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Coolest Start-ups: How Cocoberry was born

Entrepreneur G.S. Bhalla was casting about for a unique food-and-beverage business idea when it occurred to him that frozen yoghurt would go down well in the hot Indian summer.

G.S. Bhalla

G.S. Bhalla Photo: Vikram Sharma

COCOBERRY RESTAURANTS AND DISTRIBUTORS
LOCATION: National Capital Region
BUSINESS: Frozen yoghurt
FOUNDED IN: February 2009
LED BY: G.S. Bhalla, Raja Inder Bhalla
COOL QUOTIENT: Turned traditional dahi into a trendy food

Entrepreneur G.S. Bhalla was casting about for a unique food-and-beverage business idea when it occurred to him that frozen yoghurt would go down well in the hot Indian summer. "I had tasted frozen yoghurt on my trips abroad," he says. That is how Cocoberry was born.

The move was not just chance. "I am what you call a serial entrepreneur," he says. "Soon after graduating from Delhi University, I started dabbling in business." In 2000, he struck gold when he launched a knowledge process outsourcing company focused on health-care in the US. It now employs more than 1,000 people worldwide.

But he wanted to do even better and thus, along with his brother, Raja Inder Bhalla, started Cocoberry. Cocoberry Restaurants and Distributors, of which Bhalla is CEO and Managing Director, was the first to bring frozen yoghurt to India, opening its first store in February 2009 in Delhi's Defence Colony. Since then it has scaled up aggressively, its 50 outlets today scattered across Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Mumbai and Noida.

It has also launched kiosks in hightraffic areas called Cocoberry2Go, and Cocoberry caf├ęs, which offer coffee, tea and slushes besides the signature frozen yoghurt. Bhalla is even planning to open stores outside India.

Cocoberry was self-funded when Bhalla started. Later, Ajay Relan, Head of CX Partners, invested in it in his personal capacity. "Other investors include Westchester Advisors, a New York-based boutique investment fund," says Bhalla. He has roped in IIM Ahmedabad alumnus Rahul Deans, formerly with Hindustan Unilever and Aditya Birla Retail, as President of his venture.

Bhalla delegates considerable authority to his employees who deal directly with customers. "These are the people who are most in contact with the consumer, and should be able to make on-the-spot decisions to deliver the best possible experience," he says. Deans notes that doing so has helped. "In all our stores, we display a sign prominently saying that if there is a problem you are free to call (the top management)," he says. "But we hardly get one call a fortnight, which shows our store people are quite capable of resolving things on their own."

Adds Bhalla: "Our tagline is '100 per cent sin, zero per cent guilt'. We have made the old-fashioned dahi cool and hip."

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