Why these IIT grads chose to start up in the snack segment is an Open Secret
Most parents have one concern in common: providing children with healthy snacks.
It was something Ahana Gautam had experienced as the daughter of a working mother. She saw firsthand the struggles families face in providing healthy and convenient snacking options for children.
“This struggle transcends generations. Today, I see my sister-in-law facing the same challenges with my niece. We are committed to addressing a mother’s guilt by providing better options. That led to the birth of Open Secret,” Ahana says.
Mumbai-based Open Secret, which aims to “put the whole in wholesome”, was launched in 2019 and is targeting the children's snacking white space.
The startup launched its first set of nutty cookie products, targeting increasing consumer preferences for “better-for-you” snacks, with an emphasis on tiffin consumption.
The products are currently available at the top 200 stores in Mumbai and through ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Big Basket, Ferns & Petals among others.
The Open Secret team wants to make snacking healthy and yummy for children.
The team and the background
Ahana is a B.Tech from IIT-Bombay and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She started her career at P&G where she worked across multiple functions – supply chain, finance, and marketing.
She grew her passion for food brands at General Mills in the US where she launched natural and organic products.
Ahana co-founded Open Secret along with an IIT-Kharagpur batchmate Udit Kejriwal, who is also an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. He started his career at P&G and McKinsey & Company, and has a few years of experience in supply chain and operations. The rest of the team comprises marketers and strategists with deep experience and background in FMCG industry.
“The biggest reward for us is when mothers tell us that the kids love the taste as much as the nutrition,” Ahana says.
Once she had the idea in place, Ahana began working on recipes with different people. She says she tasted over 1,000 cookies with different combinations and chose the right one.
Setting up the manufacturing
The next step was to set the manufacturing unit. Ahana and her team visited many contract manufacturers in Bhiwandi, but realised that contract manufacturers don’t really work well with early-stage startups.
Also, control for an early-stage startup is easier when it manages the complete chain.
The average basket size on BigBasket is at Rs 100; on Amazon and their website, this goes up to Rs 400. The team also takes bulk order requests on the website. Online delivery is available across India, but products are available offline only in Mumbai.
Open Secret has raised Seed Capital from Matrix Partners India, Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Snapdeal Co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and Godrej Consumer Products CEO Vivek Gambhir.
Market and the future
The Indian snack market is over-crowded with traditional players like Haldiram, Pepsi Co, ITC, and Balaji. More recently, players like Yoga Bar, Health Warrior, and Nature’s Path have ventured in to provide healthy snack bars.
Speaking of their differentiator, Ahana says, “We have identified that incumbent brands in the space are yet to catch up with changing consumer trends of living and eating healthier.”
Open Secret aims to fill the gap with a new-age brand that’s an equal blend of health and taste. The brand is currently targeting the sweet snacking category, which has seen “little to no innovation in the better-for-you space in recent years”.
Ahana aims to reach 10 lakh kirana stores across India soon.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)