What's the Tiggle story?
Cocoa from the farms
The feeling of having melted chocolate from a freshly made hot chocolate mix is the most calming, and delicious experience ever.
What makes Tiggle stand out?
Have you ever felt that itch to do something crazy and unconventional? I am staying in Gurgaon, like any other 20 years old, doing a full-time job as a content creator and life is decent. But that itch to do something was real, I wanted to experiment, create a product, generate employment and “change the world”.
On a bright September afternoon of 2019, I was exploring the streets of Delhi with a friend when the thought of starting a food cart chain popped up. Seeing so many ice cream sellers on the road, we were curious about the business model of the food cart brands. We randomly started asking these ice cream sellers about their story, how they source the ice creams and the commissions involved.
I become a little too curious and started reading more about it online. I was onto something I thought. What if I could come up with a product that can become as popular as ice creams? Hence, the idea of starting a food company was born. But hey, mind you – I was just 21 years old and had such ideas/dreams every other day. A month or so passed by and every day I used to read stories of how different food products come about, the brilliant marketing strategies, and what is required to start a brand of my own.
One random day, as I was walking back from the office I craved chocolate. I wanted to drink rich hot cocoa or more like melted chocolate. That’s when it struck me that there are only a handful of cafes in Gurgaon that sell delicious and flavoured hot chocolate but that too for a crazy high price.
That day the idea of making delicious hot chocolate more accessible and affordable came up. Ice creams or tea, coffee are so easily available but why not hot chocolate? Is it actually a premium product that doesn’t have a big enough market or is it that it is a segment that others haven’t explored?
Our own idea always seems like a billion-dollar idea, no? I thought I was onto something, something massive. I began going in-depth about the hot chocolate market. Was this the product I could take to market?
The next couple of months was the most exciting times to date. I somehow feel stupid as I reflect back. So many decisions seem illogical but that’s part of the journey! 😅
I had a full-time job, but whenever I wasn’t in the office I was thinking about hot chocolate. Every weekend would go into experimenting with new recipes with new ingredients at my friend’s kitchen. I remember the first-ever time I tried making hot chocolate from the dark chocolate, I burnt the chocolate so bad that I couldn’t drink a single sip of it. “I can’t make a single cup which I like, how will I make something which others will love?” Don’t we start self-doubting too soon?
After the tens if not hundreds of failed recipes, I finally got to the one which I thought was the best hot chocolate I ever had. Obviously, I was biased as I made that. But, nonetheless, it was a decent product. What next? What should one do after they have a product? Validate the product is what my college degree taught. Okay, but how?
To validate if there’s a demand for the product and secondly, if my recipe is good, I got this random idea to sell the hot chocolate to strangers for a few bucks instead of friends or colleagues. Because selling to the unknown would be the real test, no?
I purchased a huge 5-litre steel jar, 3 litres of milk and everything else needed to prepare my hot chocolate. Went to my friend’s kitchen and the action had begun!
I would stand outside a metro station in Gurgaon where I’d find most millennials and try to sell 3 litres (about 25-30 cups) of hot chocolate. If I sold out, the plan was on, if not then I would rethink the entire idea of selling hot chocolate.
Sounded like a plan, but my inner voice shouting out loud NOOOOOOO! 😳
My legs were shaking out of nervousness! And there comes the first hurdle. I was stopped by the security in the metro station on my way to the place I decided. They enquired about what was there in the massive steel jar. I thought that’s it! That’s the end of the plan. Luckily, looking inside the jar and my shyness (i think), they allowed me to go.
I finally reached the market outside a metro station in Gurgaon. I had to find a place where I could stand and sell the hot chocolate. At this moment I realised what I had gotten myself into. A girl all alone trying to sell something on the streets. What would people think of me? What am I doing in life? Is this worth it? Am I on the right path? 🤯
On to the task to find a place to stand. I go to a juice shop and ask, “Bhaiya, can I stand here and sell hot chocolate for just 30 mins?”. “Hot Chocolate?!”, with a weird expression he said and asked me to leave.
Next, I asked a momo shop, and got the same reaction, “No no, you can’t sell anything here like this!”. I ask a few more, but none allowed. Some were curious why I wanted to sell, others outright denied.
