The Whole Truth on building enduring, scalable brands

Rajat Agarwal
MANAGING DIRECTOR
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On today’s episode, Shashank Mehta, founder of The Whole Truth gives us a play by play rundown on what it takes to build a consumer brand from scratch, while in conversation with Rajat Agarwal, MD, Matrix india. Tune in.

Rajat:  

Hello everyone. Welcome to Matrix Moments. Today i’m delighted to announce the start of a new series of founder moments which is focused on D2C  brands where we look to uncover the nitty gritties and inside goings of how to build brands that can scale and endure. And to start things i want to welcome Shashank the founder of The Whole Truth. They’re a very interesting and high growth company which we’re lucky to be investors  in.

Shashank:      

Thank you so much for having me.

Rajat:  

i’m sure a bunch of you would have tried the products, if you’ve not, please do. They just launched a new set of chocolates as well and i’m sure Shashank will talk about it. So i really wanted to plug that in, i loved the product.

Shashank:      

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Rajat:  

So, Shashank, to kick things off maybe you can spend a few minutes to talk about your own journey, very interesting way how you started the company, what you’re building and let’s go from there.

Shashank:      

Sure. Thank you for having me. i’ve always admired this podcast a lot, i’m an avid listener so stoke to be here. And i love it for the level of preparation that you guys bring to the podcast so i hope i live up to that benchmark. i’ve tried, i have my notes. But for the first answer i don’t need my notes, that’s my life. So i started The Whole Truth in November 2019 and in hindsight it seems like my entire life was leading up to it. So let me talk about both the professional and personal journeys that led to this because it truly does seem like the culmination of both these journeys.

So professionally i have a very staid old indian middleclass engineer karkey chamka diya, MBA directly and then  finance is not my thing, marketing is. So what’s the best marketing company, Unilever, okay, so let’s get into Unilever. So did that, joined Unilever from campus, did that for 3 years at 2009-2012, the startup bug hit me at that time in 2012 and no one understood Startups  at that time. it was a very, very fresh word and Jaydeep of Faasos had just raised his series A and he’d put out an e-mail saying Hiring  entrepreneurs in residence.

And that sounded very exciting that i can learn Entrepreneurship  on someone else’s money. So quit Unilever, went and joined Faasos, did that for two years, realized that restaurant operations is not my cup of tea and that time Faasos was building a brick and mortar restaurant chain. So left in 2014 and came back to Unilever, did marketing in my second stint for five years and then 2019 quit to start off.

And personally used to be a really, really obese 110 kg 19 year old.

Rajat:  

Don’t look at me, i’m getting there.

Shashank:      

i joke with my friend from school now that actually being an obese kid is a huge blessing because we’re the ones who are conscious about it then through life and all my thin friends from school who were athletes, who were, you know, runners and basket ballers etcetra are all now unfortunately because they never had to worry about themselves, right, whatever they ate, whatever they did nothing happened. And the joke used to be tum saas lete ho hum mote hote hai. So now the tables have turned but yeah, so i used to be a really obese kid.

Then when i entered college something happened most probably it was a girl’s rejection when i said all this fat has to go, she said no because this is the way i look. So within 9 months lost some 40 kgs and that was just stupidity. i learnt that you lose weight by increasing calorie deficit and that equation can be pulled from both ends so why not, so stop eating, start running and you’ll lose weight and it happened. And then i thought now i’m thin which is equal to fit and hence i can eat the way my thin friends do and lo and behold three years all of it came back.

Rajat:  

Did your love life change?

Shashank:      

Not at all. in fact then there would be girls who’d be like who’d see the old photographs and be like oh, you were so cute then -- don’t get me started, you know what i’ve gone through. So, yeah, three years all of it came back, then i lost it again and then again three years all of it came back then i lost it again. it was in the third weight loss cycle that i started educating myself because i’d gotten done with this repetitive cycle. So i started studying about food and fitness, went deep into research papers, started writing a blog called Fitshit which is the genesis of this company, the company for viewers is called Fitshit Health Solutions as an ode to that blog.

And that’s when -- and Fitshit really took off and i was writing these long 1500 word articles on Fitshit when people were saying that folks don’t even stop at an instagram image there were so many people reading long technical deep articles. That gave me the two fundamental insights that, a, consumers in india also care about their food and they do not trust what they’re getting. There is huge distrust with food brands, i’m not alone in this distrust, everyone has it.

