of the quality of packing. They initially never bothered to wear a shower cap and gloves and I had to be at it constantly to maintain hygiene," Rashmi explains.
Retail is a big thing for us, says Rashmi. She will soon be supplying her chocolates to a local gourmet store, and to Max supermarket and hyper-marts. </
Rashmi spends a great deal of time reaching customers in various ways. She has forged a partnership with another young startup called Sendwise.com, and Rage is starting to advertise.
In addition, Rashmi finds having her own site is critical for long-distance customers. "I can't always go to meet people with samples in my hand or, in a phone call, explain to people how good my chocolates look," she explains.
Apart from branded display racks in hyper-marts in India, Rashmi would like to see Rage Gourmet Chocolate Stores across Bombay, Delhi, and Bangalore.
Ultimately, "I'd like Rage Chocolates to be the answer to Godiva in India," laughs Rashmi.
Retail is a big thing for us, says Rashmi. She will soon be supplying her chocolates to a local gourmet store, and to Max supermarket and hyper-marts.
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