I was shivering. What should I do next? Should I kill the hot chocolate idea? What do I do with these 3 litres of hot chocolate? I when to a decently looking biryani shop as my last attempt. And, drum rolls please, he agreed! He was extra polite and helpful. Offered me a table to keep the jar and the cups. The game was on guys! 🥰
I had a few pamphlets with me, so started to give them to anyone passing by. A few stopped to ask what I was selling out of curiosity. At that moment, I did not care what the world was thinking of me. I wanted to just sell these and get feedback.
A few minutes passed, I sold my first cup. A few more cups gradually and slowly and more importantly, people were loving it. Seeing the crowd more people started to flow in and soon there was a queue of people to order the hot chocolate. In flat 52 minutes, I sold out! I was on cloud nine. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I thanked the biryani uncle and packed up.
That night, all i could think of was the smiling faces drinking hot chocolate. So, I decided to continue the journey, spread more smiles and make it BIG.
“Dipsy hot chocolate”, for no logical reason this was the name I chose. Since the market outside the metro station worked amazingly during the test run, I wanted to start the scale-up from there. Through a contact, I made my first hire who agreed to stand outside the metro station and sell hot chocolate. I purchased a second-hand table, a gas stove, paper napkins, all the ingredients and was all set. Had a spot in mind where I could set up the table and start to sell.
On the first day, at 4 pm, I started preparing 5 litres of hot chocolate which took about an hour. Booked a vehicle to carry the table and stove to the spot. Along with the hire I had made, we set up the area well. We were all set to open it up for the public. Within the first 10-15mins, we sold our first cup.
But then I started to notice the shopkeepers around gossiping about us. Now they were seeing us as a competitor. Two 10ft (or it seemed liked) men approached the stall and in a rude tone asked, “Who are you? Why are you standing here?” and I in a low voice asked, “We sell hot chocolate, you want to try?”. “Have you taken any permission to sell here? You can’t sell here. Go away”. I was scared. I said ok. I wasn’t giving up so soon. We moved a few meters from where we set it up. Sold a few more cups, before another man came and asked us to leave immediately as we hadn’t taken permission from the local owner. ☹️
This was a huge setback. We had to pack up as I did not want to take the risk and the person I hired wasn’t comfortable too. I was very curious who the “local owner” of the locality was. It was definitely not the government body he was talking about.
The next morning, the new hire turned us down and said he’ll only come to work when we have a physical dedicated space to set it up. It felt like a dead-end and I was back to square one. It seemed I had already come a long way and had to keep struggling till this was sorted.
After a few low days and not much action, I started to question the decision of focusing on Dipsy and giving up my job. Oh yes, I wasn’t too fulfilled by my job so to experiment more and live like a freelancer and focus on hot chocolate I quit the job. Now, all I had was a hot chocolate recipe, a second-hand table, a stove and a passionate heart to make this happen.
I started speaking to the shopkeepers in that market and how I could be allowed to set up the stall. One of them mentioned that he had to give some person Rs. 6000 a month to be allowed to stand there and he could connect me with that person. Called a few others seeing the to-let boards and also met more folks. Had to enter buildings and offices I would otherwise never enter. To be honest I was scared but I was looking for an opening, a sign of hope.
I had reached out to a big salon if they’d allow me to set up the stall outside their shop. The owner finally called me up and said he has a space inside the metro station complex. Woohoo! I ran to meet him and discuss. This was a new McCain store and he was willing to allow us to sell hot chocolate there for Rs. 8000 a month. I’ll have to prepare hot chocolate and give it to the shop early morning and they will re-heat and sell. We are back to action!
The focus now shifted towards how to make hot chocolate at scale and then ensure people buy it. Every morning at 5:50 I used to get 6 litres of milk, prepared hot chocolate in an hour or so and gave it to the shop by 8ish. My PG room was smelling like a chocolate factory, which isn’t a bad thing though!
With a few posters only we got about 25-30 cups of sales every day on average. People loved the taste! This was the first and the most important thing for me. As my aim was to start a chain and just setting one shop in half portion wouldn’t satisfy me for sure. I started to reach out to more such shops and canteens in the locality. Cracked another one who would want 2-3 litres a day. The next few weeks, gradually scaled up to a few more stores. The model of selling freshly prepared hot chocolate was working for now!
As unconventional marketing ideas struck, I made sure to try any and everything. From pasting posters on dustbins to distributing eclairs with a small message on them. Real fun.
