From Domino’s as first client to Shah Rukh Khan’s endorsement, how this entrepreneur bounced back after failure
Viraj Bhal was staring in the scary eyes of failure when he decided to start up again. This is his story of soldiering on and finding success in new ventures Veeba and V-Nourish.
An entrepreneur is in a peculiar position when his startup fails. He is not only mourning the loss of something he put his heart and soul into but also has to deal with whispers, rumours, and a lot of ridicule from the industry. Rare are the ones that are able to pull up their socks after a failure to bounce back. And Viraj Bahl sure did not sit around feeling bad for himself.
Viraj (38) was running a chain of restaurants in Gurugram which were not making money. He had put in all the efforts but failure was inevitable when all the six restaurants were doing badly and he had to take the difficult call of shutting them all down. But Viraj says he does not regret anything. He tells SMBStory,
It was sad when I had to shut down all the restaurants but now I feel that was the best thing that happened to me. I had gained a lot of respect for people running these restaurants and I understood some of the difficulties restaurateurs face. So then I thought why not start something that can make the restaurant owner’s life easy.”
It was in 2013 that Viraj came up with the idea of starting a sauce business, which he felt was a highly neglected but important segment. Be it pizzas, tacos, fries, kebabs, or vadas, sauces and dips become taste enhancers, elevating the dish. Viraj, therefore, wanted to start up in this segment to give sauces -- the unsung heroes to any dish -- its rightful place.
In 2013, he founded Veeba (named thus after his mother) to provide sauces to quick-service restaurants (QSR) in the B2B segment with a capital of approximately Rs 25 crore that he raised from his own savings and from his family.
The dawn of Veeba
Today, Veeba is a well-known name in the restaurant business, as it provides all the sauces that one finds at chains like Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, etc. But the path to this success did not come without its own set of challenges for Viraj, who had to deal with a lot of loss in the initial two years, and had no clear idea of how to take the business forward.
Of those dark days, Viraj recalls, “I used to wake up at 4 am all anxious about how to go forward. We had no money to give salaries to employees and I used to keep on pondering how I will survive.”
A few months later, Veeba saw a ray of hope when Domino’s approved of Veeba for its new product launch. And Viraj worked day and night to get this order in the bag.
For giant QSR chains, the product has to be world-class. Though we cleared all the quality tests, we were not getting a green flag. It was after I started visiting their office almost daily and sat there for hours doing nothing, I was able to crack the first deal.”
After Domino’s came Burger King, which launched its BK Whopper in association with Veeba. According to Viraj, this was one of the best things to happen to his company, and Veeba had officially arrived.
Going for the bigger bite
In 2015, Veeba entered the retail segment and soon became a common household name dominating the northern part of the country. Today, Veeba is present in 430 towns and has 54 SKUs in retail and almost 100 SKUs in the B2B segment growing 45-50 percent year-on-year basis. Though Viraj refused to comment on the actual turnover, he says that it is a healthy three digit number. He says,
Our retail customers have given us immense love and our repeat rate is very high. If Domino’s would have not given us an opportunity, I wonder what we would have done.”
Veeba’s USP became sauces with lower fat content, be it its fat-free mayo or chipotle sauce. Viraj claims that Veeba’s sauces keep the fat level low compared to other sauces in the market, and that has caught the attention of a lot of consumers.
The brand purchases most of the raw materials from India and a few ingredients from the places they are grown and famous for.
Catching ‘em young
One day, when out shopping for his two-year-old child, Viraj realised that there are no healthy milk-based drinks available in the market. He noted that everything was laced with artificial flavours. He clearly saw a gap and decided to venture in the kids segment with V-Nourish’s healthy milk drinks.
The idea hit him in 2017 and it took him two years to complete R&D for the product. He explains:
We took help from scientists and various global companies in creating this product. V-Nourish has 40 nutri boosters, which help kids improve their immunity, growth, digestion, and stamina. I am firm about adding real flavours and ingredients because what I cannot serve to my kids, I won’t serve to anyone else’s kids.”
In 2019, the brand V-Nourish made a splash in the IPL Finals with no other than Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan being its brand ambassador.
The brand is certified by the Indian Nutrition Academy and is reaching out to 20,000 doctors in Delhi, Mumbai, and many other parts of the country to spread the word. Viraj says that doctors in Mumbai have started recommending V-Nourish to their patients.
Onwards and upwards
In 2013, Viraj sought outside funding to deploy in factory set up and raised the first round from DSG Consumer Partners. It was invested in creating a world-class facility and product development.
He raised another round of funding in 2015 for retail expansion from Saama Capital. In 2017, he raised a bigger amount of funding from VERL invest to launch V-Nourish. V-nourish has a 100-acre plant set up in Rajasthan.
In the future, Viraj plans to launch more SKUs in Veeba and V-Nourish and reach every nook and cranny of the country.