How Sonepat-based Urban Spices fought its way up the ladder by learning from its losses
Subodh Bhartiya, Director, Urban Spices
Visualise Indian food and you can smell the rich aromatic spices. A dash of cardamom, the orange of saffron, the sweet after-taste of cinnamon and the tangy coriander seeds – all of these flavours find their origin in India.
It thus, made sense for entrepreneurs Subodh Bhartiya, Jiwesh Gupta and Pranav Jain, to bet on these flavours and start their business. Their company, Urban Spices Pvt Ltd, is an FMCG producers engaged in Indian spices, herbs, and essential oils.
Based out of Sonepat in Haryana, Urban Spices handpicks the best spices and herbs from across the globe and helps finest flavouring and seasonings reach Indian households.
Founded in 2017, Urban Spices claims to have achieved 75 percent growth in turnover, since last year. The FSSAI-approved company differentiates itself from competitors Everest Spices, Patanjali Spices, and Ashok Masale, by guaranteeing chemical-free spices and herbs.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Subodh Bhartiya, Director, Urban Spices says,
“People are now going towards natural products, which are good for their health. Artificial minerals and vitamins are passé.”
Team Urban Spices
For the love of food
59-year old Subodh considers himself a foodie. He is the owner of two restaurants in Delhi and often finds himself indulging in herbs and spices to create his next delicacy.
His neighbour, Jiwesh, 50, has been associated with the spices sector for over two decades. His company, with the same name, would previously supply spices to local restaurants and mom-and-pop stores.
In August 2017, the duo joined hands, along with BBA-student, Pranav (23) to start Urban Spices. The initial investment was Rs 30 lakh and the founders pitched the money in from their own pockets.
Urban Spices was started in a small room in Delhi, where Subodh experimented and mixed spices to come up with ready-to-cook rajma, chola, and dal-makhni masalas.
“We distributed the masala among our friends and family, and received tremendous positive responses,” Subodh says.
However, the success of a business doesn’t end with the ‘idea’ itself.
What followed was a phase of struggles.
Not a cake-walk
Soon after registering the company, they set up their office in the small room in Delhi itself. They would depend on word-of-mouth for establishing the brand name. Being new to the business came with its own set of challenges.
“Due to lack of experience, we did not have an idea of the market demands,” Subodh says.
The company faced challenges selling its products and thus, Urban Spices had to incur losses as expired products were sent back to them. “We soon stopped push-over sales and did relevant marketing activities to create brand awareness,” he adds.
Today, Urban Spices places its products only in stores that demand them.
Healthy Planet seeds
While this issue was fixed and Urban Spices gained a few loyal customers, another challenge hit them. The company faced licensing issue in Delhi and within a year of starting up, they had to shift their base to Sonepat. Currently, the manufacturing unit is located in Mega Food Park in Rai Industrial Area.
Urban Spices has 30 employees working in the manufacturing unit, and another 25 working in the Marketing and Sales department.
Subodh handles the Research and Development, including the package designing and brand building. Jiwesh is responsible for Marketing and Sales and Pranav handles the finance.
Diversification is the key
Urban Spices hosts three brands under its umbrella – Healthy Planet, Jiwesh Spices, and Salto.
Healthy Planet, as the name suggests, comprises super seeds and health-benefit products such as green coffee, stevia and flaxseed oil.
“These products not only assist in weight loss but also provides adequate nutrients. If one consumes these, they need not indulge in multi-vitamin supplements,” says Subodh.
Jiwesh Spices is the premium brand under Urban Spices. It offers both whole spices as well as blended seasonings. Salto, on the other hand, is dedicated exclusively for Himalayan Pink salt. “Being extremely rich in minerals, the sale comes with health benefits including regulating blood pressure and maintaining fluid balance in the body,” Subodh adds.
Urban Spices has an in-house lab where the spices are checked for quality. They source materials from across India like coriander from Rajasthan, Turmeric from South India, Cumin from Gujarat, and Pune. It also imports green pumpkin seeds from China, sunflower seeds from Ukraine, chia Seeds from Latin America, and more.
Today, Urban Spices has established its presence both online and offline.
With offline footprint across Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu, Urban Spices is also actively placed on ecommerce platforms including Amazon, Flipkart, and Paytm. Orders can also be placed through its website.
Going ahead, Urban Spices plans to geographically expand its presence.
According to Subodh, the company is gearing up to break even in the next financial year, and is focusing on entering Maharashtra and South-Indian markets. For this, they are also planning to take a loan in January, 2020.
“The spice market in India is worth Rs 40,000 crore and branded spices have 15 percent market share. The segment is extremely competitive. To make our presence felt, we will soon make our products available in hypermarkets including Big Bazaar, More and D’Mart,” Subodh says.
(Edited by: Palak Agarwal)