Koko Boost adds twist to energy bars by using millets and moringa
An IAS aspirant, Thejaswi started Koko Boost in Bengaluru to be a leader in the fast moving healthcare goods sector.
Think of Indian snacks, and it is only the oily, deep fried and unhealthy picture that comes to our mind. However, with increasing awareness about fitness, there are many ways to snack smarter and healthy. With more players entering the market, the overall Indian snacks market is projected to reach $1 billion by 2024, according to a Research and Markets report.
When 30-year-old Thejaswi S gave her civil service exams a few years ago, little did she know that she’d soon embark on an entrepreneurial journey. Though her efforts to enter the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) did not bear fruit, she was inspired to become an entrepreneur, create value and give back to the society.
Thejaswi launched Koko Boost Nutrition in Bengaluru in 2017 to give nutrition a new twist. The company manufactures nutritious energy bars made with indigenous ingredients such as millets and moringa.
“We target clean food and balanced nutrition because nutrition is acknowledged as one of the most effective entry points for human development, poverty reduction and economic development, with high economic returns,” she says.
The journey so far
Thejaswi’s entrepreneurial roots can be traced back to how she saw women being treated in her family and society. “I saw many girls and women being seen as liabilities, and so I wanted to be unique by giving back to the society and becoming an asset,” she says. “I was an IAS aspirant, but I didn’t make it. However, my mother and grandmother acted as role models by inspiring and encouraging me to move into business.”
When Thejaswi began her research, she wanted to revisit the notion that energy bars should only be high in calories and instant energy. “This notion is true to some extent, but I wanted to add a twist to it - a twist that would suit Indian demands. In India, we face the issue of getting the right nutrition intake per day. Therefore, the concept of nutritious energy bars struck me, and I came up with the idea of Koko Boost.”
Unlike regular energy bars manufactured by large corporate players, Thejaswi didn’t want to use whey, oats, rice crisps, soy, corn flakes, starch syrups, granola or quinoa.
“I pledged to make it very desi, very Indian. Thus, the formula was designed using millets and moringa - our major ingredients. Since these are highly nutritious, people can consume our bars when they feel exhausted, weak or hungry. Our bars can help people say ‘no’ to junk food, and become healthy by eating food that has no added preservatives or flavours,” she adds. Koko Boost offers energy bars with chocolate, moringa and almond flavours.
Thejaswi took help from her family to make the recipes sustainable and invested Rs 5 lakh into the business. Today, Koko Boost’s annual turnover stands at Rs 2 lakh.
“We officially launched at the National Millet Mela in April 2017, which is organised by The Government of Karnataka. Our products’ uniqueness caught the attention of the then Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, who invited us for the event. He also selected our product as a complementary bite for guests and attendees,” she says with pride.
Post this, the next breakthrough came when Koko Boost was selected to be part of The Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 held at Hyderabad. “Here, I was one among 400 entrepreneurs from 180 countries,” she recalls.
“I was happy that our hard work had paid off. To become a part of any government startup initiative is a big deal, and we are lucky to be chosen as an incubatee for the accelerator batch at 36Inc, which is the Chhattisgarh government’s startup incubator. We have also been selected for equity funding and debt funding,” she says.
Despite its initial success, the challenges were many for Koko Boost in terms of acquiring ingredients and on the product distribution side, owing to its small size. “When we try to get our products into the market, we sometimes find that distributors are disinterested. They say our company is too new and that customers will not be willing to try Koko Boost bars,” Thejaswi says.
“Branded products, despite being less healthy, are preferred by not only the distributors but also retail stores and potential investors. Therefore, we are trying to build credibility and increase our reach through word-of-mouth.”
When Thejaswi approaches merchants to purchase good quality raw material, they always ask her how many tonnes of material she requires. “Since we are still new, we do not deal with a lot of raw material. The merchants are not interested in selling in small volumes, and this is a big challenge for us. Through active networking, sourcing from different regions and understanding how to manage resources and learning from great business leaders, we strive to overcome our challenges,” she says.
Koko Boost’s vision is to be a leader in the fast moving healthcare goods sector. Thejaswi also anticipates government assistance to solve issues related to finance, market linkages and malnutrition.
(This story is published in partnership with the MSME Ministry to showcase success stories of SMEs)