After five years in the US, Saandeep Jogiparti (30) and Kavitha Gopu (30) were overcome with the desire to return to their homeland. So in 2018, the couple moved back to Hyderabad with an aim to start a business of their own. For a few months, they continued their jobs as software engineers with the US-based firm, but the thought of turning into entrepreneurs remained in their minds.
“Even as I worked as a software engineer, I was always brainstorming with family and friends about starting a venture of my own. After working in the US for five years, I had saved enough money to see this through,” Saandeep tells The Better India.
While he was unsure about what the business would be about, he knew it had to be something related to sweets, since he had a sweet tooth himself.
“I have a habit of eating something sweet after every meal, especially laddus. I always keep a box of sweets in my house. But my family always advised me against consuming refined sugar, and suggested that I eat a spoon of jaggery instead,” says Saandeep, adding that this became his idea for a business — to make healthy laddus.
So in 2019, Saandeep and Kavitha launched Laddu Box, which makes 11 varieties of laddus using native grains including millets, jaggery and more, clocking a turnover Rs 55 lakh within one year.
When it came to consuming sweets regularly, Saandeep found that it was not just him that was worried about consuming large amounts of refined sugar. His friends, extended social circle, and family all faced the same issue.
“During the market research, everyone I interacted with explained how they wished there were healthier alternatives for sweets. When I told them there were Nutri-bars made of jaggery, they were not interested. They wanted something Indian,” says Saandeep, adding that laddus were a popular choice among everyone he spoke to, as they were tasty and quick to eat.
So Saandeep and Kavitha began writing down traditional recipes for sweets passed down generations in their families.
“These recipes were followed by our grandparents to make desserts for family gatherings. Earlier, we did not know the value of these foods, but with more awareness, we realised how important each ingredient is. For example, the laddus made using urad dal were beneficial to improve iron content in the body, while the ones made of flax seeds provided energy,” says Saandeep.
The idea was to use only native ingredients like whole grains, millets, ghee and jaggery. They would recreate these recipes in their kitchen, mixing and matching till they reached perfection.
They made 11 varieties of laddus including ragi, foxtail millet, Kodo millet, and finger millets among others. While all millets have nutritional benefits, kodo millet is known to keep cholesterol levels under control, finger millets control blood glucose, and foxtail millets are high in antioxidants that enhance memory. Since they are made of pure ghee, each laddu has a shelf-life of 21 days.
“By December 2019, we had quit our jobs and officially launched Laddu Box. We sold the sweets through stalls at various fairs and IT companies. Apart from selling out at these events, we would also receive callbacks from customers to place bulk orders,” says Saandeep.
However, in March 2020, the Laddu Box had to take a break owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pushed the duo to experiment with online sales models. They launched a website and created social media handles to market their products.
“By June 2020, we began online sales and to our surprise, it picked up much better than offline sales. We received orders from various cities across the country and even from the UK and USA,” says Saandeep.
To date, the business has clocked a turnover of Rs 55 lakh and received 6,000 orders.
Anusha Vuthalurru (28), an interior designer based in Hyderabad, is a valued customer of Laddu Box. Being conscious about her health, she says this is the best guilt-free Indian sweet.
She says, “Laddu Box’s sweets taste almost like regular laddus, but with the wholesome satisfaction of eating guilt-free, healthy treats. On hectic days, I pop a laddu whenever I am feeling tired, and within a few minutes I am energised again.”
A laddu for all needs
Sandeep and Kavitha also ensure that each laddu is 28gms, unlike regular ones which are over 40 gms.
“The laddus purchased from sweet shops cannot be eaten in one bite. They’re usually messy, and can be wasted or left half-eaten in the food box. This can lead to other laddus getting spoiled. So we ensured every laddu was of the perfect size so that even if a person wants a second helping, it won’t be a lot to eat,” says Kavitha.
They provide an on-the-go box that comes with three laddus and is perfect for customers to keep in their bags. So if there is an urge to snack at any time of the day, there is always something healthy in your bag.
Recently, the duo launched a new range which includes protein-rich laddus for fitness freaks, iron-rich ones to improve women’s health, and ragi-based laddus for children. They also introduced vegan options that are made with dates instead of jaggery and ghee.