And the second that what was happening to personal care and i was a marketer i was selling creams. What i was doing in personal care is what food marketers were doing to food, putting star marks on front of packs saying lose weight in three weeks and stuff like that which comes from personal care, right, shinier skin in two weeks and pimples go away in three weeks with a star mark saying --

Rajat:  

Lab tested --

Shashank:      

Yeah, as per a study done 12 indonesian women in 2001 under standard temperature and pressure, so that was happening to my food. And i was like why isn’t there a food brand that just says that hey, the food you’re about to eat has A, B, C, D, E and nothing else. Food should be about ingredients not about good looking models and drippy chocolate on the front of pack. And it was that thought that led to the brand which we started in 2019 and it’s been two and a half years of being proven right by the consumer. So, yeah, that’s been the journey.

Rajat:  

Super. So coming to in your mind how do you think about what are the key ingredients of building a brand that can scale and endure?

Shashank:      

So, two parts to that question, brands that scale and brands that endure. i think at the atomic level there is one single -- if you put a gun to my head there is one single thing that’s the biggest determinant of both which is brands are built on fundamental human insights. What do i mean by that, first of all brands are not equal to products with labels. if you’re creating a range of products with beautiful labels you have a range of products with beautiful labels not a brand.

A brand is something larger, a story that’s larger than the products which casts the halo on top of your entire portfolio and lifts it, gives it a force multiplier, right, that’s why there is a multiple for a brand in the startup and the VC world and in public markets. And that story, that purpose is born out of fundamental human insights, what do i mean by that, you take the largest most enduring brands in the world and they will be based on an insight which can be stated in 4-5 words.

For example Dove is about real beauty that women don’t need to put makeup to be beautiful, you’re beautiful as you are. Surf is dirt is good, daag ache hai so if kids go out and play and get dirty don’t blame the kids, be happy. Let them play, Surf will take care of the dirty clothes. Starbucks, one of my favorite brands, it’s not a collection of cafes the insight behind Starbucks is the third place that every human being has work and home and they want a third place where they go and sit, meet friends, be with themselves, think, relax. Starbucks is building the third place.

And you think of their menu selection, their outlet selection, the way they craft their experience from this lens and it starts making sense why is it that Bandra has five Starbucks. So all enduring large brands are based on a fundamental human insight and it’s this insight that decides both their scale and how far they endure. Why, if your insight is truly fundamental to human beings it will endure.

Right, fundamental human insights don’t change. Humans want honesty, humans want dignity, humans want inspiration. That doesn’t change in a decade or two decades, that endures for years. And the TAM of your brand is equal to the TAM of your insight. So if your insight is dirt is good then you’re limited to being a detergent brand, hence Surf is a detergent brand, it cannot -- Surf is great at making things whiter why can’t it make a cream. You will not buy it, right.

Rajat:  

Yeah.

Shashank:      

Can you imagine buying a Surf face cream or can you imagine buying a Fair &  Lovely detergent?

Rajat:  

No chance. Yeah.

Shashank:      

So both the scale of the brand and how long it endures the fundamental atomic unit is insight.

Rajat:              

But then if you bring in The Whole Truth story how do you go from that insight, what was that insight, how do you go from there to actually figuring out which customer segments that is most applicable to start with and how do you go from there.

Shashank:      

So how we articulate The Whole Truth insight is no one likes being lied to. Now apply that to men, women, kids, adults, seniors, indians, Americans, white, black --

Rajat:  

Sure. That’s universal.

Shashank:      

it’s a universal insight. So in terms of how widely you can apply it it’s almost infinite. But where do you start is the question, how do you -- and so there are some marketing seems like this fluffy thing which doesn’t have science behind it but it does. And there are some cardinal rules which cannot get broken. The first one is you can only build a brand for the top 1 percent and bring it down, the opposite is not possible. And again the example here is Maruti is a great brand built for the masses will never be able to sell you a car worth more than 20 lakhs, you will just not like 15 lakh ki gadi will be a struggle for Maruti to sell, you will not buy it.

