Parents always want the best for their children, especially when it comes to food, because of the important role it plays in protecting them from illnesses, and promoting healthy growth and development.
Shruti Ajmera Reddy was no different. During her pregnancy, her extensive research revealed that natural greens and millets topped the list of the most nutritious food she could feed her child, along with oats, rice, and barley among others.
But post-childbirth, the working mum who was managing her venture at the time, found it extremely challenging to incorporate all the healthy ingredients in her son’s meals.
“I started researching healthy baby food mixes in the market that were preservative-free, all-natural and could be fed to my kid, along with homemade food. However, not only was there a shortage of such products in the market but what I read up about baby food shocked me,” mentions Shruti.
Shruti found that 95 per cent of baby foods contain one or more toxic chemicals like arsenic, mercury and lead, which have long term effects on the health of children.
While she was dismayed with the information, she also thought about parents like her, who were in the same boat, and wanted to provide their babies with the best nutrition but could not find quality products that passed their intense scrutiny.
This set the wheels in her head churning, and after a lot of research, in October 2018, she founded Hapup, a startup which provides nutritional mixes that are devoid of any kind of chemicals, preservatives, salt or even sugar.
Hapup’s mixes contain healthy ingredients like ragi, jowar, bajra, foxtail millet, horse gram, kidney beans, green gram, almond, peanuts red rice among others. Most of these grains have been sourced by farming collectives like the Timbaktu Collective, which ensures that they are of good quality.
“These mixes are completely natural, and some contain the goodness of about 16+ ingredients. While they can be made at home, it is challenging to source pure ingredients, and this is where Hapup comes in,” she says.
The best part is that these mixes are healthy not just for your baby but can be consumed by the entire family.
“Adults can add the mix to their chapatis, pancakes, smoothies, dosas, idlis, cakes among others. With each packet of the mix, we provide a booklet of 55 recipes so that our consumers can get creative in the ways they incorporate the mix to their food,” explains the 33-year-old entrepreneur.
Since they started operations, Hapup has about 10 stock keeping units (SKUs) in their inventory and have catered to customers in about 45+ cities. Their products have also been approved by paediatricians, and hospitals like the Nice Hospital, Krishna Children’s Hospital among others.
To try Hapup’s healthy mixes, chick here.
Shift in entrepreneurial journey
Shruti grew up in Delhi, and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC).
She then pursued a Master’s in Investment and Finance from Durham University. Upon her return in 2009, she worked in the area of treasury management for a few years, and then explored the venture capital (VC) scene working with a leading VC firm until 2013.
Hapup isn’t Shruti’s first rodeo. In 2014, she started her first entrepreneurial venture with her husband. The name of the startup was, ‘Rent-Set-Go’ and it allowed customers to rent products that would otherwise make for an expensive purchase, like bikes, cameras, camera lenses among others.
Shruti claims that the startup was really successful as they were able to cover 16 cities and had a 20 member core team.
However, after a while she started feeling a genuine disconnect with the whole idea and felt like she wanted to do something impactful. Once she became a mom and began to focus more on Hapup, she decided to exit the startup and it closed down in 2017.
Healthy mixes for baby and you
Hapup’s products have been developed in collaboration with nutritionists in the city. Once they made a few batches, scientists from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) tested and analysed their mixes, giving them feedback on how to improve the composition. Parents too gave their feedback.
“Additionally, Dr P Sudarshan Reddy, a leading pediatrician in Hyderabad has also guided us throughout the process of coming up with the products,” mentions Shruti.
All these discussions and deliberations, led to three final products—the sprouted nutri mix, the sprouted ragi mix and the super nutri mix. The mixes are naturally processed and packed by four small time women micro- entrepreneurs in Hyderabad who are trained to do this but are not on their payroll.
“We supply them with the ingredients and once these have been grounded to form a mix, we buy it from these women. We do some packaging at our unit as well to maintain standardisation across all our products,” informs Shruti.
Shruti also acknowledges the design team, who worked with her part-time, for coming up with the final packaging.
The Sprouted Nutri Mix has about 16 ingredients like different kinds of millet including bajra, ragi, jowar, with nuts like almonds, cashews and peanuts. The true merits of the products are best endorsed by people who have used them.
Take Delhi-based homemaker Shraddha Jain for example, who has been using Hapup’s products since before the birth of her son.
“My friends told me about Hapup’s products, about two years ago. My son is one and a half years old and I have been feeding this to him since the past seven months. During my pregnancy as well I would eat their mixes in the form of a porridge or add it to buttermilk,” says Shraddha.
After trying the products herself, she became more convinced about its benefits and its quality vis-a-vis other baby food available in the market. “Even when we make our chapatis, we mix this flour with wheat. The best part is that the products are preservative free and all natural,” she says.
Daily struggles and overcoming them
An average work day for Shruti starts with her team where all of them take stock of the orders which need to be fulfilled. Shruti then looks at business opportunities for growth and how she can scale up her operations.
However, there are several challenges that they face at the operational level, and the biggest one is sourcing the right materials from the right people.
“It often takes time to meet the right vendors who can supply you with good quality ingredients. But, once you find a good supplier, hold on to them. These people are the ones who will help you further in establishing contacts with like minded people. At least that’s what I have seen in my experience,” she says.
Currently, they source from a few collectives but in the future, she wants to source her grains and other produce from farmers directly.
Another challenge that Shruti speaks of is ensuring that the products meet stringent quality standards.
“Because we don’t use any preservatives, a rigorous process needs to be followed and ensure that the quality of the product doesn’t drop. Since the products are all natural, even if there is a change in season may result in a quality difference. Hence, we are constantly testing our products.”
Shruti also admits there is very little knowledge about the goodness of millets among the common folk.
But, she says that through pop-ups, organic bazaars and exhibitions, she has been able to take the conversation forward. She and her team have informed people about the nutritional value of these grains and how they have been incorporated in Hapup’s products.
The entrepreneur has a few pointers for others who also want to start their own venture.
“Always remember that ‘done’ is better than perfect. Do not wait for everything to align so that you can start. Start with an idea, do your research and don’t hesitate. Over analyzing things can sometimes create a situation of ‘Analysis-paralysis’. So, don’t let that happen and just begin,” she says.
So, what’s in store for Hapup in the near future?
Shruti informs that they have about 12 millet-based products in the pipeline that they are currently working on and these would be launched by mid-2020.
“While I started out with wanting to provide babies with the best nutrition while also making it easier for working parents, we came up with something that is good for your baby and you. In the end, I want people to understand that this is not some fad that is temporary. What we are trying to do is provide a healthy lifestyle choice to people across all ages. We hope that Hapup becomes a part of people’s daily lifestyle choices in the country,” she concludes.
*An entrepreneur you admire.
Ans: Kalyani Gongi, the founder of Ancient Living.
*New tech that can transform the future of small businesses
Ans: The internet has done wonders from micro entrepreneur and will do so in future
*One value that can help small businesses thrive
Ans: Th quality of their services/products
*Your favourite book
Ans: Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’
*In my free time I ____…
Ans: Read, spend time with family and swim
* Before this interview I was ____…
Ans: Playing with my son
*Something they don’t teach in college but is important to run a business is
Ans: That it is okay to fail.
*One question I always ask people while hiring is ____…
Ans: Why do they want to work with us.
*Best advice you ever got is to ____…
Ans: “You’ve got this!”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)