What started as an intention to fulfill the health needs of children turned into a successful start-up that has found a healthy alternative to sugar-based foods: sun-baked cookies. Dr. Minal Kabra had noticed that rural people suffered from dental caries due to the presence of a high amount of sugar in their food. She was also concerned about the high rate of joblessness and wanted a solution. Thus was born the Kivu brand of sun-baked cookies in Pune.
For the past year, Minal and the co-founder of Kivu, Vaibhav Dugar have grown from a small startup to a successful enterprise that makes sun-baked cookies. They are baked in solar ovens and are vegan and gluten-free. The founders started their sun-baked cookies startup with an investment of Rs. 6 lakhs ($8,000) and had a turnover of Rs.33 lakhs in 2020-21 ($44,396).
They named their brand Kivu, which is a fusion that translates to channelizing one’s inner energy for the greater good. The sub-baked cookies business started by them has helped many rural women become independent financially.
Minal first began trying out sun-baked cookies back in 2016-17 along with alternative ways to make healthier alternatives to the ones in the market. By 2018-19, she had perfected her brand of sun-baked cookies using a parabolic reflector for the right temperature to cook, a glass tube, and a cooking tray.
Minal’s Sun-baked Cookies Combine Health And Sustainability
Her brand of sun-baked cookies has all the ingredients that she wished for; it was a healthy product, the making of it was environmentally friendly, and it helped in the empowerment of women. She formally went ahead in December 2019. Minal took in a couple of women from nearby villages and gave them a solar cooker. She says that instead of employing them, she wanted to make entrepreneurs out of them. The solar cooker was created by her husband, Vivek Kabra, an alumnus of IIT Bombay.
She provided all the equipment to help them in their production. She buys the finished products from them and markets them. She initially started with the nearby retail market.
Within a year and a half, her start-up manufacture 30 kilograms of Kivu sun-baked cookies every day and has a wide range of varieties that include sorghum (jowar), Amarnath (rajgira), wheat, coconut, oats, flaxseed, ginger lemon, moringa, and multi-spice. She uses jaggery instead of processed sugar as a sweetener.
The sun-baked cookies are now available in 72 stores spread across 17 cities in India. She also sells them online. The company has helped prevent the emission of 825 kilograms of carbon. They have sold over 165,000 cookies so far.
Clients have vouched for its quality and taste. They have praised the sustainable methods used in the making of sun-baked cookies.
The Startup Also Changes Women’s Lives
The lives of the women associated with Minal’s startup have also changed. They have become self-reliant and are entrepreneurs in their rights. Swapna Gavandar, who resides in Jalna says that had never set foot outside her house, but now turning into an entrepreneur has transformed her life.
She honed her baking skills with the solar cooker provided by Minal. She bakes and sells the product to Minal and earns Rs.450 ($4) a day. She is no longer financially dependent on her husband, who is a driver. His long absence used to make it tough for her to manage household finances.
But things have changed for the better. Her children now study at a private school. She says that other women have been inspired by her success and want to be a part of the work she does.
Minal has already modeled her business to bring in more women. She aims to create at least a hundred clusters throughout the country. She says that things become difficult during the monsoon season when they have to plan to meet demand.
As India becomes more health-conscious and also environmentally aware, its products should do well as the market opportunities are immense. As people move away from processed wheat, dairy, and artificial sweeteners, she has introduced her sun-baked cookies at just the right time.