Siblings convince their mother to quit her job as a playschool teacher and help start La Kheer Deli, and are now adding global flavours to the traditional Indian dessert.
‘No matter how full you are, there is always room for dessert. Dessert goes to the heart!’ While we are spoilt for choice when it comes to desserts from around the world, traditional sweets still remain a favourite among Indians, now with a twist.
From sizzling gajar ka halwa and gulab jamuns served with ice cream, to phirni brulee, Indian desserts are now getting a makeover. And adding a twist to traditional desserts is LKD or La Kheer Deli from Pune.
Started by siblings Shivang (25) and Shivika Sood (27) as Sooduku Foods LLP, LKD was launched as a flagship brand in May 2017. The founders say it was started with the aim to give a twist to the homemade kheer and take it to a global platform.
Sample this - kheer, which is usually made from rice, broken wheat or vermicelli cooked with sugar, milk and dry fruits, is now available in flavours such as blackcurrant, nutelloreo and mocha.
The blue, white and pink LKD cart is often parked in front of ITI Road’s Starbucks in Pune. It also has an all-day retail store at Jangli Maharaj Road in the city since January 2018.
Shivang and Shivika swear by their mom’s dry fruit kheer and once decided to make a concoction of the homemade dish using Nutella and Oreo. “It turned out to be outrageously delicious, and after a few samplings, it was born as Coupe Nutelloreo Kheer,” says Shivang.
To launch their new venture, the duo needed culinary guidance and who could be better than mom? The siblings convinced their mother Sonia Sood to give up her job as a playschool teacher to make kheer.
LKD initially started as a weekend-only dessert shop, operating from Friday to Sunday. With a menu ranging from Rs 79 (dry fruit kheer) to Rs 119 (Blackcurrant kheer), it also sells seasonal kheers such as mango during summer and strawberry during winters at Rs 199 for a 175-gram cup.
Within 10 months of operations, the outlet has generated Rs 36 lakh in revenues, operating a total of only 48 hours each month.
Talking about its unique name Shivang says: “We wanted a name which emanates an Indo-western combination, goes well with gourmet Kheer and resonates with folks globally.”
“Our biggest challenge was to convince our mother to support us with this idea,” says Shivang.
Turn out, Sonia was not really keen on quitting her job until the business did well and that's one reason why LKD ran the business only on weekends when she had the time to cook. Today, she works with her children full time.
The next big challenge was getting the funds. “Getting a shop was out of the question since we would operate only on weekends, and the cost metrics weren’t feasible,” Shivang says.
“A handcart was the most feasible option because even food trucks require a good corpus to set up,” he adds.
The siblings say their father, Sanjay Sood was not keen on them becoming 'thelawalas' or hawkers, but eventually, like most parents, supported their vision and lent them Rs 1.5 lakh as an initial investment. Shivang and Shivika have been returning the money to their father on a monthly basis.
Around the end of February 2017, the team started working on different flavours and shortlisted the menu. “We wanted to keep our menu simple and crisp,” says Shivang.
Having kept the classic dry fruit kheer on the menu, LKD introduced Gulkand Kheer and a brownie kheer for the millennials, which is now a ‘public favourite’.
The six-member team did not have the right equipment or machinery for production and had to manage with household utensils for sampling and tasting. They had initially aimed to launch on April 1, 2017, but finding the right designer for branding and the best place to set up their cart turned out to be other challenges.
“Between hefty quotations from vendors to make the cart, to making our logo and getting the right packaging material, I had given up midway,” says Shivang.
“With little knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and YouTube, I took charge of the logo designing, packaging and branding,” he says. This saved them over Rs 3 lakh.
The handcart took much work too - the founders spent 15 days meeting 18 vendors and getting quotations. The handcart became their marketing point.
Finding the right place to park the handcart was the final piece of the puzzle the team had to solve.
Initially, Sonia handled the production and packaging, while Shivika managed the PR, marketing and finance. Shivang, a Business Administration graduate, takes care of procurement, budgeting, operation, hiring and planning.
Shivang’s friend Jatin Jain (24) later joined the founding team. College students Pradyuman Soni (19) and Mehak Nanda (19) also joined the LKD team as co-founders.
The company initially targeted to sell 30 cups each day. It sold 44 cups on the very first day and ran out of stock on the third. To maintain consistency, LKD prepares kheer in batches at its central kitchen. it is also available on Zomato, UberEats and Swiggy.
According to the founders, LKD now sells up to 400 cups of kheer each day and is expecting to earn Rs 1 crore in revenues for FY 2018-19. LKD has also collaborated with online garden store Ugaoo.
According to a report by Statista, the Indian F&B industry is estimated to be $46 billion in 2020.
While every dessert place - serving ice-creams, pancakes or Indian sweets - is a competitor to LKD, what sets it apart is its base ingredient - kheer.
LKD’s kheer has travelled across states and to other geographies as well. “A customer once carried 20 cups of kheer back to Dubai,” says Shivang. A French woman, after tasting their desserts, offered to start a franchise in Paris.
LKD is now exploring to network with speciality retail stores in order to gain visibility as a brand across Tier I and Tier II cities in India. It currently has over 80 franchisee offers from these cities, but wishes to “dominate one city at a time”.