If You Love Your Sleep, Don’t Become an Entrepreneur!
Viraj Bahl, Founder of Veeba Food Services, advises new-age entrepreneurs on what to do when you are product obsessed – accept failures and be passionate.
“Founding a company and to last long in the business is almost as close to being in a war,” says Viraj Bahl, “You need ammunitions to survive. Taste and quality of products were my ammunitions, which to a larger extent, have been accepted well in the market and hence, speak about the consistency of the brand in the FMCG sector. We were clear jab retail main jayenge, we will go with the best product. And that’s when we decided to enter the B2C segment in 2016 as the volume of sale in B2B has spun good turnover in the past four years,” says Bahl who incorporated Veeba Food Services Private Limited in January 2013.
Veeba started as an institutional supplier startup of sauces, emulsions, dips and dessert toppings to some of the biggest names in the QSR industry. In less than six months, the company hit the market with a respectable double digit sale. Since then there was no looking back. “Indian consumer is value-conscious but at the same time cannot compromise on quality. We knew our product speaks volumes on quality and taste, low on fat and ‘better for you’ products and this is the biggest USP,” says Bahl who turned out Veeba as a separate business after he left the family enterprise Fun Foods, which was sold to German group Oetker.
With a strong focus on research and development, Bahl has hired some of the most experienced and extremely passionate people from the industry and keeps a close watch on raw material sourcing and imports ingredients from all over the world. Veeba has a customer base including global brands in quick service restaurants (QSR) and coffee chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell and Starbuck. It is growing its footprint in B2C segment and is present in 210 towns pan-India with 37 SKUs in retail and 100 plus in B2B.
Since the brand is made in India and made for Indians, Bahl feels, “No imported brand has legacy in India to market a product that understands Indian sentiments and preferences. We have a reasonable advantage to offer eggless options, and apt spices suited to Indian palate.” However, Bahl says that the company has never faltered on despatch schedule. “That’s the reason all the big brands trust us. They audit our plant twice a year on hygiene. We don’t market any product that I can’t take to my 3 year old son. Every time I open a bottle I have the confidence of giving it to my toddler as it is microbial-free and total viable count tested,” he says.
When we asked about how difficult it is to raise funds for a food enterprise that sells sauces, he quips, “Very difficult. When we initially started to raise funds, it was hard to find a person passionate for this venture. Living in a digital era, everyone, including me, was awed by the portfolio of the smart-generation companies and the so-called ‘dotcoms or digital companies’. But we were a typical company without web presence - building plants, hiring at the grassroots level, making natural distribution possible with our handful of resources,” he adds.
Funded by Deepak I. Shahdadpuri, Founder and Managing Director of DSG Consumer Partner and Saama Capital, Veeba has raised $6 million (around Rs 40 crore) in its Series B funding round in October 2016, led by its existing investor Saama Capital and new investor Verlinvest, a private Belgian family investment company. Bahl plans to strengthen the company’s position in the institutional segment and build out distribution and product portfolio for retail and HORECA segment.
As an advice to the new-age entrepreneurs, Bahl feels one has to be ready to take failures and be crazy about food. “Be passionate, be responsible but if you love your sleep, don’t become an entrepreneur! We love to see our product on the shelf but one has to be really obsessed about the product because at times it becomes difficult to click with Indian palate. A website can crash but if a belly crashes it brings a bad name to the product.”
Now, Veeba has entered a segment of word-of-mouth publicity with its participation in fairs like Asian Hawkers’ Market and Palate Festival. “We are happy to build more partnerships where our consumers can taste the product. It also does a lot of brand building since our products resonate fun and happy family times,” says Bahl who regularly finds time to toss up a meal for his family, using his go-to product ‘Teriyaki Sauce’.
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