I am Abhinav – a proud Rodinhooder from Baroda. I attended my first OH in Gurgaon recently and the awesome experience I had there blew me away completely.
Considering that it was the first OH I was attending I was a bit nervous but all my apprehensions came to an end the moment I spoke to the fellow Rodinhooders. The energy and the enthusiasm in the room was contagious and everyone I spoke to had this terrific feeling of belongingness towards TheRodinhoods as a community which now even I am proudly a part of.
It is because of all the great people I met in the OH and my great experience – I decided to share the story of Puzzles here with all of you.
In 2007 – during the project trimester of my MBA – I interned with HUL and was asked to work with one of their distributors selling Lipton Tea in Baroda. Wearing a tie in roaring temperatures of that summer – I used to go with the local salesman to institutions selling vending machines and making sure that they use Lipton Tea as a regular customer. It was this experience that made me fall in love with ‘sales’ as a profession and FMCG industry as a sector. For a salesman – every day is a new challenge and every order is an accomplishment.
Cut to 2012-13 and I was working with an MNC handling their sales operations in India. However, I always wanted to start something of my own and was looking out for it. One fine day, I stumbled upon this article talking about the Rural Economy of India and how the big daddies of FMCG industry are trying to get their acts right for the same. Imagine selling to 1.2 billion Indians and never having to worry about ‘finding’ a market for your product!
That was something that inspired me and I decided to venture into something that could cater to the population of the country. Couple of months down the line our snack brand – Puzzles was born and here I share the story of how I am living my dream of working in a sales profile of an FMCG company…
Name and origin:
Puzzles is the flagship brand of Expedite Foods, a fresh entrant into the exciting FMCG industry, manufacturing lip-smacking Indian snacks.
Puzzles- what an unusual name for a snack brand, you might think.
Well, spend some time with a kid and all you will hear are questions. She is always curious- Why does papa go to the office every day? Where did all the dinosaurs go? How many ‘ladoos’ does she need to have in order to fight like ‘Chotta Bheem’ and the list goes on… A child is always curious, always Puzzled.
Remember the time when you were a kid? More often than not, Puzzles, in one form or another were one of the initial few games you were acquainted with. It might have been a jigsaw game or the colorful Rubik’s cube that you didn’t know how to play with but enjoyed looking at and throwing around. Puzzles were (and are) always fun.
So, for us it was quite an obvious choice of name, and we’re having a blast!
What’s also interesting is the date on which we started operations – 1st of April 2012! A lot of people around the world relate this date to a Fool’s day but what we don’t know is that on the 1st of April, in 1976, Apple Inc. was formed and on the same date in 2004, Gmail was introduced to the general public.
I was 23 when we started Puzzles and had no experience in the manufacturing segment. Setting up a factory from scratch was an undertaking not smaller than climbing the Everest. But it was more of a ‘jump off the cliff and build your wings’ approach that helped.
I had to work both on the production as well as the sales side and it was quite a daunting task initially. But we managed!
I am a great fan of the Rocky series and have watched all 6 of them at least 10 times each. The character played by Sylvester Stallone always motivated me and boy, did it work wonders for me back then!
Product range and Business model:
The Puzzles brand has over 24 variants of snacks that range from the traditional Gujarati snacks to the everyday Indian namkeen. We also have some of the most amazing extruded snacks offering which is being widely accepted and appreciated.
Our major focus is on the rural market of the country and that’s where 70% of our revenues comes from (and we intend to keep it that way). We not only cover Tier II and Tier III cities, but also distant villages which the giants often miss out on due to the high distribution cost attached to it. We offer consumers a wide choice of hygienic snacks (quality) at the most affordable price point (very important in the market we operate in) and are proud to offer the highest quantity per rupee (apparently, that matters too!).
Most of us in the big cities don’t even care how much quantity do we get in a Rs. 5/- pack of a particular snack but that’s because it’s always an impulse buy for us. For the rural consumer on the other hand, often it is one square meal of a day and therefore, we make sure that every little thing is taken care of.
Sales and growth:
We are focusing more than ever on our top-line and the costs. I strongly believe that one cannot build a business at the cost of fundamentals and hence being in profit is the most important aspect for us.
There are widespread problems that we often face on multiple fronts- marketing, branding and of course the biggest that any bootstrapped venture can face – funding; but as Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) of Lagaan would say – “Koi humko rok na paaye – chale chalo, mit jaaye jo takraye – chale chalo!!”
We have been growing over 100% year-on-year and are confident of maintaining and enhancing this growth rate in coming years.
Thank you for reading our story. We would like to hear from you any comments, feedback or suggestions and of course, some ideas that you think can help us.
I’m on Twitter @imabhinavgupta