In 2019, a friend of mine from Pune suggested I try a unique version of kheer (a traditional Indian dessert) — this one came in different flavours like Nutella, brownie, chocolate, oreo, and gulkand. It sounded absurd to me, and I wondered why anyone would spoil a delicious traditional dessert this way.
My friend assured me it would taste good, and he insisted so much that I could no longer refuse his proposal. So I ended up trying the dish.
In my mind, I’d pictured the usual warm bowl of kheer, but maybe with random flavours added. Instead, this dish was frozen, and blended perfectly with chocolate and brownie, the flavours we had ordered. What was fascinating was that a small packet of seeds accompanied the dish. The salesperson said I should grow them in the used cup after I finished the dessert. Impressive, I thought.
Since then, La Kheer Deli has been one of my favourite places for dessert. Popularly known as LKD, the idea was born in the kitchen of a mother and her two children.
“My mother has been cooking kheer for us since we were little. Our family loves it. Sometime back in 2017, my sister, Shivika, was bored with eating just kheer, and on a whim, decided to put a spoonful of Nutella and oreo in her bowl. The result was delicious,” 27-year-old Shivang Sood tells The Better India.
A weekend affair
Shivang says this inspired their mother, Sonia, to experiment with gulkand and brownie. Both turned out to taste equally good. Shivang, who was already running a sports startup, suggested turning this into a business model. “Kheer is prepared in almost every house. It’s also more nutritious as compared to other Indian desserts. Why should it remain underrated?” he says.
The family started by sharing their variation of the dish with their friends and family at gatherings, as part of their market research. The feedback they received was positive.
“We weren’t too keen on investing in heavy capital in the venture. At that time, we weren’t too sure if it would be successful just because our friends like it. We decided to commit only weekends, and learned that the best way to sell the dessert was by handcart. After a bit of struggle to procure licenses and comply with guidelines of hawking, we set up a handcart outside Starbucks in Aundh on 19 May, 2017,” Shivang recalls.
With the help of a few friends, he sold all the 44 units on day one. The next day, his mother made 82 units, and the third day, 100. “The three-day business plan helped in marketing our product, as it created a buzz and customers started pre-ordering the dessert. Our kheer maintains a perfect balance of keeping the traditional experience of the dessert intact, while incorporating the richness of a pudding,” he says.
In 2018, the Sood family also set up a brick and mortar shop on JM Road, after which their kheer was made available everyday. The earnings surged, from Rs 33 lakh in 2017 to Rs 84 lakh in 2018, and crossed over Rs 1 crore in 2019 and 2020. As the business stabilised, 52-year-old Sonia quit her job as a school teacher to dedicate all her focus to the enterprise.
A unique addition
“My mother prepared kheer in our home kitchen for one year, while the business was operating during weekends only. But in March 2019, we set up a central kitchen to meet the increasing demand. She supervises and monitors the quality of the product every day,” Shivang says.
Over the last couple of years, LKD has expanded their menu to include options such as Coupe Dry Fruit Kheer, Coupe Nutella Kheer, Coupe Gulkand Kheer, Coupe Brownie Kheer, Coupe Mocha Kheer, Coupe Blackcurr Kheer, and Strawberry and Aam Kheer, priced between Rs 99 and Rs 119 for 150 grams. The family has also roped in close friends as business partners to carry out marketing and other business options.
— Little Chili (@chotimirch) December 2, 2017
Shivang says the main challenge for the startup was complying with hawking guidelines, which are generally strict due to traffic and encroachment-related issues. “The initial hardship was also figuring out what we would do with the dessert that remained unsold on Sundays. Eventually, we figured we should try to balance the demand and supply, but preferred if we sold out and remained short on supply, but with steady production. The other issue was selling the kheer in plastic containers, but it was the only feasible option for packaging. That’s when my friend suggested we offer seeds along with the order, so these containers can be reused,” he adds.
Shivang says every purchase comes with a pouch of seeds to grow microgreens. “We feel glad when people return to ask for more seeds. We’ve distributed 3 lakh seeds since 2017,” he says.
LKD now has stores in six locations across Pune, including Baner, Kharadi, JM Road, Viman Nagar, Hinjewadi and Kothrud. “We opened a new outlet in Girgaon, Mumbai, in 2020. I would be happy to take this venture pan-India. I aim to glorify the dessert and bring it on a global platform,” Shivang says.
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