At BrilliantRead Media, we always strive to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the entrepreneurship world. As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate women entrepreneur – Mahek Sugandh for an exclusive interview with us. She is the Founder and Head Chocolatier at The Binge. Let’s learn more about her inspiring journey, her background and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Mahek:
Talk us through your background and your journey as a women entrepreneur, please;
After my BBA, I did PG in Fashion Designing (NIFD), PGDBA (symbiosis), PGD in Import and Export (symbiosis), and PGD in Entrepreneurship (Symbiosis).
Being an entrepreneur is time-consuming (to say the least). It’s far too easy to get caught up in the grind but what’s most important is you do what you love what you’re passionate about.
I took my first course on real chocolate on June 4th, 2019 at Callebaut chocolate academy in Mumbai, where it struck me that this is something I enjoyed, I loved doing and immediately rigger after the course I started planning and executing.
The Binge as I wanted it, but within a month I realised the knowledge I have is not enough, I need to dive deeper into it and so I planned two back to back courses in London and America the very same year 2019, I met people from the industry, I read books and books about chocolate, I visited cacao farms in India to get a better understanding of the product.”
While all the learning was happening in the background I started curating my menu, my bars, chocolate bonbons, confectioneries the aesthetics of the brand and everything and we launch the Binge on 2nd December 2019 itself, it was doing well, the word was spreading through mouth we were overwhelmed and soon Covid had hit the entire world, where the work got stagnant for a while, to which we dint panic at all since the entire world was at a halt, soon enough as the market started, wedding and events got smaller and the gifting got bigger.
People were interested in premium quality products and since the guest list got shorter gifting went bigger, so we had a phenomenal response and binge grew.
2nd December 2019 I started this journey from a very small kitchen (originally a servant’s quarter) where we made changes and made it apt for me to start). On 14th may, 2021 we opened our very production unit of 1200sq feet which is still growing as the business grew.
When I visited New Zealand in November 2014, I came across a small chocolate boutique and I had the most unforgettable experience of having chocolates, truffles, pralines, liquor bonbons, elderflower ganache etc., we just could not stop at 1 and the mouth feel of, how it melted in seconds, this was something I didn’t experience in India, I am well-travelled but I saw this gap and opportunity to rise in the Indian market.”
I came to think that there is no chocolate company from India in the International market that has its recognition for chocolate, that’s where it stroked me, that’s where the search and hunch for it started.
My father is the second generation working in chocolates and confectionery so I always grew up seeing tons and tons of chocolate around me, but it never intrigued me until now.
Any Awards, honours, and certifications you have received in your field?
PhD in chocolate making and philanthropy. Iconic Female Entrepreneur, Times Hospitality Icon 2020
Talk us through more about Binge, please. Also, please share some attributes and elements of the brand?
The point about luxury is that everyone shouldn’t be able to afford it, and we being a luxury artisanal chocolate brand don’t completely agree with this.
We believe quality materials and high standards of hand-crafting that are hard to reproduce by machine are the embodiment of true luxury.”
Using traditional European artisanal techniques and combining the finest quality ingredients with unique taste and exquisite flavour profiles and textures, we strive to deliver the best service allowing you to experience the ultimate chocolate indulgence!
The chocolates we use are made with sustainably and ethically sourced cocoa beans that ensure sustainable cocoa farming and respect both the environment and individuals.”
A premium image for a luxury brand is essential, and controlling that image is our top priority.
What is your brand’s USP?
With absolutely no compromise on quality, we strive to provide the finest quality chocolates in PAN India. We believe in making the product, service or experience seem more valuable, trying to establish a personal connection with our audience, like giving something easier for people to understand and more memorable than digital media.
It is an important step to maximize pleasurable consumption. The taste of our chocolates and confectionery treats alone can satisfy the pleasure principle, but we go a step further with the creativity to get that uniqueness redefining aesthetic prowess. We have always relied on providing exclusive and exceptional experiences to create a more intense connection with consumers and win positive associations.
