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Making chocolates and snacking fun again, with a healthy twist

Lil' Goodness, founded by Harshavardhan S, is on a mission to bring healthy snacking to children by sourcing quality ingredients for their chocolates, jaggery and savouries. Harshavardhan loves manufacturing, he is also passionate about healthcare. In his decade long journey in the shop floor to build things and working with the Tatas led him to believe his startup dreams. His learning from Tata Health made him understand the power of platforms and how businesses can be scaled.

Lil Goodness, true to its name wants kids to enjoy healthy snacking without having to load in fat and unnecessary carbohydrates. On this podcast with he talks about how it's a lot of discipline to bring great ingredients together to startup and build quality snacking products.

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Let's talk about you learning before starting up?

Harshavardhan: I graduated as a mechanical engineering student and studied automation too. Robotics and cars were always a passion and so I started my career in that segment. I started on the shop floor of General Motors and Tata Motors, I still proudly carry a welding scar. If you are a person who loves building and creating things you must experience the shop floor. If not for shop floors I would find time to test drive cars. Somewhere down the line food became my passion.

The passion for food did not happen my chance, I worked in healthcare, Tata Health, and that is when I realised there were so many complex things to solve. I had good mentors to build Tata Health. I started up because of several things coming together, I used to read books by Robin Cook, the famous American Physician, and my experience at Tata Health made me think about starting up in this segment of nutrition and wellness.

Your thoughts on how the startup idea came to fruition?

Harshavardhan: Indian healthcare tends to be fatalistic. Ninety percent of the issues can be taken care at the early stages. Diet, lifestyle and heathcare work in combination. I chose wellness because that's what needs maximum intervention. The birth of my daughter in 2017 is what made me think about starting up. In 2018 and 2019 I was trying to figure out what should I do with wellness. If you look at the age group of five to eighteen need different dietary

requirements. What they consume as adults would be very different from what they consume as children. Sugar for adults is dangerous. But for kids, in right amounts, is not. This is how my passion for healthcare, manufacturing and wellness came together to form Lil Goodness in 2019. But, I must tell you (laughs) when you see a food processing plant it's not the same scale as that of an automobile plant, which has so many robots.

Starting up as a small business requires discipline, where did you find it?

Harshavardhan: When I started up all the value systems that I had learned from the Tatas, to lead by example and have great processes, has really helped and those learnings are going to stay with me for a long time. Let me tell people listening that there is no age to startup. However needs to set a time to make the startup work. I was very clear that I had to startup now because my daughter is still young and I told myself if I don't do it now I will never be able to startup.

Also, you must realise I wanted to build something at scale. I ensured basic financial security before I started up. When you startup you need to have a clear thought as to where you want to reach. Let me explain - you need to have control over the vision that you want to achieve. Say, for example, can I impact ten million kids by 2024. Yes, down the line there will be things that work and things that don't. When you know what work you have to push the accelerator.

Talk about the category that you are building for?

Harshavardhan: Kids is a difficult category to build because there are too many stakeholders in the operational part of the business. If I can substantiate the stakeholders there is the school, the delivery person, the food preparation, the kids and the parents. Now if the kid does not like your meal he is not going to come back to you. Remember this sounds tough, but it is a category that one should build out. The brand Lil Goodness was started as a snacking concept in schools. The COVID-19 hurt this business we could not get reactions from kids whether the snacks were good or bad. We were live in 40 stores in Bengaluru when COVID-19 struck and then we had to realign our business and focussed more on D2C. We are solving for major nutritional deficiencies, which are Vitamin A, B, C & D, protein, zinc, iron & reduce unhealthy carbohydrates and fats. Take for example chocolates now, it's a Rs 20000 crore category and even if we take 1 percent of that market with our offering then it is a large business for us. Category disrutpion can happen when you introduce something new and interesting. We saw an opportunity in chocolate, where healthy chocolates meant infusing more cocoa. We looked at this opportunity differently by attacking the sugar in the chocolate, can you make the chocolate tasty even after reducing the sugar was our hypothesis. We brought in this concept of prebiotic chocolate and added natural fruit sugars. All of a sudden you have dark chocolate becoming popular with kids, our dark chocolate is not bitter and it is healthy.

(For more on building this great category listen or watch the podcast)

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