“Masala tokri is a small local brand, created by 10 women and a mother and daughter duo. We put a lot of heart, soul and passion in the making of our spices and we are obsessed with the authenticity and taste of where our recipes which are inspired by local cuisines in India to the world.”, Aarti Samant, co-founder of Masala Tokri, in an exclusive chat with Startup Story Media.
Inspiration to Begin
“I remember how my dabba was always most popular at school and even college, Mom’s was always a culinary expert.”, said Aarti, as her mother Mrs. Urmila used to make her own spices even back in the day, late 2017 is when she decided to take up a certified course in spices blending to understand the nuances of creating these blends. Post that she created her own blends which she test-marketing with her friends and family and then there was no looking back.
Journey of Masala Tokri
Aarti and her mother belong to a entrepreneurial Maharashtrian family. So somewhere in the backof their mind they knew that they want to start something of their own.
Aarti’s parents started a printing press, and after nine years her father got into real-estate in partnership with her mother but after a couple of years she realized that, she can now purse her passion which was always something to do with food.
Post her certified course, Urmila started sending out samples to her friends and family. Over a period of 6 months she had created a network of almost 100+ women on WhatsApp who started ordering and some even re-selling her masalas further
It reached a point where Aarti couldn’t ignore the customer feedback as the repeat customer value was quite impressive. She decided to help her mother in her passion, and started working on position the brand in the spices category at a retail level.
Together ‘Masala Tokri’ was born which was known as “Urmila Masale” in initial days. They launched Masala Tokri in Feb 2019 on digital with social media marketing, website and amazon presence.
Exploring Masala Tokri
Aarti shares that “we are currently a team of 10 members, and I am so proud to say that we are a all women team. We truly believe that women are the biggest go getters and we intend to maintain a 100% women workforce even in the near future.”,
The 3 pillars of business
1.Masala Tokri is a 100% natural product with zero added chemicals or preservatives.
2.Their spices are curated from local regions and cuisines of India like Goda Masala from Khandesh (Magarashtra) Malvani Meat Masala or Goan Fish Masala
3.They dark roast the raw species and then pound them in a pouding machine. They do not compromise with the quality of the product.
Masala Tokri is currently available nationally and internationally via Amazon. They are also available in general and modern trade in select stores in Mumbai and Pune. Stores like Dorabjee’s, Haiko Super Market, O-basket, etc
Challenges to Overcome
As Aarti said the main challenge was to figure out the offline world of spices, dealing with distributors, and retailers, it is definitely a male dominated world so we had to do our research and get our pitch right to crack some of these deals.
“The biggest learning for me is to constantly keep things lean and at the same time keep on innovating in the offline market.” said Aarti.
What makes Masala Tokri unique
Aarti told Startup Story Media that, the premium gourmet experience that Masala Tokri delivers is what makes them unique and better than the other brands which are currently ruling the market.
She further said, we took a conscious call to chase quality over quantity. Our products are premium and that’s because we have invested more in our ingredients, recipe and the process. While our audience might be niche but the experience that we serve on the table is totally worth it. The opportunity is still very BIG.
Marketing Hacks With Bollywood
This was about 3-4 months ago when we had launched 6 new variants, but did not have enough marketing funds for a big reach & awareness campaign. So I thought of going guerrilla, we created personalised hampers with a hand-written note and sent it some of the leading Bollywood ladies like Malaika Arora, Vidhya Balan, Riya Kapoor with the hope that they react. To our surprise they loved our products and not just shared it Instagram but also gave us feedback..
“When I saw those posts, I was literally jumping in my house, out of happiness.” said Aarti. “And suddenly we got thousands of followers, orders, enquiries from overseas. Not bad for a zero budget new product drop”, she added.
Message from the founder
On asking for the suggestion or advice for the newcomers, Aarti said, “If you really believe in your idea put all your efforts into action. DO IT. Do not fall for naysayers, you will meet them In plenty along the way”. She added.