Hello! Who are you and what food business did you start?
I am Prashant Parmeswaran, the CEO and MD of Soulfull. My partners and I founded Soulfull, a company that has been revolutionizing the ancient Indian grains, millets. Soulfull offers contemporary and convenient millet based food offerings relevant to the Indian consumer today.
What’s your ball-park revenue?
Soulfull clocked a net revenue of 22Cr + in FY 2018-19. This is the equivalent of over $3 million USD annually in total revenues.
How did you come up with the idea to build a business around traditional grains?
Soulfull was founded in 2011. I pursued my MBA from Babson College, Massachusetts and worked in the US for a while. It was my experience there that sparked the need to establish a state of the art company that would deliver innovative products using traditional grains like Millets.
And Soulfull was born out of my curiosity and intent to revolutionize the ancient Indian grains. During my stay in the United States, I witnessed the rising popularity of superfoods, such as quinoa. It is then that I realized the need to explore the power of Indian superfood such as millets. I truly believe that India is a very diverse country in every sense, including diversity in food and tastes.
Take us through the process of developing, testing, and producing your first millet-based product?
During the initial days millet institutes in India like IIMR, helped us understand the canvas of millet production in India. Scientists helped us develop the first round of machinery needed to process millets to packaged food.
With that learning I set up an RnD team and we started experimenting with our proprietary formulation. That led to the launch of our first product Ragi bites – a healthy snack option for kids. We then started expanding into other products like Muesli and Beverages, etc.
Soulfull sought the help of research institutions such as the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) to understand how they could add value to the grain and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad to gauge market opportunities. Agricultural experts and food technologists from the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysuru helped them engineer machines and put together processes for the final production.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The Key Milestones in setting up Soulfull are as follows:
- Launched in 2011, Soulfull started creating Ragi based breakfast cereals
- In 2013, Ragi Bites the flagship brand was launched
- In 2016, the brand launched millet based muesli
- In 2018, the brand received a funding of $3.5 million by Avishkaar Bharat Fund
- In 2018, the brand launched their foray into the beverages sector with Smoothix- an instant drink mix made of 12 grains
- In October 2018, Mr. Prashant Parmeswaran was recognized with BW 40 under 40 awards
- In January 2019, Soulfull won Millets Industrious Startup Award for 2019, organized by the IIMR (Indian Institute of Millets Research) and Society for Millets Research on behalf of Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Product development is at the heart of Soulfull’s offerings, and has been a force of growth for the brand.
We leverage our robust pace of product development to create innovative range of products keeping in mind the developing taste buds of our 21st century customers. This is our core strategy to attract and retain customers. To cater to the evolving demands of today’s customers, we have introduced product options for every consumption moment in the day.
For breakfast, we have offerings through flakes and muesli, if you are missing meals or in-between snacks we have Smoothix, for kids snacks we have our flagship brand, called Ragi Bites, people who like savory products can have Desi Muesli or the Masala oats.
Additionally, our digital and CRM teams ensure they take inputs from the consumers all the time to make better offerings that fit their lifestyle. That adds to our approach to attract and retain customers.
Soulfull products are available in 25 cities and the distribution network is expanding month on month. They are sold at both, online and offline retail platforms.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Soulfull clocked a net revenue of 22Cr + in FY 2018-19 and well on course to double the business this current Financial Year. We believe that the evolving consumption patterns of the modern Indian consumer is creating a niche for Soulfull’s offerings.
The Indian consumer is no longer bound by the 3 fixed meals a day. The consumption moments have increased and as a testament to this, the Snack Food segment revenue amounts to US$5,254m in 2019 and the market is expected to grow annually by 7.5% (CAGR 2019-2023). We firmly believe that this is an opportunity for Soulfull.
Therefore, our near terms goal is to push distribution to around 50,000 stores in the next 2 years. In fact, we recently have gone international with LULU Dubai and will keep an eye out for such strategic partnerships. We will also be building on our media presence and increasing the demand for our products.
Related Reading: How I Started a $75K/Month Vegan Cookie Business with My Mom
What Have You Learned Through starting Soulfull?
Having your own business is a completely different feeling. There are no off days after that. You are continuously juggling things at a personal and professional level. I have learnt how to compartmentalize different aspects of life and when I need to switch on and off between personal and professional commitments.
What are essential business tools for Soulfull?
1. Platform/Tools: Sticky Notes app, To Do app, Notes , Whatsapp & old school paper and pen.
2. Kitchen equipment: Filter coffee maker, Wok (can stir up anything healthy anytime).
What books or resources have influenced you the most?
- Influential books: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
- Resources: Experienced mentors
Advice for other food business founders?
When it comes to food, in addition to taste and flavors, do remember to add some soul into the products. Consumers do realize and appreciate the same.
https://www.soulfull.co.in/ – Our website which will give you more information on what we do.