Mercedes started with a two crore car, today it’s putting out a 25-30 lakh rupee car people are lining up for it. You can only go from the top below not from -- you can’t create a brand for tier 2, 3 india and then sell it to Bandra, Colaba. You can build for Bandra, Colaba and then slowly take it to tier 2, 3, india. Now this journey if this is the only journey possible and it’s like pouring water downhill or uphill so if this is the only journey possible then it poses a set of questions to organizational capabilities because when you go from the top 1 percent to the top 10 percent to the top 20 percent tastes, ability to pay value, channel of sales, all of these start changing.

Expectations because the top 1 percent has very different exposures in life, they have a very different expectation set compared to the others. And hence the way i think about it is that brands which will scale in this new era from a org capability point of view will almost need to build 2 separate capabilities inhouse. One which speaks to this top 1 percent which the way a marketer should think about it is the fountainhead of your brand’s expertise, it’s the core. And this core group, this group of influencers, this group of people in your circles, the marathoner in your circle, the triathlete in your circle when those guys start eating a brand or trying a brand, aankh bandh karke you go after them.

Rajat:  

Yeah.

Shashank:      

And all of us use these heuristics in life, i have a friend whose a financial genius, woh jo kehta hai main waha invest karta hu. i have a fitness guru friend woh jo bolta hai main woh kapda khareed ta hu because we’re not experts at everything, we have these heuristics. So to sell and maintain a brand with these experts you need a different org capability and then inke chalte jo word of mouth ho generate ho raha hai and hence your brand can go down, to sell and cater to that mass audience you need a different capability. And orgs which are able to house both these capabilities in the same place and nurture both of them are the ones who i think will be able to traverse this journey.

Rajat:  

Yeah, makes sense. We’ll come back to that in a bit but let’s go to products first, right. So conventional wisdom used to be that you have one or two hero products, build a brand around them and scale from there on. But it seems like the new unicorns at least Mama Earth or boAt or others that are emerging have lots of different products almost an SKU a week or an SKU a month that’s coming out. So how does that, you know, how do we reconcile that versus what we just talked about and how would you do it?

Shashank:      

i’m going to give a slightly long answer to this because  i think i need to introduce some more concepts to answer it but the short answer for those who don’t have the patience to sit through the long one is i stand somewhere in the middle. i think modern day brands will neither be one single hero SKU built brands nor will/should they be an SKU a week. i think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Now for the long answer, so if you go back into the history of brands, brands of yore, brands from fifty years ago, the Parachutes and the Batas and the Tata Namaks of the world were basically branded commodities, right. That was the era when shuru mein mal khule mein bikhta tha, quality bekaar thi, regulation nahi that and these brands came in, put a stamp on it and said you know what i’m going to charge two rupees more than the other guy but you can trust that ki isse kuch hogan ahi tumko, you’ll be okay.

That game is now done, right, regulations are in place, the floor has risen, standardization has happened, consumers expect a certain level of quality check and standard across products. Hence the reason to exist for brands has moved from this basic quality mar nahi jana chahiye situation to being a decision on i will buy brands that reflect who i am. i expect all brands to do decently good a job, there might be difference in expertise of products but table stakes already set ho chuka hai. And i will hence now base my purchase decision on brands which are a representation of who i am which is decided by brands ka purpose and like we discussed purpose is born out of the fundamental insight on which your brand is based.

So this is the concept of how people now -- so that answers first part of the question. i think the core SKU --

Rajat:  

Sorry to interrupt, but doesn’t that mean that if you take it to a logical conclusion it’s like hyper personalization and hence an SKU obviously makes more sense.

Shashank:      

Actually i absolutely think it’s not hyper personalization. No matter how much -- i don’t know if there are sci-fi fans here, if there are Asimov readers in the audience but all science fiction books also talk about how predicting individual behavior is impossible but predicting group behavior is very, very possible because as i said there are certain fundamental things that all human beings do. And hence no hyper personalization will actually always fail. You know, this story that the Facebook, Googles of the world keep trying to sell us that Rajat ko woh add dikhegi jo Rajat ko dikhni chahiye  is a sham and we’re seeing it over and over again.

Rajat:  

Sure.

