Nutrition has gained a broader audience in recent times, thanks to health-conscious individuals and other institutions creating an impact over the subject. Moreover, the food that we cultivate has evolved in recent times, where the process of growing it and delivering it to the end-user has been streamlined to a greater extent. However, if we look into a very niche segment of cultivating any crop, coconut has always stood out to be special in one way or another. However, there is one such company that is looking forward to reshaping the way it is cultivated, packed, and shipped to the end consumer. That company is none other than COCO WORKS.
COCO WORKS is a company that is revamping the way coconuts are being delivered to the end consumer. Gone are the days of transporting them in their original form factor. Instead, the company is banking heavily on changing its transportation method wherein packaging them with unique flavors with no additives and preservatives to maintain what a coconut has to offer. It’s quite the company that has dealt heavily on this niche and ensured to get the goodness of what a coconut has to offer in a unique form factor directly from the farm to the customer. Speaking with Dr. Narasimha Reddy, who runs the company, we were entitled to know more about the COCO WORKS, and the short interview that was conducted is provided below.
Give a brief info about your start-up?
We are a brand called COCOWORKS and we envision it to be the pioneer in coconut space in India with its ‘farm to consumer’ model reaching out with an omni-channel approach.
The overarching thought is that coconut as we also know as KALPAVRIKSHA has immense nutritional, sustainable benefits which are underutilised in our country and we have spent a considerable time and effort to research, innovate and have an end to end value chain to make them reach to the consumers.
We work towards sustainable agriculture practices, sustainable food production and right nutrition for consumers across all ages.
The Indian coconut industry is the third largest in the world in terms of nuts production per year and is pre-dominantly unexplored and at a nascent stage. Right from the coconut farmers support system to consumer awareness of its benefits, there are huge gaps to be filled. We realised that coconut is being treated as a commodity and is the main reason for lack of dedicated consumer focused products around it. SOMETHING THIS BASIC (COCONUTS) DESERVES TO BE CLASSIC and we are trying to do this by the ‘PRIMUM NON NECERE’ way: Latin for ‘FIRST DO NO HARM’
What made you start your start-up and what problem does it solve?
As a doctor couple we believe strongly that food marketing has become predatory in our country with heavy incidences of food adulteration, misleading food marketing practices, non-transparent food selling and this is creating the wider gap between undernourishment in the unaffordable classes and over-nourishment (obesity, uncommunicable diseases, etc.) in the affordable income groups.
This was the gross genesis point for our start-up and we strongly believe that food, health and education are the three main sectors where stringent laws, checks and overall awareness should be in place for the country’s growth and well-being.
With COCOWORKS we picked up food and health segment aiming at solving the problems of coconut farmers, accessibility of good nutrition, sustainable food options to consumers and most importantly ‘RIGHT TO HEALTHY FOOD’. We are doing this by engaging into: ETHICAL AND FAIR TRADE SOURCING, CLEAN NUTRITION, HONEST AND TRANSPARENT FOOD MANUFACTURING and MAKING HEALTHY FOOD FUN TO CONSUME
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this start-up?
I (Dr. Narasimha Reddy) and my wife(Dr. Shilpa Reddy) are a doctor couple, paediatrician/neonatologist and a dermatologist respectively and we have been joined by Teja Nemani (CO-FOUNDER) with her own start-up experience previously. I have been involved full time into the company for past 2 years and my wife is practising dermatology and is looking into the day to day finance operations of the start-up. Prior to the start-up I was a consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician for a reputed mother and child care hospital in Hyderabad. I carry 7 years of paediatric experience and the profession has helped me to have the research and problem solving skills required for the start-up.
Where is your start-up based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
We are based out of Hyderabad (both administrative and manufacturing). We believe Hyderabad is an emerging city in the whole start-up ecosystem and agri-food and food-tech based guys have a lot of scope to grow and nurture. Although other metros and mini-metros are better in terms of overall market reach, food based R&D, etc. but we are seeing at as an opportunity to crack a relatively difficult city initially and scale it up in other cities. The tough-ones-first approach is what we have started on which might be contradictory to the conventional start-up approach.
As a start-up founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
As a start-up founder one thing that keeps me awake at night is my quest to find the right talent pool which not only understands but strongly believes in the SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTAL GOALS. We are all a fast paced life generation and we choose to skip the basic life necessities which is why these basic requirements are still not being met for. To have the people who are aligned with our mission and are focused to be unshattered across the journey isn’t easy where we are presented with illegitimate shortcuts on a daily basis, in general and at random.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
We truly have no competition in the segment we are in, as it is a category creator still and we expect to see the competition very soon. We have already given inspirations for people/brands in the ways we do things which have been outrightly copied/used by others and this only suggests that we are on the right track. But for us, if someone asks about the true competition, it is undoubtedly the brands involved in selling junk food by blatantly labelling them as healthy and nutritional. That way, the competition list would be a long one. The broad categories include colas, synthetic energy drinks, reconstituted fruit drinks, preservative loaded beverages, etc.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a start-up founder and how do you manage it?
Hailing from a typical start-up, there’s no life balance as such. Not that it can be taken up as priority as of first few years. We are destined to put up as much as we can to see the success and that’s the downside that we have to consider for making it big. There no way we can have a balanced life in the initial years until things get stabilised.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
It’s a bootstrapped organisation till date and have got multiple requests for funding during the early years but we have chosen to work on a sustainable model and then go for funding with the right set of investors who can value the long term perspective of the organisation. We are a brand in process to drive the fundamental change in the ecosystem and the returns aren’t fast. It’s not a sprint run but a marathon and hence we would want our investors to be of similar mindset and would want to stick around along the journey. And yes we are actively looking for fund raise now as we are ready for the growth phase.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
The biggest misconception that people have is that I am stubborn and that I demand excellence whereas I am just a headstrong guy who want the things to occur to make a change and that excellence is for being accountable to oneself. We are moving towards a very non-empathetic era and I would want to be associated with an attitude which works for me rather than be fearful about unimportant opinions.
What gets you excited about this company?
I feel pumped-up about all that comes with it. The daily chaos, challenges, failures, zeal to do better in customer experience, staff’s well-being and the impact on society that one can achieve drives me on a daily basis. More than anything it’s the long term happiness of a kid’s right nutrition that is possible through COCOWORKS is what keeps me going.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
My day starts at 8/8.30 in the morning with work coming in from all four sides. The day is full of meeting internal and external stakeholders for both day to day working and future plans. It goes on extending till 9/10 pm as there are a lot of things that we learn and unlearn on a daily basis.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Team COCOWORKS is relatively young and have got most of them though known circles and professional platforms like LinkedIn which helped us in finding the technical and skilled people basis the cross-functional needs of marketing, food processing, etc. We are actively looking for more seasoned professionals in sales, digital space, agri-tech areas.
Know a great startup story or want to share your own? Write to us at email@example.com and we will get back to you. For more updates follow Bangalore Insider on Facebook and Instagram.