Engineer couple builds Rs 2 crore laddu business with Rs 1 lakh investment

Saandeep Jogiparti and Kavitha Gopu set up Laddu Box in Hyderabad in 2020 and now supply handcrafted sweets across India. The food startup does not use sugar or preservatives and offers laddus based on millets, pulses, and dry fruits with vegan options

Riya Singh
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Saandeep Jogiparti and his wife Kavitha Gopu set up Laddu Box in Hyderabad, Telangana in 2020

Saandeep Jogiparti and his wife Kavitha Gopu set up Laddu Box in Hyderabad, Telangana in 2020

When Saandeep Jogiparti worked as a data engineer in California, USA, he always wanted to get back home to Hyderabad. He believed in entrepreneurship and his wife Kavitha Gopu, also a software engineer, felt similarly. After working for over five years, the duo followed the dreams and moved to India to start their venture. 

On returning to their native place Hyderabad, Telangana, in 2019, Saandeep spent six to eight months travelling across the country to understand various entrepreneurship opportunities, the people’s needs, and determine the gaps in the market. Among the shortlisted categories, he felt an inclination towards the food and fitness segment. 

“I have a sweet tooth from my undergraduate days, but it also leads to guilt. So, I thought of creating a healthier sweets option. There are several energy bars, protein bars, and other products available in the market but they have many unknown ingredients, which are difficult for the consumers to understand,” Saandeep says.

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laddu box healthy laddus
The laddus are without sugar, preservatives and artificial colours. Pic: Laddu Box

Moreover, if the high protein content in a bar doesn’t suit someone, it can have side effects such as bloating and indigestion. 

“Energy bars are not very popular among Indians. Only some fitness enthusiasts consume them regularly. So I wanted to create a product that not only satiates the sugar cravings but also has a nutritional quotient,” he adds. 

India and the Sweet Tooth

The Indian packaged sweets market (including rasgulla, gulab jamun, barfi, soan papdi, peda, laddu etc.), was valued at Rs 6,229.7 crore in 2023, according to market research firm IMARC group.

It expects the packaged sweets market to reach Rs 25,970.8 crore by 2032, exhibiting a growth rate of 16.67 percent during 2024-2032.

The rising working population, shifting consumer preferences towards ready-to-serve variants, and easy availability of packed sweets through online and offline distribution channels are some of the key factors driving the Indian packaged sweets market. And Saandeep and Kavitha decided to take a piece of this pie.

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They began researching the traditional recipes of laddus used in their home. Since the whole idea was to replace empty calories of sugar with healthier alternatives, the duo opted for cane jaggery. Jaggery is an unrefined natural sweetener and contains iron, fibre, and minerals. In contrast, sugar does not have any nutrients.

“In the early days, we began by marketing our handcrafted sweets at different fairs and IT companies through stalls,” he says.

“We also received follow-up calls from customers for placing bulk orders," shares Saandeep, adding that the initial investment was Rs one lakh. 

outlet in Hyderabad
Laddu Box products at the Hyderabad outlet. Pic: Laddu Box

However, COVID hit within a few months and though Laddu Box officially launched in May 2020, running a startup amid the pandemic without a constant source of income was a challenging task. “After months of research and planning, just when we were about to officially launch Laddu Box, Covid happened and the entire operations were shut for two months. We had to take a lot of safety measures after the lockdown,” he says.

“The only thing I understood at this point was that this is the lowest we could hit and experiencing this in the very initial stages helped us realise that there will always be highs and lows,” Saandeep adds.

Covid also underlined the importance of healthy eating and Laddu Box soon found a steady base of clients. Starting with four products, Laddu Box now offers 15 options including multigrain laddu, millet-based laddus, moong dal laddu, flax seed laddu, dry fruit laddus, chikki laddus and others. 

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The business of handcrafted sweets

Laddu Box makes sweets without any added sugar, artificial preservatives and artificial colours or flavours. “The products were gradually developed and are still a work in progress,” Saandeep says. 

Apart from Saandeep and his wife, who looks after the operations, it has three full-time employees. 

Laddu Box’s annual turnover for FY23 stood at Rs 2 crore. The startup plans to open around 100 stores in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi NCR by 2025.

Saandeep credits the growth of Laddu Box to its sharp focus on health. Though the sugar-free products available in the market manage to lower the Glycemic Index (GI), they often contain aspartame and other harmful substances. Laddu Box, however, uses only five or fewer ingredients as it focuses on nutrition. 

chikki laddu by box
Chikki laddus. Pic: Laddu Box

Since jaggery, which is an integral part of the laddus, is highly vulnerable to adulteration, its sourcing is important. Laddu Box sources 50 percent of the jaggery and other raw materials directly from the local farmers in Telangana and Maharashtra to ensure the best quality, says Saandeep.

Millet-based sweets and more

The startup keeps experimenting with the raw materials to have a better understanding of what mixes well with the various types of jaggery available in the market. It also uses millets as they lower the glycemic index (GI). Since millets raise blood sugar gradually instead of quick spikes, a diabetic patient or anyone looking to reduce weight or lead a healthy lifestyle is better off substituting refined flour or other grains with millets. 

With an annual global output of 25 million tonnes, millets have been in use for over 4,000 years. They are a good source of protein, fibre, key vitamins, and minerals. About the recent push by the Indian government towards millet-based products, Saandeep says it has helped to create awareness about their nutritional value and health benefits, thereby increasing the demand for Laddu Box products. 

Laddu Box uses pearl millet, foxtail millet, and ragi to make different types of laddus. 

It also makes jaggery-based besan and coconut laddus. Dry fruits including raisins, cashews, and cranberry are used to make other variants and it offers vegan laddus as well. 

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The startup is also working with other natural sweeteners such as Stevia. Extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, it is around 250 times sweeter than regular sugar. It usually does not contribute to undesired weight gain and blood sugar spikes, as it contains no calories and minimal carbohydrates. The price of sweet boxes varies from Rs 99 to Rs500 and it also offers gift hampers and corporate gifting options. 

Importantly, each laddu from Laddu Box weighs 28 gm, unlike regular ones which are over 40 gm per piece. This ensures lower wastage and healthier portion sizes for the consumers, the food entrepreneur says.

Laddu Box caters to consumers via three channels – its online platform, through which it supplies laddus across the country. It has partnered with some B2B channels that procure its products in bulk, and it also has a store in Hyderabad.

Laddu Box in partnership with Zomato and the Uttar Pradesh government supplies discounted millet-based laddus to the online food delivery aggregator, which distributes these energy laddus among malnourished kids in the state under its ‘Feeding India’ program. 

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

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