Shashank:      

So coming back to saying that one part of the answer is brand is equal to one hero product that era is gone. Question is how far on the other side can we pull it and that question speaks to brand elasticity. Now elasticity in the physics sense of the term has two vectors along which the limitation happens, one is how far can you stretch the elastic and the other is how fast. Right, so let’s talk about both, how far can you stretch the elastic which is can a mother brand how far can a mother brand go before saying i can’t house anything more than this in this brand goes back to insight.

That how large is your insight that defines the boundary condition of how far you can go. Second is how fast then. There the limiting factor of speed is expertise. Consumers intuitively judge brand expertise through a few heuristics which are in their head, again they will never articulate it this way but they have certain thumb rules by which they judge -- you would have heard saying yeh brand abhi kuch bhi kar rahe hai…

What they’re effectively trying to say they have a thumb rule, consumers have a thumb rule to say that i still want expertise from my brand. i love your insight, i love your purpose, i’ll give you a shot but if your product is shit, sorry, then khatam. What are these heuristics, to give you a few examples, when consumers see a pack on a shelf which is stickered they judge expertise because it’s a bad long term signal that ki tumne itna bhi invest nahi kiya, matlab sticker laga ke bech rahe ho experts don’t do that. The other is expert brands launch ranges upfront, if you’re launching a chocolate you launch with seven flavors, not main chocolate brand hoon main ek chocolate nikalunga.  Consumers judge it.

And the duality here is experts are both fast and slow. Experts are fast becausethey’ve done this ten times so they know the common mistakes they can go fast. But experts are slow because they don’t put shoddy shit out. it’s in this balance that the answer to the speed question on how fast should you pull the elastic lies. And the last problem which defines how fast should you pull it is a question of awareness. So one more cardinal rule of brand building is the most direct and exact correlation of sales is with reach obviously if consumers don’t even know you make something how will they buy it.

Ab aapne ek saal mein 50 product nikale, it doesn’t matter, there’s a Hindi saying jungle mein mor nacha, kisne dekha? if you can’t build awareness at that speed of each of these things then it’s as good as jungle mein mor nacha. And if you have to always buy awareness through ad spend then you will as it is never be a profitable business so you have to wait for word of mouth to kick in which takes its own sweet time. So this was a long answer to saying i think the answer stays somewhere in the middle, will not be single commodity one product hero product brand but perhaps should also not be an SKU a week.

Rajat:  

Yeah, makes sense. And just last thing on this product piece how critical is this product differentiation because say in skincare all these products or a lot of these products are being made in the same factory at times. ingredients are up for sale or the formulations are up for sale, so where does that fit in and how should people think about it?

Shashank:      

See, i think i have an extreme view on this, i think 3P led innovation, third party led innovation is the biggest bane of the CPG industry today. Why do i say so, our mission is rebuild the world’s trust in its food. Hence assumption is trust is broken, why did trust get broken because marketers lie. Why do marketers have to lie, kyunki backend mein sab same product bana rahe hai,  but front end you have to say my product is different, how can you do it, you have to lie. And when we were starting the brand we also went to third parties first, ki humara yeh product hai yeh banalo,] making food especially is very scary,  it can be a life threat.

And everyone was like you’re nobody, this is my machine, you change your product to fit this machine i will make it, i’m not changing machine to fit your product. That is when this aha moment happened that as tough as it’ll be this entire 3P led innovation thing will not work. Maybe you can use third party for scale up but not for innovation. And the second thing that you asked, sorry, was differentiation.

Rajat:  

How important is this differentiation?

Shashank:      

My entire articulation of Moats actually comes from podcasts that i’ve heard you guys do. And if you’re building a product brand unless you’re building fast fashion then being fast is your MOT. CPG brands are actually the exact opposite, you want loyalty, you want consumers to aankh bandh kar ke, every time go and pick your product. That is not going to happen without differentiation. if they have no reason to say yehi wala biscuit leke aana, then it won’t happen, so clearly the moat has to come out of differentiation cannot come out of differentiation cannot come out of me too products - can happen in maybe electronics, fashion, that space which moves really fast.

