Can you cure iron deficiency with chocolates?
When Social commitment is encased in business you will not only succeed in business but also leave your footprint behind. This sentence was what motivated Abdul Jaleel to launch Vea Choc.
He identified that several diseases in society were closely related to a lack of proper diet. He decided to work towards iron deficiency as most people lack knowledge about it. He shared his idea with Mr. Mustafa who suggested he participate in the IIM-B Launchpad which turned out well for his project.
He ensured the use of natural ingredients, without any chemicals, color, or animal fat. He wanted to keep the product simple, easily available, and attractive and decided to make it in a chocolate form. He worked on this for over two years and successfully conducted the first trial.
In an exclusive interview with StartupLanes, Abdul Jaleel shares his journey and experiences as an entrepreneur. Read on to know what he has to say.
Q1. How did you come up with the idea of your startup?
Abdul: I’m a food industrialist for the last two decades but decided to quit the business and do something for the society. I came across a seminar that reflected on how businesses working for a social cause have more depth and satisfaction. That led us to identify this serious issue in the society which we can solve with our experience of 2 decades.
Q2. What was the most difficult part in the early stages of the company’s growth?
Abdul: It was challenging to formulate a product that stands on our values. We wanted to make the healthiest chocolates without any synthetic material like chemicals, color, or animal fat while retaining the taste. After 4 years of relentless research, we have successfully developed a product that not only tastes good but also helps improve iron in the body. Another major challenge was the lack of awareness among TGs as they generalize the symptoms of anemia as part of their life.
Q3. What was the gap in the market that you identified?
Abdul: Iron deficiency is not a disease, it has to be improved with iron-rich food. For common people, it’s challenging to identify food that is rich in iron. Vegetarians and vegans are at a greater risk as non-heme iron that comes from vegetable and fruits absorb as little as 2 to 5% unless it is incorporated with vitamin C. It can be challenging for non-vegetarians too as they can’t eat non-veg food every day as it is not economical. When a person becomes anemic and displays symptoms, they take medical advice and are prescribed iron supplements. These supplements are made of synthetic formulations and have long or short-term side effects. Chocolates being a craving food for all age groups can be consumed whenever and wherever required.
Q4. Can you explain your business model?
Abdul: It’s an FMCG product with health benefits. Our product can be scaled up in online and offline marketplaces with the right kind of awareness.
Q5. Did your family/friends help you with funding your startup or did you approach investors?
Abdul: An unconditional support from family and friends made our journey much easier.
Q6. Which factors do you see impacting your business over the coming years?
Abdul: We are looking at exponential growth in the market as more than 50% of Indian females and 60% of growing children are anemic.
Q7. Are you planning to hire fresh talent into your team as the company grows? What qualities do you look for while hiring?
Abdul: We have plans to grow our footprint internationally as this issue prevails across 195 countries of the world. We need to build a strong team and are looking for candidates who are talented, vibrant, and dedicated. We are interested in hiring candidates who can enjoy their responsibility and grow with the company.
Q8. What according to you are the personality traits of a good leader?
Abdul: I believe a good leader should understand the team SWOT and lead from the front. S/He should take responsibility for the failures but credit the team for success.
Q9. What is the best and the worst part of being a CEO?
Abdul: The best part of being a CEO is taking on challenges in a positive spirit and the worst part is finding the right candidates for the team who have a consistent performance.
Q10. Describe a time you had to make a tough decision. What did you do and what was the result?
Abdul: This is not my first business! I have made few sick units profitable and this was possible with organizational restructuring and budget cuts which gave successful results.
Q11. Are you looking for any vendors to help you simplify any part of your business?
Abdul: We are open to any association/collaboration that can help serve our mission. As our product is not solely business-focused, we are also open to collaborations with NGOs.
Q12. What are the recent and long-term plans of your startup?
Abdul: Our short-term plan is to penetrate the offline market, starting at our home ground Bangalore Metro and expand in South India and eventually Pan India within the next 5 to 7 years.