How these women entrepreneurs are putting the ‘healthy’ into snacks for children
Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan don’t call themselves Co-founders of. They would like to be called co-chasers, as that’s what they spend the majority of their time doing, being persistent with their ideas and taking them forward.
The two friends started Slurrp Farm in October 2016 when they realised most supermarket shelves only stocked products made with wheat or rice for children. These contained trans fats and alarming quantities of sugar, not exactly a healthy option.
Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan
“For a country that has such an incredible food culture of eating a large variety of grains including millets, this lack of diversity was a gaping hole in our ready-to-eat-market,” Meghana recalls.
The two friends, who met at a Diwali party in London, got along like a house on fire and began discussing fun business ideas. But they always went back to their jobs the next day as entrepreneurship seemed to be too risky at that point in time.
Meghana grew up in Bengaluru and was a national-level swimmer for India. She received the Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, after which she pursued an MBA from Harvard Business School. She worked at McKinsey for seven years.
Shauravi grew up in New Delhi and studied economics at Cambridge University. She worked in the consumer, healthcare, and retail advisory team and the leveraged finance team at JP Morgan. She was also an investment manager at Sir Richard Branson's group holding entity at Virgin Group in London.
The duo was joined by Umang Bhattacharyya, the creative brain of Slurrp Farm. With over 15 years of experience in photography, graphic design, and video art, Umang has given Slurrp Farm its distinctive identity and brand language.
But why snacks for children? When both of them had children, things changed. As parents, they found they were short of options and wanted to do something about it.
“Our research showed that with one in four children obese or overweight, India is the third most obese nation in the world. Malnourishment occurs at both ends of the spectrum; it is not only due to poverty, but also because of a diet that is rich in sugar, salt, and junk food with preservatives, artificial flavours, and colours.
“The market size of the opportunity is large, and we felt we had to change things for the better and be a force for good,” Shauravi says.
Focus on quality ingredients
For their first product prototype, the founders made an organic fruit and vegetable purée for children. However, they had very little demand.
“We went back to the drawing board and did a lot of market research, product R&D, thinking and decided to follow our hearts. We realised the answers lay in our own grandmothers’ kitchens,” Meghana says.
Slurrp Farm offers healthy, tasty, and convenient breakfast and mealtime options for young children and families.
Every recipe starts on a small scale, and the in-house R&D team then works on making them work at scale without adding preservatives, artificial colours or flavours, trans fats or stabilisers, etc.
The founders have roped in experts for recipe development, commercial scalability, and quality control for each product line.
“We don’t make niche products; we use better quality ingredients. For example, millets cost more per kilo than rice and wheat. Our buyers are everyday parents, who are looking for hassle-free, healthy, and nutritious food products for their children. They are concerned about health and choose Slurrp Farm as our products do not contain refined flours, trans-fat, excessive salt and sugar, colours, and preservatives,” Meghana says.
The product range includes organic cereals, sathu maavu, khichdi mix, millet oat porridge, millet pancakes and waffle mixes, banana and chocolate chip pancakes, millet dosa, beetroot oats dosa, and more.
It also offers fun star-shaped munchies and puffs made with supergrains like ragi and jowar, are flavoured, and come in savoury/sweet snacking options. The baking range includes a variety of cake mixes as well.
A niche market player
The starting capital for Slurrp Farm came from the founders’ savings.
“Our first angel round was a wonderful motley crew of people friends, family and colleagues who believed in the product; or called us on the customer service number! We have recently raised an institutional funding round from Fireside Ventures,” says Shauravi.
As a D2C business, Slurrp Farm products are available on its own website and ecommerce marketplaces. “We also sell through the traditional FMCG store channel, in over 800 stories in India and the UAE,” she says.
In the broader space of children’s food, there are several players in India and internationally. Slurrp Farm aspires to be like Ella’s Kitchen or Organix.
In the Indian FMCG food context, while there isn’t one player focused on children. There are several players in the categories, including, Betty Crocker, Pilsbury, MTR, and Nestle.
Moment to thrive
Slurrp Farm’s ARR has grown 300 percent during the last six months and the company is looking to grow at the same rate to an ARR of $5-6 million in the next 12 months.
“Our biggest challenge has been to find a way to make what tastes delicious in a home kitchen taste the same on a shelf and when it reaches your hands, without adding anything to it. Another challenge is this feeling that it is all taking far too long. But when you look back, a great idea is one that has been executed well,” the founder says.
The founders believe that the journey of building a brand and products that endure is a long one. “So, get yourself a partner for the trip and a band of people who are on board with your mission. It is harder alone”.
As a food company, Slurrp Farm was allowed to be operational during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
“However, our key challenge was not dissimilar to all companies large and small - logistics were uncertain and there were several disruptions at the start. We worked hard to manage second and third-order impacts like raw material, packaging, and credit, and to mitigate these,” Shauravi says.
Meghana says in the short run they worked hard to supply their goods. This was challenging and required meticulous approvals and permits. But the hard work – and keeping the customer at the centre of their efforts – helped.
“We have actually seen 3x growth during this period. Our product and brand have not been impacted by COVID-19. If anything, we feel that health and good quality foods will be more important, and this is our moment to thrive,” the founders say.