CPG is actually a slow industry, people want surety and expertise and if you think about your brand purchases why do brands endure because once people like something they remove that cognitive note from their head that ki mereko iske bare mein aur sochna nahi hai. And the second one again is as we discussed if to sell every subsequent product you have to do advertising then you’re dead as it is, you will never be a profitable business. And hence word of mouth is the only way, word of mouth is not going to happen for me too. Word of mouth can only happen for differentiated products. So whichever way i look at it the mote and the only way to build it is differentiation and the only way to have differentiation is to have innovation inhouse otherwise that won’t work.

Rajat:  

But doesn’t that limit scalability?

Shashank:      

it limits the speed at which you can scale, it doesn’t limit scalability.

Rajat:              

Yeah, makes sense.

Shashank:      

And hence the answer goes back to what’s the time horizon that you’re optimizing for. if it’s a five year VC is also playing fund cycle game, founder is also playing fund cycle game then fight. if you’re playing a 50 year game then there is no limit, actually CPG brands are the one place where i can say emphatically that if you’re not playing a 50 year game you’re actually not even playing a five year game. 95 percent of brands die in five years, who pehle 3 saal mein bahut sahi growth hoti hai, sku bad rahe hai, channel bad rahe hai, but then word of mouth doesn’t kick in, every subsequent sale comes from more marketing spend, P& L goes for a toss, shit starts happening.

Rajat:  

And these businesses compound over time, they’re highly profitable.

Shashank:      

These are absolutely compounding businesses like HUL stock price keeps rising, rising, rising, PE keeps rising, rising because like a clock that business will deliver 7 percent year on year growth.

Rajat:  

So moving to brand building at least in our portfolio The Whole Truth is one of the most loved brands and i think communication is very edgy, hits the nail on the head. So what goes on behind the scenes to actually just get that going. And do you do that yourself do you have agencies, just throw some light on some of that?

Shashank:      

So when it comes to comms i think the framework is to think of first what do you want to say and then how you will say it. The edginess, creativity is all the how, i think the real meat is in the what. And again i’ll keep sounding like a broken record but the what comes out of purpose. if you’re built on an insight which consumers really resonate with, you know, if i today stand on a rooftop and say food brands are lying to you ten people out of ten will raise their hands and say, yes, i agree with what you’re saying, hence i have their attention.

And the second fundamental that we think of is i actually hate selling, i hate and i’m sure again a lot of people do hate salespeople. kisi electronic dukaan mein jaate ho, toh  people are in your face i hate it, like airport jaate ho you have those car salesmen i’m sure most of us like just look the other way and go away. We hate being sold.

Rajat:  

Yeah. And brands should be bought not sold.

Shashank:      

Exactly. And for us specifically we’re very clear, if i can educate you on how to think about food, how to judge good food versus bad food. What are the frameworks, how to read an ingredient list, how to read a nutrition table. Then if you go and apply that framework to the market my brand should win. So why should i spend time saying The Whole Truth khareed lo  and turn you off, so i spend all my time thinking about what are the most entertaining ways to educate you about how you should think about food. if i’m able to change your framework my brand will sell, i don’t have that problem.

And then the second part is just as i said consumers consume content for only two reasons, education or entertainment, if you can do both you have a sixer on your hands. So once the education lens is sorted it’s about making it entertaining and we do all of it inhouse. The writing of our brand’s scripts is all inhouse, our content is all inhouse largely still led by me. And you know, i used to think of that as a problem ki yeh kaise scale hoga i’m the bottleneck but then i studied founder led brands.

And you see the US there are lot of founder led brands where actually the founder leans into the brand and puts his personality fully into the brand and that’s a huge strength because brand comms are -- the endurance of good brand comms is built on consistency. Because brands are characters, if characters start acting out of character you have a problem. The only way character stays in character if there is one character behind it meaning when i write i can’t help but be myself. So that’s what we now optimize for, we don’t even think about oh, yeh koi aur kaise karega, we think about how can the rest of the company be setup with such great people and great processes that Shashank gets time to do this.

Rajat:  

Sure. Makes sense. And then in the initial days or early journey of brand building how would you devote your time and capital towards brand building efforts versus say performance?

Shashank:      

The classic question where our logical minds want a clear demarcation ki koi toh bolde 80-20 ya 90-10 hota hai - there is no exact answer. My answer is, so i had two rules, one, there will be no time when zero money is being spent on brand building.

Rajat:              

Even when you were just starting?

