Four Kerala friends take Kozhikode Halwa global; clock Rs 68 lakh revenues in 8 months

Four college friends have standardized and branded centuries-old Kozhikode Halwa through their food startup Fulva. Set up in 2023 with Rs 1.2 lakh investment, it now also sells other snacks and ships to eight countries including the US, Canada and Germany

Riya Singh
New Update
Fulva founders: From left to right Sanu Muhammed , Irfan Safar, Theshreef Ali, Shabas Ahamed

Fulva founders: From left to right Sanu Muhammed , Irfan Safar, Theshreef Ali, Shabas Ahamed

Situated along the Malabar Coast in Kerala, the city of Kozhikode (formerly Calicut) is not only popular for its beaches, churches, temples, and museums but also a myriad of traditional snacks. One such snack Kozhikode Halwa is extremely popular among locals as well as tourists. The halwa that melts in the mouth has also garnered fame overseas and is exported to Dubai, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Canada and other countries.

Four college friends, Sanu Muhammed, Irfan Safar, Theshreef Ali, and Shabas Ahamed, decided to take the traditional sweet to a larger audience while maintaining authentic flavours. It was a side hustle, aimed at generating some money. However, they realized the potential of their business idea after selling over 300 boxes in a month.

“Kozhikode Halwa is a centuries-old product that holds nostalgic value for many people, especially the ones who moved out of Kerala. There is a strong demand for the halwa but one cannot find the authentic dish everywhere,” says Sanu Muhammed, one of the co-founders of Fulva.  

“Our vision is to take Kohzikoden Halwa from its coastal roots to the global stage,” says the food entrepreneur

The halwa is slow-cooked for about three hours and lasts without refrigeration for a month.

some flavours
Some flavours of Kozhikode Halwa from Fulva. Pic: Fulva

How it all began

The four friends started by identifying the gaps in the market. The traditional food sector is largely unorganized, leaving the manufacturers vying for consistent sales despite a huge production capacity. “The manufacturers fail to make the best use of their capacity; hence they are facing trouble,” says Sanu.

Also Read: How this Bihar entrepreneur set up a Rs2 crore business with sattu

Lack of good business demotivates them and forces many halwa makers to turn to low-quality products to increase their profit margins. In some cases, even the hygiene checks are not maintained given the absence of regulatory processes.

Fulva began with an investment of Rs1.2 lakh to address these issues by implementing better preparation practices, ensuring quality checks, and offering competitive pricing to the manufacturers. 

The food startup approached traditional manufacturers to prepare authentic Kozhikode Halwa for them on a contractual basis. “Of the many manufacturers we approached, two agreed. One of them has been in the business of making Kozhikode halwa for over 30 years, promising authenticity. We pay them a premium to ensure good quality,” he says.

The products have a shelf life of 40 days from packaging day. Pic: Fulva

The friends then focused on standardized and hygienic packaging and began tying up with stores to market the products. “Initially, the plan was to prepare the halwa ourselves. However, we decided on tying up with a few manufacturers who have experience in this area,” says Sanu.

The four friends then launched an online store to sell the sweet in different flavours and pack sizes. Fulva started with 24 varieties of Kozhikode Halwa boxes and now offers various assorted options priced between Rs 500 and 1,500. 

The halwa flavours include green chilli, tender coconut, honey fruit, banana, and wheat halwa prepared using dry and fresh fruits like mango, passion fruit, and banana.

The Kozhikode Halwa

The main ingredient of the Kozhikode Halwa is coconut oil, followed by sugar, and refined flour (maida). The type of coconut oil used in the preparation of the halwa is a determining factor in maintaining good quality. No additional preservatives are involved throughout the process.

The famous black halwa variant uses jaggery as a sweetener, making it a healthier option. However, sugar remains an important ingredient for the authentic texture, explains Sanu.

Fulva is trying to market the assorted halwa box as a gifting option for corporates, marriages, and birthday parties. The friends have formed a company called Calicut Cousins Private Limited that serves customers across India through its website, with particularly high demand from Kozhikode, Chennai, and Bengaluru. 

It also ships to eight international locations -- the USA, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Dubai. Till April 2024, Fulva had recorded Rs 68 lakh worth of sales.

Also Read: Five food entrepreneurs reviving regional cuisines

malyalam actor
Actor Vinay Forrt receiving a pack of Fulva (left) and the 24 flavours. Pic: Fulva

Empowering homemakers

During the Ramadan period, it embarked on a new campaign called Empower by Fulva. Through this programme, the startup partnered with numerous homemakers to sell Iftaar boxes through its 100 counters across two districts of Kerala – Kozhikode and Malappuram. 

Through this campaign, Fulva supported over 120 homemakers, helping them earn over Rs25,000 each during the period.

“With this initiative, we wanted to help the homemakers who are excellent cooks but fail to generate revenue despite skills,” says Sanu. Fulva not only empowered the women but also provided part-time job opportunities to around 300 students and partnered with over 40 auto-rickshaw drivers to transport the boxes.

Also Read: Mangaluru: India’s ice cream capital

Before onboarding a homemaker, the startup provided them with food samples and tested their food to ensure good quality. “The homemakers were preparing the Iftaar boxes as a passion and we never encountered any issues where they compromised on the quality. Often we received better quality than we had expected,” Sanu says.

Anitha and Sreekala who lead the homemakers' initiative at Fulva. Pic: Fulva

Fulva’s upcoming initiative named Fulva Home-to-Home (H2H) is set to enter the fresh snacks market. 

It plans to deliver freshly sourced snacks such as samosas, cutlets, and unnakaya (a sweet snack from Kerala’s Malabar cuisine) directly from the homemakers to the customers in Kozhikode and Malappuram.

Commenting on the challenges, Sanu says, “Since we were students, it was difficult to get acceptance. We visited many manufacturers but they were not ready to give us their products as we could not place bulk orders at the time. We could not convince them that they will be able to make a profit through our initiative.”

However, those who believed in the youngsters are now able to reap the benefits of higher revenues. Fulva has multiple expansion plans in the making. It is looking to list its products in premium shops across India and set up an online marketplace that offers various traditional snacks under one roof. It has two more products in the pipeline – Banana chips and Chicken Ada.  

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, farming, sustainability, startups, & women empowerment)

Also See: This consultant quit her job to recycle coconut shells; empowers artisans and women

Look up our YouTube channel