Can you give us detailed information on the brand’s offerings?
We proudly say that we offer a variety of chocolate bars, single-origin chocolates, dragees, bonbons and an assortment of gourmet and savoury ranges.
We’re the only brand in India offering 12 different flavours of bonbons in one box; gold bars, clusters and florentines being one of the bestsellers.
How is your brand different from the competitors?
The unrestricted sense of pleasure, self-indulgence, and escapism is what you experience with The Binge. The artistry, craftsmanship, and durability appeal to the connoisseur and sets us apart.
Our belief in fairness in price and insistence on excellence differentiates us from our competitors. The product itself tells a subliminal story that resonates with luxury consumers. We endeavour to craft creativity that is extraordinary, powerful, consistent and ultimately more commercially successful.”
What is your target audience?
Our target audience is everyone who loves chocolates and particularly those who are well-travelled consumers coming in with the experience of having consumed premium chocolate products.
It is our view that the integrity of luxury qualities must be preserved and reserved not only for consumers who can afford premium prices but also for those who understand and value premium chocolate. To us, every consumer is important.
How are the products priced?
It is believed that a luxury brand is meant to be perceived as a reward for those who can afford it, not for a random mass market to maintain a level of elite perception, even during times of economic downturn.
But simply raising your product’s prices and selling it as a product disguised as luxury will not establish you as a luxury brand. Our products are priced way better in the market.”
We are committed to giving nothing less than the best and being consistent with luxury consumer expectations.
“Best quality at best price” is our motto. After all, you need to be sure that perception actually matches reality.
If you were given two words to write about your brand, what would be the keywords/ terminologies you would use to describe the brand?
Excellence and Experience
How do you manage to keep going despite the challenges? What drives you?
Women have managed to overcome all the challenges thrown to them with the utmost grace.
To wake up every day with the fact that I do what I love to do is what makes me keep going because not everyone is privileged to live a life like that. And I’m grateful to have been given that opportunity. I made choices, choices that got me here.
It was more like the universe is guiding me towards these opportunities, all I had to was recognise them and make sure I work so hard that I squeezed every drop out of them, this is called drive, and ambition, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.
What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
> Build a strong mindset.
> Sort your priorities.
> Double down your fundamentals.
> Invest in your personal development since you are your #1 asset.
> Cultivate gratitude.
> Be accountable for your actions.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned while building your startup?
– It’s critical that you keep in mind what it is you set out to do and keep pushing towards that goal.
– The fear of failure can be crippling, but it’s not a good enough reason to hold back.
– And most importantly do not try to be someone else’s version of what success looks like.
In your opinion, what is the importance of a good team?
I think by far it’s the best investment anybody can make, your brand is as good as the team is. An entrepreneur is supposed to know the strengths of every team member and delegate work to optimise the best out of them.
I believe if a person doesn’t have certain skill sets, I can help him or learn or teach them even but if that person doesn’t have the spark or will to even learn it, that’s alarming for me.
What are the keys to success?
There are so many factors but if you really have to have the key elements then to me these are the ones:
(1) Create a vision
(2) Define your goals, and take actions to achieve them
(3) Never stop believing in yourself
(4) Turn into a learning machine
(5) Take calculated risks
(6) Have perseverance and passion
(7) Be confident in yourself and your idea
(8) Remain self-motivated
(9) Be a brilliant receiver, take full advantage of your situation, and graciously give credit where it’s due.
(10) Be your own version of what success looks like.
What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?
Making career decisions involves a huge amount of uncertainty. Choosing the perfect career, trying to decide if you should leave your job and move to a new one — decisions like these can feel daunting and will affect how you spend years of your time, so the stakes are high.
We all spend a huge amount of time at work, and we all want (and deserve) to love what we do. But the path to finding that work isn’t always clear.
Luckily, there are actions you can take to help you figure out what’s right for you. So make informed choices and build a professional life that empowers your lifestyle. Set a plan, focus on execution, and take action.