Ashok Bansal, Co-founder and CEO Kancha Cheena Foods Pvt Ltd in conversation with Food Marketing and Technology Magazine, India discusses the snacks market for vegetarians. Founded by great minds the company has a foundation for lofty growth.

How did you get into the packaged food business whereas your experience had been in completely different fields of business?

I have varied experience from oil refinery to hospitality with international exposure. I had also been in FMCG companies so that way I am not new to food business as such.  This gives me a solid footing in understanding nitty gritty of running a business.

 I met with Aneeta during my stint with Max Healthcare. I was impressed with the knowledge and passion of what she was doing. She brought to my notice that gap that exist in the market for vegetarian snacks. That is what spurred on by thinking.

This is your first entrepreneurial journey.

I have been associated with start-ups. I am still advising one start-up. However, there is a vast difference between being adviser looking at the business from outside and being fully immersed in a start-up. This is my first journey with  blood in the game. It is exciting and challenging to grow a company from ground zero.

 I am so fortunate to have experienced and passionate co-founders with me.

 Aneeta ex-Taj Group of Hotels, a dynamic lady having set-up her business in Nigeria and Port Blair and managed and ran them profitably. She has trained five star chefs. She has been an out and out entrepreneur. She is the mind behind great recipes. 

 We have an OTP team – Operation, Technology and Production – I do not fit in any of them but have a role in everything. Starting with Aneeta Myint Chairperson, she is the technology behind the venture. All sumptuous dishes. Ankush Myint, Marketing and Supply Chain. He has had stints with bars and restaurants. He understands food business as well as conventional and digital marketing.

Dinesh Murthy is the human supercomputer. He can work 22 hours continuously day in and day out.

He is the grey matters of our business.   

What was the reason of starting the business at the time of Covid?

 It was co-incidence that Covid happened around the time we launched. Our planning started in 2019 taking into account all formalities the company got registered in Aug 2020. We took Covid head on so to say. We were busy in decoding business plan, recipes, manufacturing, logistics etc during Pandemic with passes issued to food companies. We, as a team, were committed the Pandemic did not deter us. Our first product got launched in April 2021.

What are you trying to address through this business?

 Let start by saying we are committed to vegetarian snacks by  choice. We want to be the snackigrater. In coming 5 years we plan to have 82 snacks under 10 varieties. There is practically nothing for vegetarian for snacking besides, aloo tikki and french fries, kababs etc. We want to change that.  We will never be selling regular dal fry, rajma rice. There are fantastic regional snacks such as litti Choka from Bihar, Dal Bhati from Rajasthan we want to make them available for general public.  

 Three things are common stuff in vegetarian snacks – flour and potato – and all need deep frying.

We understand vegetarian and we wish to bridge the snacks gap for vegetarians.  

Please elaborate on the product range and it availability

 Presently we have 6 SKUs – Grilled Vegetables, Herbed Baby Potatos, Paneer Mix Cigar, Paneer Pesto Fingers, Stuffed Mushroom Caps and Desi Mini Cigars with Khatti Meethi Imli.

 We are available in Modern Bazaar, Spencers, Food Hall and Nature’s Basket. We know D2C is very important today for any FMCG product but to be seen on the self is equally important. On the selves it gets visibility thus brand recall. Therefore, we take modern retail as seriously as online. It is available in Delhi NCR, Muradabad and Lucknow.

 Shortly products will be online for Delhi NCR then slowly we will expand in other cities.

Products are ranging from Rs 170 to Rs 328 per pack.

Can you tell us about the manufacturing facility and the capacity?

 We have tied-up with Jubilant Foods and using their certified factories for manufacturing our products. The present capacity is 1200 tons and we are export compliant. Our basic understanding as a business house is to use the best of the best things available to create our products.

Your view on D2C

D2C is going to grow exponentially. This is how products will be sourced and purchased by consumers.

The supply chain for even frozen products is efficient today. This makes the reach faster and better.

Advice to start-ups

Scale and vision must be clear otherwise it would just another product. It is important to be original and know what problem or gap that you are doing to bridge. I think one must be judicious about discounts as it hampers the brand.