This entrepreneur sells happiness in chocolate bars

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Dark chocolate or white chocolate? I like the less sweeter of the two. I think mint might go well with bitterness of the dark chocolate, so I scatter a few pieces on the bar. Or maybe a few honey roasted almonds might make the bar deliciously crunchy. Or sprinkling some chilli flakes over the bar will leave the person who eats this with a pleasant spicy aftertaste. Although may be it needs a little butterscotch so that the act of biting into my bar will be filled with gooey, nutty surprises.

I am definitely not a qualified chocolatier, but Happiness Bars helps chocolate enthusiasts like me design custom chocolate bars for my friends, family and most importantly, for myself. With over 65 ingredients to choose from, Happiness Bars can satisfy some of your wildest cravings when it comes to chocolate.

Lighting the spark

Shubra Acharya, Founder, Happiness Bars, started her career as an entrepreneur when she was still in college. In the 2nd year of her Bachelor’s degree at Christ College, she started her B2B chocolate venture, in which she created and supplied chocolates to various business clients. Her company offered various chocolate products, like chocolates with fillings, truffles, and assorted chocolates with nuts and spices, for example. When Shubra graduated at 22, she involved herself completely with her business, focusing on developing it into a full-fledged professional chocolate company.

While processing B2B orders, she’d receive a number of requests to create custom bars of different ingredient combinations from her usual sets.Simultaneously, she she had also begun to build a reserve of capital from her B2B business, since the company processed large bulk orders as wedding favors and employee gifts. Shubra started researching business models that could allow her to sell custom bars to a large audience, including her friends and family, the original requestors. The challenge was keeping the model sustainable despite the small size of each order.

In her research, she found a similar portal in the US, and decided to tweak their strategy to suit the Indian audience. Three types of Belgian chocolate– dark, white and milk – are available as choices for the base of each customizable bar. Toppings of various varietiescan be added (not exceeding five per bar). There are 65+ options, categorized into nuts, candy, fruit, herbs and spices, decorations and others.

Shubra Acharya

The business of bars

Happiness Bars went live in 2014, and was run by 6 people, working out of one room. The number of orders that came in when the website went live promptly caused the site to crash. Shubra had no idea how so many people knew about the concept and the first week of operations passed in a lot of confusion. The team was used to the B2B format,in which bulk orders were wrapped up and sent off. However, in this case, each bar was different.It took time to build systems to categorize each bar and have it sent to the rightful owner. Also, delivering only a few bars at a time was a costly affair.The team tried out deliveries with a number of courier companies before settling on a suitable candidate.

As more orders came, the team learnt onthejob, and began to ship close to 40-50 bars per day during summers and festival seasons, with the average order costing close to Rs. 350.

Shubra mentions that demand increases significantly during certain festive seasons, and the company times its campaigns to coincide with these festivals and holidays. The company has also undertaken corporate orders for employee recognition and birthdays. Clients include some of India’s top IT firms and large car showrooms, who sometimes use Happiness Bars in their branding efforts.

Initially, most of Happiness Bars’ customers try out a few conventional combinations. After the first attempt, they become adventurous and start playing around with different matches - coconut and cinnamon, or coffee and mint. Some of them start fashioning chocolates after an interesting dessert they might have sampled. The website also includes a section called ‘superstars’, pre-designed barsto cater to buyers who do not want to think about what ingredients to add to their bars. It’s evident that customers love creating their own bars; only 20% of sales come from pre-designed bars. Over 40% of the customers are return customers.

The future of Happiness Bars

Shubra is planning to roll out mini Happiness Bars and beef up her product portfolio. Mini Happiness Bars will have about 1-2 ingredients, and will be sold in the form ofbundles, so customers can try out more combinations. The team also plans to use its core strength, B2B sales, to gain more opportunities to market Happiness Bars. Although there are competitors (Lovely Chocos), Shubra believes that her customer service and consistent performance will distinguish her venture from the rest. Currently the venture has a pan-Indian presence, and also has plans to ship globally soon, using the pricing of its bars as a competitive advantage.

So it looks like we all can become chocolatiers. After all, it’s only a few clicks away.

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