Late last month, Skippi Ice Pops scripted history on Shark Tank India when it received a funding of Rs 10 million. The brand founders – Ravi and Anuja Kabra – were the first to receive an ‘All Shark Deal; all five investors came together and offered the brand a cumulative deal.
An Indian franchise of the American Shark Tank, the show is a platform for entrepreneurs to pitch their business models to a panel of investors (‘sharks’), who then decide whether to invest in the company. It made its debut in India in December last year.
“The sheer drive, passion and sincerity of Ravi and Anuja impressed me the most. It was also the fact that the Skippi Ice Pops didn’t need a cold chain and could be carried at room temperature,” Namita Thapar, founder of Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, who is an investor, tells The Better India.
Also part of the deal was Lenskart owner Peyush Bansal, who was so impressed by Ravi and Anuja’s model that he came on board as the sixth investor after the show.
It was only a year ago that the duo had suffered a tremendous loss of Rs 11 lakh due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. After investing nearly Rs 55 lakh, they were forced to discontinue their operations even before their product, ice popsicles, could get a stronghold in the market.
So how did they manage to increase their sales, while also impressing the panelists?
“A combination of factors were at play. We are offering a product that has no competitors as of now, and our manufacturing technology is patented. Plus, the nostalgia factor played a vital role,” Ravi tells The Better India.
Starting with losses
Both Ravi and Anuja have over a decade of experience in the FMCG sector in India as well as Australia. While Ravi has a diploma in Business Management, Anuja has done her MBA in Human Resources.
After working in different companies, the duo decided to start something of their own and returned to India in February 2020. “We already had ice popsicles in mind when we decided to take a leap in our respective careers,” Anuja says.
She adds, “One time, while my sister was travelling from Australia to India, she packed ice popsicles to bring them back with her. That’s when we realised the gap in the market and the high nostalgia value the product carries. After rigorous research, we found that parents need a trustworthy brand, considering ice popsicles are categorised into treats. As parents of two children, we decided to launch Skippi without artificial flavours in March 2020,” says Anuja.
The manufacturing unit was set up, and six flavours including mango, orange, raspberry, cola and lemon were introduced. “We used only natural colours, preservatives and sweeteners. Colours and flavours were extracted from fruits and vegetables,” says Anuja.
They addressed the challenge of refrigeration and cold storage by coming up with a popsicle in liquid form.
“The ice pops are sold at room temperature. After purchasing them, all you have to do is keep them in the freezer for about eight hours. This cost-cutting measure saves us cold storage expenses. Our ice, too, remains soft,” says Ravi.
“Additionally, this technology also allows the product to penetrate the rural and remote areas of India, where regular supply of electricity is a problem. The small-time shopkeeper can keep the popsicle on the shelf,” he adds.
The couple invested Rs 55 lakh in starting the production and distribution. However, by the end of the month, India went under lockdown with the advent of COVID-19.
“We lost lakhs in rentals, salaries and other expenses. Our production was shut for a year, but we were convinced that the market opportunities would open up once the lockdown was lifted. It took a lot of patience and self-assurance to sail through,” says Anuja.
The wait paid off when they were finally able to launch the popsicles in early 2021. The first batch was sold out within three weeks, says Ravi. The couple targeted both traditional markets and e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart.
“The number of sales we made gave us the insight that people were truly enjoying our popsicles while they were sitting at home. At present, we sell 60,000 popsicles every month, and our machinery’s capacity is three lakh,” Anuja adds.
Entering Shark Tank
Ravi and Anuja went through five rounds alongside 66,000 other applicants. The first round was a telephonic interview, followed by documentation, a video pitch, and an audition.
The bullets points on which they focussed during the pitch were:
- Gap in the market for popsicles
- Introducing a fun product amid COVID-19 to lighten the mood of the customers
- Address challenges of logistics and quality of ice pops
- Projection of the brand and their dream to be featured on the Indian cricket team’s jerseys
- Focussing on commercials that can make the brand national, and eventually global
With increased orders, investors, distribution requests and an expanding team, Anuja and Ravi’s lives changed significantly after Shark Tank, they say.
“We had to process 21,000 orders just for the online platform overnight. We received thousands of requests from investors and distributors. At one point, I conducted a video call with 800 people because I had no time and resources to meet them in person. Our inventory has doubled and we have proposals from companies to set up similar plants in the north. The response has been phenomenal, something that I and my wife had predicted even before the launch,” says Ravi.
Preetesh, a distributor, notes, “The whole market has been waiting for such a new product, and now that people remember these as ‘ice pepsis’ from their school days, it is even easier to sell. Skippi Ice Pops has already gained a lot of traction from the market after Shark Tank. I am lucky to have got the distribution in advance as I see a lot of agencies lining up to partner with their brand now.”
But while the founders are overwhelmed, they are also aware of the increased responsibility and accountability that has come their way.
“We have to maintain the quality and sales effectively if we have to scale our operations. Our aim through all the challenges is to make a product that our children can also have. We will keep adding new flavours every six months and introduce more products a few months later,” says Ravi.
Currently, the brand is present across five states and this year’s revenue stood at Rs 4 crore. They hope to close the 2023 financial year at Rs 30 crore and touch Rs 100 crore five years down the line.
Here’s a quick rapid fire round with Ravi:
*An entrepreneur you admire.
*New tech that can transform the future of small businesses
Any kind of syntax
*One value that can help small businesses thrive
*Your favourite book
It Happens Only In India by R N Sharma
*In my free time I ____…
Think about Skippi ice pops
* Before this interview I was ____
Working on spreadsheets
*Something they don’t teach in college, but is important to run a business:
*One question I always ask people while hiring is ____…
How can you help the brand grow?
*Best advice you ever got is to ____
‘Keep your numbers tight’ from my father
Get in touch with Skippi Ice Pops here
Edited by Divya Sethu