Sweet India celebrates six years of success this month
Sweet India is more than a success story of two determined entrepreneurs Venkata Narasimha Raju Kollu and Surya Prakash Revu. The sweet manufacturing business that was established in 2009 on Kilmore Street in Hoppers Crossing became a household name among South Asians within months of setting up its maiden venture. The business known for its authentic tastes of Indian sweets has carved a niche that has been an inspiration for food entrepreneurs and a delight for sweet lovers in Melbourne. Soon after the success of Sweet India, the area around Kilmore Street saw real estate prices rising.
The duo, before setting out to establish Sweet India, planned the business to be a manufacturing base for sweets and savouries for Melbourne’s growing Indian grocery retail market. Those plans never materialised. But what happened after the launch took them by surprise. There were customers coming from Dandeonong, Geelong and country Victoria to get hold of a box of the famous motee choor ladoos and jalebis.
Customers who went to their premises on the first day of the launch were so impressed with the quality and taste of the sweets that word of mouth got them extremely busy in weeks. They were forced to scrap plans for the retail sector to meet retail demand. On any given day one could find customers lining up for hot samosas, mothichoorladoos, jalebis and milk cakes—all well-known specialities of the Sweet India brand. No matter what season it is in Melbourne, the demand has been consistent for the sweet makers.
The taste and quality of Sweet India products is so authentic that some Indians living in Victoria have stopped asking for Indian sweets from overseas when their parents travel to Australia. “That’s true,” says Venkata, “we have customers who tell us how they completely rely on Sweet India for their sweets and snacks.”
Venkata had done work in the FMCG sector in Melbourne before he ventured into starting Sweet India. “I was in the FMCG industry for four years in Melbourne. We identified a niche market for authentic Indian sweets. There were other players in the market. But a complete emphasis on quality was missing. We are all about being the topmost when it comes to quality and taste,” he says.
Prakash, who has delved into other businesses in the past in Melbourne, was not surprised with the success that came knocking. He says, “We started researching into the project. The process was tedious. We wanted to open something really good.Wetrust the quality and purity we can give in our sweets. We were confident about our quality and how it would go down with our customers.” Venkata and Prakash have family back in India who have done similar business.
Hoppers Crossing was not the most happening place six years ago, but the duo had set their eyes on this market for reasons that was key to their success. “We forecast that the community would grow in a fast pace in Wyndham. The existing markets in South East of Melbourne were used to the sweets available around South East. This was a virgin market,” says Venkata.
“This is why we have gone to Geelong and Lyndhurst,” adds Prakash. Geelong and Lyndhurst are deemed to be new markets for Indian retailers as there is a spike in population in these areas.
What were the challenges in setting up shop? “Sourcing A grade raw material is always hard. We trust in quality. We wanted our finish product to be A Plus. We also had challenges organising the work force,” says Prakash.
Although Sweet India never relied on marketing to get their name out there, a key traditional marketing tool worked well for them. “Word of mouth is what really made us. Of course we have supported and sponsored events and used a bit of print advertising, but the key was always word of mouth. My network has been helpful too. Word of mouth happens through consumer satisfaction and that’s what has helped us all along,” reiterates Venkata.
The duo has a strong aspiration to turn the area into Wyndham’s “Little India”. “The city council and state government must recognise the foot traffic the area gets and seriously consider announcing the area as Little India,” says Venkata. “This is the most vibrant spot in the council for Indians. There are restaurants, retail stores. It’s a serious option,” adds Prakash.
Sweet India as a brand has very little competition in Melbourne. Although there are sweet shops and grocery outlets that stock Indian sweets, no one has witnessed the success that Sweet India has witnessed in the region. “We like positive competition. Because of our quality, we are in a better position as no one else has delivered what we have delivered in this market,” remarks Prakash confidently.
He adds, “The community has supported us whole-heartedly. All community organisations and our customers have been absolutely supportive and that’s the real success behind the Sweet India story.”
After six years of success, Venkata and Prakasha are roaring to expand their business by setting up a franchise model. Venkata says, “We need to drive our business to other areas. We have set up another factory in Geelong. Apart from Geelong, we already have a branch in Lyndhurst.”
“We are fine-tuning the legalities of the franchise model and we will be ready to go soon,” adds Prakash.
As Prakash and Venkata celebrate the sixth anniversary of Sweet India this March, Indian sweet lovers across Victoria feel grateful for looking after their immortal craving for ladoos and jalebis.