with Ashwin Ahuja,
Founder of Karma Bites
Popped Lotus Seeds
Karma Bites – the new nutritional super-speed on everyone’s lips, offers nibbles on the go packed with essential minerals! For at least three generations, founder Ashwin Ahuja and his family have snacked on popped lotus seeds.
Karma Bites was built on the ethos that ‘Goodness goes a long way’. Goodness is due a comeback. Karma, like goodness, is a virtuous cycle – you do good, you receive good. If you eat well, you feel and do good! There’s nothing quite like Karma Bites on the snacking shelves!
Hi Ashwin! What inspired you to start the business and how did you get started?
The inspiration to start Karma Bites came from my grandmother and with years of working with large FMCG brands. My grandma introduced me to popped lotus seeds and she used to snack on these as a child. With its many health benefits (source of protein, minerals, iron etc.) and delicious taste, it quickly became my go-to snack.
My background is in Advertising and Marketing where I had the opportunity to work with a number of leading brands in the food and snacking space. Whilst the market offered several choices for snacking, I struggled to find a product that was truly unique and delivered authentically on both taste and health. Lotus seeds were as yet an undiscovered superfood and having experienced the benefits of it first-hand, I decided to launch Karma Bites 2 years ago.
I was clear on 2 things. Firstly, I wanted to keep the ingredients pure and honest. You won’t find any chemicals, artificial ingredients, refined sugars or palm oil/rapeseed oil. Our products are all vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. Secondly, I didn’t want to position Karma Bites as a niche product. Our branding/packaging and flavours make it universally appealing. You gain health benefits without sacrificing on taste and vice-versa.
To quit a senior corporate role and take the plunge turned out to not be as daunting as I expected. I had done my due diligence so there was enough rationale and research to back-up my plans. Additionally, Karma Bites was created with honesty and backed with a solid brand and positioning, so I figured – let’s just get going.
What would you say were your immediate challenges and how did you break through a crowded market?
When I got started, I faced 3 keys challenges:
Finances: Setting up a business, brand and entity isn’t cheap. If you do not want to give up equity in the early stages of the business (like me), it makes finances a more pertinent sticking point. I worked around this by prioritising investments as per timing and what would give the immediate bang for your buck. Rather than looking at everything as one big monolithic expense, prioritisation helped.
Educating the market: I was launching a product that the majority of the market hadn’t heard of. Not only did I have to educate them on what are lotus seeds and the benefits, but I also had to introduce them to the brand Karma Bites. Consumers are very aware and unless they are convinced about your product and brand, they are not going to engage with it.
Naivety: Armed with an incredible product and brand isn’t enough. There is so much more to consider and factor in when setting up and running a business – all the mentorship and research can only take you so far. Getting the business started and running it day-to-day is the best experience and very quickly any naïve ideas/notions get addressed and your learning curve may be steep and challenging but so fulfilling.
The supermarket aisles are abundantly crowded. Every brand believes that they have a differentiator and to cut through the noise and be noticed can be a challenge. With Karma Bites, this was a genuinely unique product so we could actually position ourselves as a true differentiator.
Additionally, authenticity isn’t a buzzword at Karma Bites, it’s how we function every day and this translates into our communication, our product and brand. There is an appreciation and appetite for brands that care and are honest, this massively helped. And we have stayed consistent with our beliefs.
Who is your target market?
Anyone who snacks – adults, kids – we appeal to everyone. If you enjoy tasty snacks – Karma Bites is truly delicious and moreish. If you are health conscious, Karma Bites is packed with goodness and wellness in every bite.
Lotus seeds have their origins in Ayurveda and it is considered to be a superfood. If you have any allergens, all our products are completely allergy free and you can enjoy Karma Bites without the stress. If you want to indulge or you may be on a diet – Karma Bites has got you covered. We are vegan, plant-based, gluten-free and have no artificial ingredients or refined sugars – making Karma Bites a very tasty and fulfilling snack choice.
What advice would you give to those starting out in the FMCG industry?
Ask for advice / help – I quickly realised that my scope of knowledge is focused in limited areas. You need not be an expert in every facet of your business, but an awareness is essential to make informed decisions.
Know your strengths and maximise their potential and recognise your weaknesses and ask for help right away. Be tenacious – the start isn’t easy but once you get on the journey, you will need the drive to navigate this challenging but fulfilling journey.
What is one marketing strategy that has really worked well for the business?
Being clear about our brand and its purpose and articulating it effectively in all our marketing communication.
What is Karma Bites’ greater purpose and where do you see the business in 2 -3 years time?
Our brand ethos is based on Releasing Your Inner Goodness, we believe that when you eat good, you invariably feel good and hopefully, this encourages you to do good. We live and breathe this at Karma Bites and our product and brand is the first proof-point of our commitment to our brand mission.
In 2-3 years time, I would love to see Karma Bites become the go-to mainstream snacking option with an increased presence across markets and a wider portfolio of products. We would also really like to drive the conversation for purity and quality of ingredients and evolve the conversation from low calorie and low-fat to what makes something truly healthy.