Spice Story, a startup that sells a variety of chutneys, recently raised Rs 70 Lakh for 5% equity in Shark Tank Season 2. The company's founder, Soumyadeep Mukherjee, left his 20-year-long career in distribution and marketing, where he worked with companies like Coca-Cola and ADF Foods, to pursue his dream of building a chutney brand.
Mukherjee's journey began when he noticed people buying green chutney from the grocery store. He bought some, and his wife suggested making Pani Puri with it. That's when he realized that there was no brand in India that sold chutney. Mukherjee, who hails from Indore and has moved to different cities because of his job, had the idea of building a chutney brand but did not get the kind of reception he hoped for when he talked to his friends about it.
However, he had a simple answer to his friends' argument that chutney can be easily made at home. "Indians love convenience. Every household has ginger and garlic at home, but ginger garlic paste still sells like hotcakes at grocery stores. So, I had a strong feeling that this would work," he says.
Belonging to a middle-class family with two kids to care for, leaving a 20-year career to follow his dream did not come easy. "I sold my home to get started in the business. I told my wife I would leave my job and start a business. Thankfully, she did not leave me saying that I had lost my mind," he shares, adding, "I told her 'I'm 40 years old, and if I don't do this now, then I would not be able to do it again. If I fail, someone will hire me at 45 but not at 50. So this is my window'."
With hope in his heart, Mukherjee started by manufacturing only three chutneys initially: Imli chutney from Gujarat, Bombay sandwich chutney, and mint chutney from Delhi. In mint chutney, they had a variant without onion and garlic. These products were a hit, and they realized people were buying what they already knew about. So, they decided to focus on Desi flavours and not venture into sauces from other countries.
As the chutney brand's popularity increased, so did people's faith in his idea. In 2020, he was joined by two of his friends with similar ambitions - Gayatri Gogate, a marketing lead at Nykaa and now the CMO of Spice Story, and Vibhor Rastogi, who was a chef and now handles quality control for the chutney startup.
With a team of 11 people, the brand now has 14 variants of chutneys nationwide. They have also expanded to include pickles and sauces. Mukherjee says that the side of the plate is as important as the centre for Indians, so he wanted to give them a chutney brand.
Explaining the process of bringing new recipes into the menu, Mukherjee says, "All three of us are foodies; we love to travel and experiment with food. Whenever I find a chutney I like, I collect samples and give them to Vibhor, who does his magic. The entire team then tastes the chutney, and if it passes everyone's taste buds, it goes into production."
Spice Story's packaging is eye-catching and colourful, with labels indicating the chutneys' origin and flavour. Their unique packaging caught the attention of the Shark Tank investors, who were impressed with their dedication to traditional flavours and commitment to using natural ingredients. Spice Story's success on the show resulted in funding from investor Rahul Khanna, who praised the brand for its focus on authenticity and quality.
Spice Story plans to expand its distribution channels and increase production capacity with the investment. They aim to reach more cities in India and eventually expand to other countries.
Mukherjee is proud of how far his startup has come and its impact on the chutney market in India. "When we started, there was no brand in the chutney market. Now, we have a growing space, and we are one of the top players in that market," he says.
Beyond the financial success, Mukherjee is also passionate about promoting Indian flavours and supporting local farmers. Spice Story sources its ingredients directly from farmers, ensuring fair prices and high-quality produce.
"We want to promote the flavours of India and make sure that our farmers get the recognition they deserve," Mukherjee says. "We want to create a brand that is truly Indian and promotes the values of our country."
Spice Story's journey is an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. Mukherjee's perseverance and dedication to his vision have paid off, and he has created a successful brand that is not only profitable but also promotes Indian culture and supports local farmers.
From the story of Spice Story, we can learn several lessons:
- Follow your passion: Soumyadeep Mukherjee left his 20-year-long career to pursue his dream of building a chutney brand. He was passionate about creating a product that did not exist in the Indian market and worked hard to make it happen.
- Believe in yourself: Mukherjee faced scepticism from his friends when he shared his idea for a chutney brand, but he believed in himself and his vision. He knew convenience and focusing on traditional Indian flavours would appeal to customers.
- Focus on quality and authenticity: Spice Story's success on Shark Tank was partly due to its commitment to using natural ingredients and promoting traditional Indian flavours. They also source their ingredients directly from farmers, ensuring fair prices and high-quality produce. They also made sure that everyone from the team tasted the product and approved it shows that they really put a lot of emphasis on quality.
- Build a strong team: Mukherjee was joined by two friends who shared his ambitions and had complementary skills. Together, they have built a successful brand that continues to grow.
- Perseverance pays off: Mukherjee faced challenges in building his startup, but he persevered and has created a successful brand that is not only profitable but also promotes Indian culture and supports local farmers