From one cup to 200k cups: How this 23-year-old grew India’s first hot chocolate brand amid the lockdown

Anuva Kakkar started India’s first affordable hot chocolate brand Tiggle when she was only 21 just before the coronavirus-imposed lockdown. She started by selling the beverage-to-go outside a metro station and now claims to have delivered 200,000 cups to 20,000+ pin codes.

From one cup to 200k cups: How this 23-year-old grew India’s first hot chocolate brand amid the lockdown

Tuesday January 25, 2022,

6 min Read

Hot chocolate + winter = Happiness. 

Like most of us, Anuva Kakkar loves hot chocolate. But she didn’t think that she would start up in this hitherto-unexplored space. 

She came to Gurugram to work at UrbanClap after completing her BBA degree in 2019 from Banasthali University in Rajasthan. But she was keen to do more and started a side hustle – Postapostcard, selling customised postcards online. The venture flopped, but it gave her a sense of how she could identify problems and work towards solving them. It also helped her understand the nitty-gritty of how a startup functions. 

“I am a hot chocolate lover, and late one night, when I was craving hot chocolate, I realised the only place one could find a good cuppa were cafes. A fresher back then, I could only afford to go to a café a few times a month,” she recalls. 

She noticed that there was a dearth of good quality instant hot chocolate mixes at an affordable price, that “one could consume whenever one craved”.

Coffee, tea, and ice creams were easily available but not hot chocolate. Was it a premium product that didn’t have a big enough market or was it a segment not yet explored?

These thoughts led to the inception of Tiggle, India’s only hot chocolate brand now available online. 

Orange hot chocolate by Tiggle

Orange hot chocolate by Tiggle

Starting up during lockdown

But the start wasn’t as easy as that. 

Tiggle began at an extremely small scale. The founder started by purchasing a five-litre steel jar, three litres of milk, and “everything else needed to prepare my hot chocolate”. She set up shop outside a metro station in Gurgaon, in a bid to sell and gauge market interest in her product. 

“It was tough as a 21-year-old girl to stand and sell hot chocolate on the streets. But I was able to sell out the complete jar – about 30 cups of hot chocolate - in  52 minutes flat! This bolstered my confidence and I went on to partner with a metro kiosk and sold over 1,000 cups to understand customer choices better,” she says.

This was in 2019. 

A few months later, COVID-19 brought the world to a grinding halt and Anuva returned to her hometown, Agra, and decided to hit the pause button on her venture. 

“When we started Tiggle, the idea was to sell freshly prepared hot chocolate to cafes and kiosks. A day before the first lockdown in our country, I was pitching to cafes, but the pandemic brought everything to a stop, and I had to pause the idea of Tiggle two-three months into operation,” Anuva recollects.

However, she took the time to reassess her business idea and learn new things that would eventually help her with launching Tiggle in the D2C space with an initial investment of Rs 35,000. 

“I learnt to reach out to my TG. Whom to target on paid ads? How do you package your product and position yourself in the market?” she says.

Anuva says she must have tasted cocoa from 40-50 farms in India to ensure she brings the best to her customers. 

Within a year of operation, she claims that Tiggle has been able to scale to more than 14,000 customers and deliver 2,00,000 cups of hot chocolate to 20,000+ pin codes.

Promoting her product

Facebook and Google ads helped Anuva take Tiggle to a large number of people online. “Through Facebook ads, we managed to reach over two million people last month,” she says. 

“One of our approaches has been to keep our Instagram community updated with our progress, make consumers the decision-makers, and get them involved in the process. Our community approach helped us with brand building along with sales,” she says, adding that she recently launched India’s first jaggery hot chocolate mix with a close-knit community of 150 people.

“From analysing the highest requested variant in Tiggle to experimenting with the taste, sourcing high-quality raw materials, creating formulas, and finalising the packaging, we did it all together. Community members also blind-tasted Jaggery Hot Chocolate,” she says.

Tiggle has partnered with farmers in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, to source cocoa, which is transported to the manufacturing unit in Agra where the products made and shipped.

Millennial-friendly packaging and affordable prices worked wonders for Anuva. Her team of 12 people also started a voting platform where people can vote for the next thing the team should work on.

Team Tiggle

Team Tiggle

Getting an early start

Anuva was only 21 years when she started Tiggle. In a short period of time, she has scaled her company to deliver her product pan-India. But she believes that starting early has its pros and cons.

“There are some untold perks to starting early. You are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. People consider you a young, inexperienced person out there who is just trying; you’re not judged harshly for the mistakes you make. As a young entrepreneur, it's easy to find mentors from the same industry - older and more experienced folks who are far ahead of you never see you as competition,” she says.

But at the same time, she also gets judged for her age and gender. 

“It was tough when I had to close deals with vendors or anything that involved more groundwork. Taking land on rent for the factory, getting manufacturing machines, etc. took me way longer as no one took me seriously at first due to my age and gender,” Anuva says.

However, her resilience helped her through and she is now successfully running Tiggle. 

What comes next? She plans to expand the range of hot chocolate mixes and also create products that help people make the best hot chocolate like a hot chocolate colour card so "people can get the right colour/texture of hot chocolate at home".

Products that complement hot chocolate such as marshmallows, cookies, biscuits, churros, etc and three other flavours are also in the works. She is also planning quirky merchandise like cups, T-shirts, mixers, etc to make drinking hot chocolate a fun experience.

“I want to bring hot chocolate to the masses in India and change its image of being a premium beverage,” Anuva says.

Edited by Teja Lele

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