Even though every day seemed busy with preparing litres of hot chocolate every day, getting positive feedback from customers, being cash positive and thinking of creative marketing ideas this business model of creating freshly prepared hot chocolate wasn’t going to scale. As we reached out to more and more stores the wastage increased as the hot chocolate couldn’t be reused the next day. A few stores also started to experiment with their own recipes or tried to force me to tell them our recipe as they saw scope here.
Hot chocolate mix was the great option. I make a hot chocolate mix and give it to the stores and they prepare the hot chocolate instead of me giving them freshly prepared hot chocolate. So now along with making and serving hot chocolate to the stores, I started to experiment with creating a powder.
With all the experience of making 100s of litres of hot chocolate, it wasn’t so difficult to crack the hot chocolate mix which wouldn’t compromise on the taste. This opened up so many doors as now I could make the hot chocolate mix for the entire week at once and supply it to the stores. Saving me time and energy and giving me options to scale faster.
Is hot chocolate seasonal? It was already mid-February and onset of summer in Gurgaon would start soon. Would the sales drop because of the season? Who else can I sell the hot chocolate powder to? Cafes would be a great option, but wouldn’t that kill the purpose with which I started Dipsy? To make hot chocolate more affordable and accessible.
One of the things I wanted to try is the demand for hot chocolate in the hill stations. That’s where most hot chocolate in sold, so if I can build the company starting from there it’ll give me more options to scale up. So, firstly to cater to the Gurgaon stores I make 10s of kg of hot chocolate and sold it to the stores. Next, I packed my bags and a suitcase full of hot chocolate powder and head to Bir, Himachal.
Next week or so, I spoke to every hostel and every cafe making them taste my hot chocolate and getting more insights on the market. A few cafes instantly wanted to shift from their current way of making to our hot chocolate mix. The suitcase filled with hot chocolate were all sold out with requests for more. Got some great insights and things seeming positive, it wasn’t long that the news of a new virus spread and panic started across. Just 24hrs before the lockdown I managed to reach my house in Agra. The world was dealing with something more serious, so pausing or shutting down the hot chocolate company did not seem like a massive decision.
After coming back home, I started taking up more of my freelancing work and because we all were inside and locked, I ditched the idea of hot chocolate. Yes, completely! During that time, I decided to pick up new skills and build other things.
And then something happened…
My mom is a working woman. During the lockdown, just like other bankers, she was hitting the bank doors daily. I don’t remember the exact date – but one day, she came back home in the evening and told me that one of the temporary workers from her office got fired. I didn’t react to anything because anyway, this news was normal back then. Every day, people were getting fired. But, she came the other day and told me that out of 2 remaining temporary workers, the other one got fired too. I was shocked and still chose to not react. And in the same week, the 3rd one got fired as well. Somehow, I couldn’t stop myself from going deeper on this and asked about the lives of these 3 workers – their stories shook me.
Something triggered inside. The other day, I woke up and decided to ‘START’. Start a business so I can create employment? YES! I have been working on learning stuff and creating things during those days. So, I was sure that some product will come out of this! But, my common sense said to restart ‘DIPSY’. We anyway did good work on it. So, not hitting the ‘play’ button is stupidity. Exactly, that’s how we devoted all our time and energy to the re-launch of Dipsy, which is now TIGGLE.
After lockdown, in July and August, I tried cocoa from 50ish Indian farms because this time the goal is to make the best hot chocolate out there and build a brand around it. This time the goal is bigger and clearer unlike before. This time the goal is to reach people and spread happiness. create employment and automate. After days, if not months, I found a few farms with the cocoa which worked with our hot chocolate formula. I inquired about them and finally partnered with those who were doing a business with good intent along with producing good cocoa. Because the rule has always been to partner with people of good intent in business and life, both.
Once, we had a product ready, we started working on branding and positioning. And finally launched Tiggle and started taking pre-orders from the last week of October 2020. Slowly and steadily, people started connecting with our story and because of the quality product, they started sharing about Tiggle on social media, with their friends and family. And since then till now, we’re growing every day, facing challenges and fighting with them happily and bootstrapping to reach more good people and spread happiness. Having served 100k+ cups of hot chocolate, Tiggle has a presence in every state in India.