A chocolaty saga: of Fantasie Chocolates and Zeba Kohli

3rd Aug 2013
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If the word is chocolate, then one name that stands out among the many corporate brands – in the Mumbai market, is that of Zeba Kohli and the brand she heads – Fantasie Fine Chocolates. A 67-year old brand, Fantasie has been the goto brand for many corporates, hotels and restaurants for their varied chocolate needs. Zeba is the third generation entrepreneur in her family and also the MD at Good Housekeeping – the venture started by her grandfather, A Fazelbhoy.

How it all began

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Photo: Nalin Solanki

Talking about her entry into the business, Zeba says it was not a sudden responsibility, but a slow and natural progression of things. “I remember coming to the office after school and thumbing out one-finger letters on the typewriter for my grandfather. Sometimes I would work at the shop – we had only one shop back then, and I would sometimes be the helper, the peon or anything that was needed of me to be,” she recollects. From a young kid who stopped by after school, to being on top of affairs, like a true scion taking over the reins – Zeba’s transition was planned with a lot of care.

When Zeba was finished her schooling and was entering college, she was all set to study science – her favourite subject in school. But a discussion with her mother, made her realize the importance of studying business, over her love for science. “My grandfather was more a science man and an engineer, my mom did her microbiology from Cambridge and I was a hard core Physics student. I hated business and loved it when I was not a leader. Somewhere maybe I had a penchant for business, some acumen somewhere,” says Zeba. When he grandfather was ill, he mother sat her down and told her the importance of learning accounting and the need for studying the subject, and today Zeba says she is happy to have took her advice.

Zeba joined the company in the year 1948, and has since then been instrumental in taking it to newer heights. While Good Housekeeping continues to grow, Fantasie Chocolates has also grown by leaps and bounds. There are six stores supplying Fantasie Chocolates within Mumbai and Zeba says there are plans to expand into other markets in the coming year.

Building the Fantasie brand

From making a film on Gandhi, carved in chocolate; to chocolate fashion shows; to chocolate jewellery, Zeba says the Fantasie brand has always used innovative ways to talk about chocolate. No wonder then Fantasie receives orders not just during the festive season, but even on occasions like Republic Day and Independence Day.

Zeba Kohli
Zeba KohliPhoto: Nalin Solanki

Chocolate gifting is a Rs 250 crore market in India, and Fantasie is one of the biggest private labels in the space. Zeba now has plans to take the brand into Class A towns. “India is many countries within a country, every market is different and so are customers. We have to talk to them in a language they will understand,” says Zeba about her strategy for customer acquisition when she expands. So while a chocolate fashion show or chocolate body painting would work for Mumbai people, she know she will have to innovate for other markets she enters. To cater to the growing base of health conscious customers, Zeba has also launched dark chocolates, sugar free variants and added healthy ingredients into the Fantasie product range.

The online Fantastie store has been another important growth driver for Fantasie, and Zeba says they have been taking and fulfilling orders through the online space for over 20 years now. Today Fantasie supplies over 200 types and over 40 varieties of chocolate.

As an entrepreneur, Zeba always had her hands full, but that has never stopped her from giving time to her family. Zeba is the doting mother of two daughters and loves spending time with them.

Although Zeba is in her later 40s, the energy she exhibits will put even young 20 something’s to shame. When we ask her the secret of energy – she credits her grandfather and his influence on her life. Another aspect is a poem by Max Ehrmann, called Desiderata -- that she keeps reading always whenever she needs to draw inspiration. “The Desiderata is something that my grandfather introduced me to, and everytime I read it, I feel like he is talking to me through the words,” says Zeba.

preethi@yourstory.in

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