House of Candy wants everyone to feel like Charlie in the chocolate factory
When husband-wife duo Kanu Priya Sharma and Sameer Bhatia were living in Bahrain in 2011, they befriended a candy importer whose business was thriving in the country. Although fascinated by his success, the duo were unsure whether the business model could be replicated in India.
“I was really sceptical about starting something like a candy business in India because it is predominantly a mithai-oriented country. So, we asked him why candies are so popular in Bahrain and who even buys them! He said, ‘I don’t know who buys them, but boy it sells!’” recalls Kanu Priya in a conversation with YourStory.
After experimenting with a distribution system for imported candies in India, the duo launched the retail confectionery chainin 2014.
Today, the Delhi-based startup is a major confectionery retail chain, with more than 200 kiosks and stores in different malls, airports, highways, and other public places across India.
House of Candy products
Kanu Priya and Sameer met each other at Texas Christian University, US during their undergrad course. Sameer did his bachelor’s in finance and went on to do an MBA from SP Jain Center of Management (Dubai/Singapore)—laying the groundwork for him to manage House of Candy’s finances. Meanwhile, Kanu pursued a bachelor’s in marketing and communications. She handles marketing, PR, and social media for the startup.
The duo decided to initially collaborate with Haribo, an international confectionery brand and launched the first kiosk under that brand at DLF Avenue in Saket, Delhi in 2014. They were given the distributorship of Haribo in north India.
After receiving a positive response, the founders decided to shift from distribution to retail. In the same year, they launched the first kiosk in Select City Walk, Saket, Delhi under their brand name, House of Candy.
The duo initially invested around Rs 50 lakh from their personal savings. The bootstrapped confectionery chain is now known for its customised assortments, where customers can pick and mix any amount of candy—including jelly beans, strawberry cables, gumballs, etc—without any limits. However, marshmallows remain its bestseller.
“We always wanted to bring something new to India, and create a new experience out of something that has been a part of our growing up years. But what we have built today is beyond our predictions,” says co-founder Kanu Priya.
Other than Haribo, House of Candy has also collaborated with Haldiram and Hamleys and supplies its confectionery products to around 200 hotel brands and bakeries across the country.
The startup has a pan-Indian team of 300 people, including its core team, warehouse employees, and stalls/kiosks staff.
Understanding the market
Kanu Priya recalls that the initial days were full of self-doubts and second-guessing. Launching a confectionery business in a sweet-savvy country required a thorough understanding of the market to ensure a successful launch.
“Only traditional mithai shops in India allow customers to pick and mix sweets. But we wanted to stand out from them. Our market research made us realise that people buy candies on impulse; no one steps out of the house only for buying candies. Only when they see an attractive kiosk in a mall would people, especially kids, want to buy candies,” she explains.
The demographic of buyers includes women and the younger populace between the ages of five to 18. Most of the products are imported from countries including Germany, Belgium, and Austria, and consolidated in the UK before finally reaching the company headquarters.
However, importing candies meant the team had to go through multiple trials and errors on what products would suit the demographic, and find the right partners for distribution.
During the pandemic, the company was hit hard as footfall in public spaces including malls reduced, resulting in loss of business. To bounce back in business, they introduced their pre-packed assortments and worked on expanding their ecommerce segment.
According to Allied Market Research reports, the global confectionery market was valued at $210.3 billion in 2019 and projects market growth of $270.5 billion by 2027, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.6 percent.
House of Candy earned a revenue of approximately Rs 28 crore in FY22, and competes with the likes of Parle, Candico India, Nestle India, and Cadbury’s.
The startup plans to launch about 1,000 stores in India over the next few years while focusing on expansion in Tier II and III cities and towns after observing the brand’s adoption in cities like Shillong, Indore, and Siliguri.
The team also plans to focus on expanding the market adoption for their prepacked assorted candies.
(The story was updated with the correct revenue details.)