My almost six-year-old son has a rather discerning palette and just after he dived into a carton of caramel popcorn, he declared, “These are so crunchy. It’s the best popcorn I’ve eaten.” Having heard this emphatic declaration, I had to find the person behind the delicious popcorn.
That’s when I met Palak Dhand, the 22-year-old founder of Snack & Co, a healthy snacking brand that she launched just four months back.
Since then, she has managed to sell more than 2000 products and reached a revenue of Rs 80,000 per month through pure coincidence.
The Delhi girl tells The Better India, “Starting the business was an accidental happening. I was all set to go to Lancaster University, UK, where I was going to pursue a Master’s degree in marketing when the pandemic hit and all my plans were thwarted.” Not one to be wasting time brooding, Palak, who always wanted to be in the business of food, decided to turn her dream into a reality. So, Masters or not, she said this was as good a time as any to take the plunge.
‘I was often asked how old I was’
Palak had always been fascinated by the snack food industry and felt that healthy snacking, given the current lifestyle and work-from-home routines, would offer her a good niche to be in.
“I worked on research and development in March 2020, and from then till November 2020, when we launched, we worked on the right products, flavours, tie ups with high quality vendors, finalise on packaging, pricing, and all other logistics,” she says. The biggest challenge the 22-year-old faced was getting vendors to take her seriously. “I was often asked how old I was and people would suddenly decide I wasn’t serious enough or even old enough to start a business,” she says.
Speaking about some of the other challenges, she says, “I had no knowledge about how e-commerce platforms functioned or the technical aspects involved. For every small glitch, I had to call my IT support team and check on how to navigate through it.” Palak had a passion for cooking and says that everything else related to business she learnt on the job.
Asked whether she makes the products herself, she says, “I have tied up with vendors from across the city and work closely with them. Since these are food products that are widely available in the market, I worked on creating a distinct taste and a quality that sets the brand apart.” Even before Palak launched her brand, she started working on creating a social media presence and speaks about her Instagram and YouTube presence in the form of a channel called Blend With Palak that has a modest 300 subscribers but over 1,000 views on certain videos.
“I wanted to have a ready platform to connect with customers when I started my business and hence the social media presence,” she says. Palak would experiment with various recipes and post about them online. From eggless chocolate cookies to hasselback potatoes, Palak ensured that she utilised the lockdown period productively.
Being a one-woman army
Palak used Rs 1 lakh as her initial investment and says, “The money I had saved up to use for college went into setting up the business. Other than a strong sense of belief in my product, I had no experience to back me up.” Palak mentions how in a matter of just three days after the launch she was able to recover her entire initial investment having sold more than 200 products. The brand started with retailing two products — the caramel popcorn and makhana (fox nut) — and soon added another 18 products to the list, which include the peri peri quinoa chips, candied popcorn, cheese and herb makhana, and their range of premium tea blends.
Speaking of some of their bestsellers she says, “The kids seem to love the caramel and candied popcorn, while the adults are happy with the healthy snacking option of quinoa chips and even the makhanas we have launched.” The flavoured makhana (fox nut) and quinoa chips come in a pack of 90 grams and cost Rs 145 while the tea, which have been recently launched will cost you upwards of Rs 200 for a 50 grams pack.
Palak started operations with catering to customers in Delhi/NCR and now has been shipping to Mumbai, Shillong, Imphal and other places as well.
Palak’s biggest sense of strength comes from her mother. Describing their bond, she says, “I lost my father when I was in class 8 and I saw how deftly mother took over the family business of electronic weighing scales. She was the only woman at the workplace and never once did I see her flinch. Whatever little I know about business, I have learnt by seeing her work.” As of now, Palak is a one-woman-army and handles everything from getting the right blend of flavours in her products, to marketing, sales, and finance.
In a short span of four months, the brand has managed to attract a steady and loyal customer base and sharing some of the reviews that it has received, Palak says, “The one thing that we are always appreciated for is our quality and packaging. Customers love the fact that our containers are reusable and of such good quality.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)