Shilpa Shetty is a celebrity synonymous with fitness and healthy lifestyle. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when, a couple of months back, she chose to invest – and also become a brand ambassador -- in WickedGud, a start-up that was also featured in the grand finale episode of the second season of the hugely-popular Shark Tank show.
The Mumbai-based start-up is trying to address one of the most common problems that most parents are facing today -- getting their kids off unhealthy and preservative-laden fast food. So much so that the topic of junk food and ways to avoid it has made it to the school syllabus as well.
Launched in the year 2021 by a team of three founders -- Bhuman Dani (Founder & CEO), Soumalya Biswas (COO), and Monish Debnath (CMO), the start-up makes pasta and noodles made from pulses, rice, chickpeas, whole wheat, oats and lentils among other things. It claims that all its products are gluten-free with no artificial colour, maida, oil, or preservatives.
“A hidden fact of most instant noodles that people generally don't know about is that they are deep fried to make them crisp - which means they have harmful saturated fats,” says Dani.
“WickedGud, however, has innovatively bypassed this issue by employing SCAD technology (Steaming Convection & Air Drying). This approach achieves the desired texture, remarkably without using a drop of oil - thereby achieving 96 per cent lower saturated fat in its noodles,” he adds.
The healthy food segment is coming up in a huge way and if the business volume of WickedGud is anything to go by, then the trend is clearly corroborated.
The start-up has already seen its revenues jump three times in the last few months and claims to sell over 50,000 packs of noodles and over five tons of pasta every month while servicing over 20,000 customers across India.
But, how did its journey begin and what was the trigger for the launch?
“Every day eating - a buffet of sub-optimal choices - all the empty carbs, the sugars, oils and harmful artificial elements that we can't even pronounce made me think twice before consuming them let alone my family. And when I realized I wasn't the only one, I decided to change it,” says Dani.
“Take any consumer-packaged food today - the four pre-dominant ingredients would be maida, oil, sugar, and harmful chemicals and the mission is to un-junk Indian kitchens one at a time,” he adds.
Incidentally, the start-up counts amongst its investors, marquee names including Aman Gupta and Sameer Mehta of Boat, Gaurav Ahuja of Thrive Capital, Archana Priyadarshini of Mamaearth apart from institutional entities like Titan Capital, GetVantage, Venture Catalysts, NB Ventures, and Mumbai Angel Network.
It did its latest round of funding earlier this year in May when it raised ₹2.25 crore at a valuation of ₹48.25 crore. Its pre-seed round of funding was done in July 2021 at a valuation of ₹14.45 crore.
Going ahead, the start-up is looking to raise another round of funding as it aims to push its financials to the next level.
“We aspire to build a ₹1,000 crore ARR brand across large categories including pasta, noodles, chips, spreads, and malted drinks,” says Dani
While the start-up is already exporting its products to six countries – UAE, UK, Germany, Singapore, Mauritius, and Nepal – it is scouting for more partners to expand in newer geographies.
Interestingly, even the investor community is bullish on the healthy foods segment.
“Eating healthy is being prioritised by consumers and WickedGud is amongst the new-age brands leading this effort,” says Karun Arya, Chief Growth Officer, GetVantage, one of the investors in the start-up.
“With his prior experience and knowledge in FMCG, Bhuman has identified the right gaps to un-junk India’s eating habits. We are excited to back WickedGud with non-dilutive capital and help them supercharge growth without equity dilution,” adds Arya.
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