Small is Big,’ as the saying goes. In reality, little can be very enormous in other circumstances. TABP Snacks and Beverages Pvt Ltd’s promoter, MD, and CEO, Prabhu Gandhikumar, will attest to this. Prabhu’s invention, TABP, which he co-founded with Brindha Vijayakumar and is backed by an advisory council that includes Aniket Gore, Arun Mukherjee, and Soumya Malani, focuses on bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers with low incomes and even lower spending power. That’s why he set the pricing of TABP’s fruit juices at Rs. 10, a low price point where international firms don’t exist.
Prabhu graduated from PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore with a B.E. in Mechanical Sandwich programme in 2006 and was hired by TCS during the campus selection process to work in the retail consulting domain in Karapakkam, Chennai.
He was promoted two years later and deployed to the United States as Portfolio Manager for a US customer. He returned to Coimbatore in 2012 because his father wanted him to run the family business of metal castings. Prabhu was earning Rs 4 lakh per month when he left the United States. In the same year, he married Brindha Vijaykumar, an IT engineer.
What motivated you to start this company?
I was craving a soft drink during a visit to the family temple in a remote area, so I went to the local shops. According to the shopkeeper, people would not buy a drink for Rs 25 or 30, hence large brands that were popular in cities were never offered. That’s when I had the idea for a Rs 10 fruit juice pack or a carbonated drink. “I expected this to be a tremendous market because the number of individuals earning less than Rs 300 per day equals the population of the United States,” Prabhu says.
Also Prabhu believed that to revive agriculture in the country, food processing was the best option.
I have read that before starting TABP you were working as a consultant in the US for many years before you moved back to India in 2012 to join your family business of manufacturing metal castings. Why did you feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction in that business?
Prabhu Gandhikumar was working as a consultant in the US for many years before he moved back to India in 2012 to join his family business of manufacturing metal castings. He, however, felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
“Coming from a consulting background, I was used to working 15 to 16 hours a day. But it was pretty laid back in my hometown,” he says. “I didn’t have much to accomplish because my father had already laid a solid foundation.”
What was the main motive behind Starting Tanvi Foods in 2016?
Prabhu claims to have discovered a genuine market gap. “We wanted to go after the people that were at the bottom of this segment because they were being overlooked.”
So, in 2016, Prabhu and his wife, Brindha Vijayakumar, started Tanvi Foods, a beverage company focused solely on mango and apple juice, with two flavours priced at Rs 10/- each
What are the different brands under which your company sells its products today?
TABP now distributes a variety of drinks under the Plunge and Gulp brands, including Cola, Jeera Masala, Paneer Soda, and others. Thirsty Owl, a non-alcoholic beer, is also available for Rs 50.
Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana are the five states where TABP is now available. Since its inception, the company has grown steadily. It now sells through 1.2 lakh touchpoints, including local bakeries, kiranas, and hawkers, among others. It boasts a 20,000-strong distribution network.
The distributors helped in expanding the market share of the company. What role did the distributors play?
The most crucial members of our market research team were our distributors and super stockers.” He goes on to say that dealing directly with distributors helps him understand the pulse of his rural customers.
Prabhu was able to introduce his first few goods, apple and mango juice under the brand name Plunge, due to the feedback he received from his distributors.
We all know that business technology has a huge impact on small businesses. Did you also use a data driven approach to expand your business?
Small firms are heavily influenced by business technology. “We designed our own in-house cloud-based ERP system called ERP Genie in the early years because we were running on minimal resources.” Brindha, an engineer, assumed this role in addition to introducing other new technologies and overseeing the company’s IT systems.
Orders are taken, demand is analysed, work is assigned to TPUs, production dispatches are tracked, and so on via the ERP system.
It is true that Success doesn’t come without failure. What were your biggest failures?
When I first started the company, I did not understand the market properly. Papaya juice was my first product. In September 2015, I spent roughly Rs 50,000 in the university lab to make 1000 litres of papaya juice. I filled 200 ml PET bottles with the juice and took it to the market, but I didn’t sell a single bottle.
“Despite the fact that the drink is healthy and full of multivitamins, the reply I received was that papaya causes the body to heat up and that ladies should avoid it entirely,” he says.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs?
Never stop learning. Starting your own business is a constant process of growth and learning. It’s important to enrich yourself with both practical and emotional skills. Be frugal – remember you’re a start-up Resist the temptation to splash out on fancy offices, expensive equipment and over-the-top marketing.