Shashank:      

Just starting. Chahe 10 rs kharcho, there will be some money, time, effort that will be spent on brand building. And the second rule was i will spend as much money that i don’t need to ask a sales question out of. if i can afford 5 percent of my marketing spend and i’m sure the last 10 percent of every company’s performance marketing spends are inefficient, i can guarantee that. Take that 10 percent, start with that and the secret sauce which i’m happy to shout from rooftops but unfortunately no one is willing to listen is keep that 10 percent aside and don’t ask a sales question from that. Don’t ask key content banai, koi sale hua kya? we ask we hold ourselves to a journalistic standard. We ask ourselves a question as a content creator would ask that how many people viewed it, what was the average view duration, when did people drop off, what are the comments looking like. Optimize the content.

Rajat:  

Yeah. So that’s everything about it.

Shashank:      

That’s my rule set.

Rajat:  

Awesome. So you’ve figured out your purpose messaging products, manufacturing in house, you’ve marketed it, aur bechna bhi toh hai. How does distribution- often founders think about should i sell on marketplace, should i sell on my own website, should i go offline. How would you think about it and when should founders think about doing one over the other?

Shashank:  

See, eventually toh har jaga pe bechte hai,  it’s very clear that all distribution is distribution and why should I make the consumer’s life tough, usko bhar jane ki aadat hai, dukaan mein milna chahiye aur amazon pe bhi milna chahiye, in fact my job if my mission is to give you 100 percent clean label options for every kind of food that you eat my job is as easy as it is for you to reach out and pull up a packet of junk, it should be that easy to reach out and pull out a packet of 100 percent clean label food also. So eventually be --

Rajat:  

Eventually everywhere.

Shashank:      

Don’t judge distribution because then you’re judging consumer and then the joke is on you.

Rajat:  

Yeah, you’re limiting your own market.

Shashank:      

Having said that a sequencing which I believe is optimal because the difference between website, marketplaces and retail is the level of storytelling that you’re allowed across each and it’s a diminishing level. Max on website, medium on marketplaces, least on offline, you’re just discovered as a packet on a shelf. Again, first principle, if brands are built top 1 percent influencers ke saath and then you go down then you want to build the brand with them and tell them the story and sell them on the story before they buy your product. Hence the most relevant channel is D2C upfront. Then you go to the next lesser level of storytelling then you go to the next level of storytelling is the sequencing in my head, eventually be everywhere.

Rajat:

Makes sense. But, you know, founders often also say once they start the Amazon business there will be my same customer which was coming on my website gave me the full margin now it’s cannibalization happening. So that’s inevitable, right.

Shashank:      

Sure, it is.

Rajat:  

You just live with it.

Shashank:      

Yeah, trying to change marketers fool themselves that they can change consumer behavior. Especially shopping behavior change takes years and years and like I don’t know millions of dollars to change. So don’t fight consumer behavior, build a business at the backend which there are so many levers to pull, right. I have a part of the business that’s earning very high margin, I have a part of the business that’s earning slightly lower margin. In weighted averageness of the world everything can be made to work but don’t try and like fight consumer behavior, you don’t especially as a startup.

You don’t have the resources to do anything about it, so I’m a big proponent of wherever consumers want to buy let them buy. If you really want your website to be the biggest channel of sales there will be a limiting factor by the kind of category that you operate in which you can’t breakthrough but even to get to that ceiling you will have to do a lot of stuff and give people a reason to let go of the extra 10 percent discount that they’re getting elsewhere to buy from you. And live with the fact that there are a few consumers who might say 10% mehenga lunga par experience chahiye but not more than that.

Rajat:  

Sure. Makes sense. I think this has been fabulous, Shashank, so what’s next, what’s coming at TWT what’s can we expect new stuff coming from your side?

Shashank:      

We just launched chocolates.

Rajat:  

Yeah, how is it different?

Shashank:      

It was a I think a big -- people didn’t expect us to launch chocolates, right, people were like you’re a protein brand, you’re a healthy brand, you’re a snack brand and suddenly we’re a indulgent chocolate brand. But I’ve always maintained that neither are we a healthy brand nor are we a snack brand we’re a truth brand. And we’ll apply truth to every food category that you eat. And we don’t judge consumers for their choices and I strongly hate this notion of there’s a healthy consumer and there’s an unhealthy consumer.

