Now that I’ve your attention, let me tell you that this post has nothing to do with Uber, cars or bars. It is rather about an uber food bar from Xterra Nutrition.
HyP is a startup that promises high protein on a bar. Mind you, I didn’t say at a bar. Unlike my stale humor, HyP dishes out fresh, tasty and protein rich food bars for time crunched. All one has to do is munch on their crunchy bars to get the right dose of nutrients with ease.
Many of us would have been through it. Late mornings or busy afternoons due to which we skip the meal resulting in depleted energy levels and poor health. If you’re thinking it’s OK to do so, think again. The founder duo at HyP struggled it out and now they make it easy for busy bees to get that perfect dose of protein. Follow their journey with its co-founder, Arun Kumar @hyprotein (pictured above in Black tee). Pictured to the left is the other founder, Gowthaman Basavaraj.
1. The Pitch
HYP Protein Bars is all about providing a healthy, convenient to consume “protein rich” snacking option for fitness/health conscious people in India.
2. Startup Journey
I & Gowthaman are the 2 founders and we have been on the startup journey since mid 2011. We started up with a venture on the Out-of-Home advertising (OOH) business model. That bombed and we moved on to providing SaaS based software for construction sector, 365 Build – which is still our means of sustenance in terms of cash flows to run our newest business in the foods space. Constant travel and unhealthy food habits is what led us to explore for better options in terms of snack foods which is how we hit upon the protein bars. And here we are.
3. The Big Idea
4′ PM lunches and skipping breakfasts were a common deal when we had to run around at our SaaS business. It was difficult to find something healthy, especially when we are on customer sites (construction raw material manufacturing plants located at the damned places on city outskirts). That is when I started carrying home made protein bars as a remedy. Soon enough it became a serious hit, with us founders as well as our employees. The thought to do it on a commercial scale emerged only in late 2013 when we realized there were hardly any good options on the store shelves that could be considered a “good, clean and convenient” meal bar.
HYP was just a mutated acronym for “High Protein”. Our focus will be on providing convenient to consume high protein content snacks.
4. Value Proposition
Nutrition bars as a concept is pretty new in India. Most products out there are high on processed/artificial ingredients. Besides they use cheap protein sources to boost the protein content which might not have much benefit nutrition wise.
HYP Protein Bars on the other hand boast of an ingredient list that does not include any artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives. The bars do not have any soy either which makes it all the more attractive for fitness freaks.
5. The Startup Nutrients
I & Gowthaman got to know each other as last bench buddies while doing engineering at College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai in 2002. However the urge to startup really took hold when we both settled down in Bangalore after our post graduation. I’m an MBA from NITIE, Mumbai while Gowthaman received an M.Tech in IT from IIIT, Bangalore. From the time we quit our jobs in 2011, (I was at Cypress Semiconductor & Gowthaman in Amazon) it has been a slow climb with lots of mistakes and learnings. We are gunning to do it better on this latest endeavor.
6. Initial customers & Market validation
The first set of trial users were all gym buddies and the trainers at the gyms were we used to work out. This was back in mid 2013. The bars were home made at that point and validated for taste, macro composition etc. We were able to fine tune 2 flavor variants out of the initial set and come up to a point where we said – “Ok, this is what we will start with”.
We then planned out a budget for the first set of equipment, packaging material, product website, logo, label designs etc. In parallel, we hit upon the usual business requirements – setting up a registered company, renting out a manufacturing facility, dealing with babus for commercial clearances like electricity, food licenses etc. All this took around 6 – 8 months time given we have to keep our software business running for cash flows.
July of 2014 is when we started commercial sales on our bars. The first gym to gym door knocks started at that point. I now focus completely on this while Gowthaman continues to run the show on the software business side.
7. Growth & Metrics
We have had a good set of repeat customers for our bars with great feedback from both offline as well as online purchasers. Our only metric now is revenue.
8. Growth Pains & Lessons
The ecosystem for startups in foods sector is close to non-existent unlike the technology space. Assistance or professional expertise is very hard to come by especially in case of products that are very new to Indian Market. And of course we have to deal with elements from the government to get clearances for food safety, commercial power supply etc which has its own associated head aches.
The biggest problem for us has been in sourcing quality raw materials. Most suppliers will not bother unless the quantity requirement is high. Being a startup, we got bounced around quite a bit. There were instances when we had to procure in quantities lot more than our requirement just so we can ensure we are buying from reliable vendors. And that drastically increases our working capital in addition to the wastage due to expired stuff.
And of course procuring machines that suit your process flow is another big issue. Again, being a niche product that most equipment manufacturers haven’t dealt with before means we had to spend quite a lot of time in trial and error to fine tune our setup. We have had days when we have been holed up all the way till 6 AM in the morning when we had to ship out some bulk orders. All because of machine related issues. However we have ironed out most of those issues. A fuse blowing off or a capacitor burning up is no longer a thing of anxiety.
9. Growth Plans
We plan to explore more form factors for high protein snacks – cookies, chips, ice creams etc.
10. Growth Funds
We are self-funded and will continue to bootstrap until we reach certain milestones that we have set for ourselves in terms of sales.
11. Hiring Effectively as a startup
We have never gone about recruiting people based on their paper qualifications. Till date our hires are all based on references from friends and we build judgement purely based on the time spent interviewing candidates.
12. Trends in Food sector
We look up to companies in this space based out of US for the latest trends and ideas. The US market is about two decades ahead on this space. Unlike tech, sectors like ours have a considerable lag compared to the developed markets. So we will be playing catch up. One area were we would deviate is in studying how we can incorporate some of our country specific food ingredients into our mix.
13. Areas needing help
Presently we are looking for able hands who can help us market the product.
14. In summary
What makes us special is our resolve to use only the best of ingredients and steer clear of junk stuff found in most processed foods. We will continue to innovate and delight consumers in our space. More about us can be found @ hyprote.in
Add high protein to your next meal
[Edited for clarity]
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