And the same guy who gets up in the morning goes to the gym, has a protein bar starts the day really healthily, the day is rough, by the time I’m ending it at the end of dinner I want a piece of chocolate to feel good about life, right, same guy. But why should I be forced to eat a piece of chocolate which is full of refined sugar, why can’t I change that. So that’s the philosophy with which we will continue to execute chocolates have launched and as I hinted that if you think of chocolate brands of the world they’re all companies which do only chocolate. Cadbury’s, Hershey’s, Lindt, Mars, these are only chocolate companies, right, because consumers expect expertise.

So you will see a lot more -- so we set up our own chocolate factory full bean to bar process done inhouse because we want to deliver that expertise and you will see a lot more coming out of the chocolate factory in the near term. And then for us near term is three months, mid term is six months.

Rajat:            

You’re running on the VC clock.

Shashank:      

I am. So, yeah, in the mid term -- now we’ve settled into this cadence of every 4-6 months we enter a new category so I think towards the end of the year we’re looking at another big and what you won’t expect from us sort of category which I’m not going to reveal.

Rajat:  

Okay. Awesome.

Shashank:      

And the fun just to throw the cat among the pigeons here if you’re a truth company who said the lack of truth is only present in food.

Rajat:

Sure.

Shashank:      

So lots coming up.

Rajat:  

Elasticity is going to be tested.

Shashank:      

Yeah, yeah. It’s trial and error with intelligent guestimates.

Rajat:  

Just from that and maybe that’s the last thing we cover this house of brands, right, that’s become the buzzword today. So would some of these new things that you launch go in separate brands, how do you think about that?

Shashank:      

So again I’m glad that this is the question we’re ending with because it takes me to what I started the session with which is brands are built on insights and scale and width of brand is decided by scale and width of insight. So the original house of brands are the HULs and P&Gs of the world. Why did they have to move from one brand to the other because the insight was limited. Dove ka detergent nahi khareedoge, Fair&Lovely, Surf ka cream nahi khareedoge so they housed different brands.

And hence the logic of house of brands is not a consumer facing -- there’s no leverage on the consumer end. Each brand needs to live its own life for the consumer, the leverage is at the back end. You have a common supply chain, common finance, common legal etcetera which you can leverage across brands. So that’s the business logic. If you go a level deeper actually all these house of brand guys built multiple brands in one category at different price tiers, that’s where the real backend leverage also comes ki mera ek rin bhi hai, surf bhi hai, aur poora price ladder main own karunga- Backend is 80-90 percent similar, that’s where the real backend leverage also comes.

Which is the problem that I see with today’s concept of house of brands, completely disparate ek moms brand bhi ban raha hai, mens brand bhi ban raha hai completely different. Backends are different, frontends are ek mein tubes procure kar rahe ho, ek main tubs procure kar rahe ho so I struggle with this definition of house of brands.

Rajat:

It’s almost like being built on distribution like..

Shashank:      

Correct. So you see it’s the logic of house of brands is capability leverage and it’s a thinning curve. The more disparate your brands in your house are the lesser the capability leverage because sourcing leverage has gone away if your brands are so different. but maybe front end selling capability leverage is there. I might argue that outlets are also very different, right, kpi chips bana raha hai, koi chocolate bana raha hai - outlets might be very different. So that’s theoretically how I think about it. Personally for us I don’t think we need to go there, our insight is so large.

My problem currently is not ki hum agla  kya launch kare,  my problem currently is in mein se kispe pehle kaam kare? so I literally can see 5-7 years into the future and still not run out of things to do which can be housed within The Whole Truth so we don’t think about it. But fundamentally if I were to this is how I would think about it.

Rajat:

Superb. This is Shashank. This has been awesome. I think I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, I hope our listeners have done that too.

Shashank:      

Thank you so much.

Rajat:            

Thank you for doing this. And looking forward to more from you.

Shashank:      

Pleasure. I hope the prep came in handy, you asked me the full -- it was like HUL mein kya kya sikha hai, but, yeah, it’s been super fun. I think this is a very complete conversation around marketing and made me also put down all of my thoughts in one place. So thank you for that.

Rajat:  

Super. Thank you.

Shashank:      

Awesome.

Rajat:

Thank you, boss.

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