An idea becomes a design project for college students. But to push such an idea to a startup level is an enduring task accomplished by a group of studentpreneurs from Sahrdaya College of Engineering and Technology by developing algae and seaweed based B Lite Cookies. Najeeb Haneef, Aakash, Britto and Bristo joined hands with CIFT-ICAR Govt. of India to give life to their venture.
It was one of my passion to provide quality food products to customers to deliver needful nutritious properties which is lacking in the current food we consume.
Najeeb, the founder & CEO of Zaara Biotech
B-Lite Cookies is incorporated in the Central Institute of Fisheries and Technology, at Willington Island.The student entrepreneurs have made it clear that their goal is to develop Disease Specific Food Products and make them available to the general public.
The product was launched on October 21 in Delhi. The product received a lot of appreciations from Global Goals MUN held in Malaysia. They described B-Lite Cookies as one of the best innovative product in Asia.
In this interview Najeeb talks about how he and his team came up with the idea, the challenges faced and the future plan for his company.
Give a brief about yourself and/or your team? (If team please mention how you met)
My name is Najeeb bin Haneef, an undergraduate student studying in Sahrdaya College of Engineering and Technology. I along with my classmates Aakash P, Britto Lorence, Bristo Lorence and with the support of my friends started our dream company Zaara Biotech. It was one of my passion to provide quality food products to customers to deliver needful nutritious properties which is lacking in the current food we consume. For example our seaweed cookies designed is for women to meet the calcium needs whereas Spirulina Choco cookies is best suited for workout enthusiasts and pregnant women. We dream of a world free from quality deprived food by making nutritious rich food using super foods as the source. Manufacturing such food sources into an easily consumable and available product is what our company is all about.
What are you building and what problem does it solve?
We want to build a brand which consists of nutritionally rich and high quality products which can improve the lifestyle of the common people and is affordable for all. As a first step towards the plan is the introduction of B-lite followed by other products which has the potential to revolutionize the FMCG situation in our country and perhaps the world.
We plan on providing the people of India, the quality food they require to remain healthy and in good shape throughout their lifetime.
How and when did you come up with the idea?
I was always bothered about the poor health condition of people in Attapady. As a biology student, I knew this malnourishment is linked to poor quality of food. I began researching about alternative methods and came upon a certain algal species which is consumed by astronauts when travelling through space. This made me wonder about this specific algae and its introduction in common household food items. When I further did my research on its benefits, I was awestruck by the properties of this food. That was my eureka moment when I decided to spread awareness about this algae and its benefits and after discussion with my friends and partners I finalized on its incorporation into the cookies.
How did you take your idea to product stage?
We started by introducing our product in the form of project. We attended different college events showing them our concept (as a project) which made us realise one thing.
No one unless they are studying Biology was aware of the concept we were trying to explain. Hence we decided to make a product out of our project and kick started our wonderful journey with the help of a lot of mentors supporting us. We can not forget the support our college and teachers gave us in achieving our dream.
We however wanted financial support. We ran through sponsors who supported us but eventually we had to bear the burden of the company on our shoulders which so far has been fruitful.
What are some of the challenges you faced while building your product?
One of the biggest problems we faced or is still facing is the lack of awareness of the benefits of our concept/product among people. This can be avoided by proper advertising, however marketing using ads is a financial nightmare for any start-up. Social media has made it a lot easier, still large scale awareness is a humongous task for us.
Other issues that hit us on our way was change in sponsorship due to trust issues, uncertainty on the role of the teammates, and even future plans for the young company.
Being a nutritional product what are the specific properties of B lite Cookies?
B-Lite products are 100% preservative free, trans fat free and cholesterol free. They show an interesting quality that is they have the ability to act as an Instant Energy Booster. The cookies contain more protein content when compared with other popular biscuit products. The presence of SOD helps reduce ageing in human. The product is made available for people of any age group especially for women as it contains iron and calcium as recommended during pregnancy as well as bone related diseases. For men, it is an amazing source of protein and deitry fibre which enhances muscle development during workout.B-lite cookies come in two different varieties, seaweed based cookies and algae based cookies with one flavour in chocolate. Development of new and exciting flavours , toothpaste and mobile application products are on the R & D platform of the company.
How much has your college, faculties and fellow students been of guidance to you?
As I said before our college has played a major role in our success.We would take this opportunity to thank our college, Sahrdaya College of Engineering and Technology, without whom this would not have been possible. The support from faculties and our friends, has made it into what it is today.
Have you associated with KSUM?
What are your plans in the future? (For yourself and your company/product)
We have planned a line of drinks, shakes in different flavours for our current product B-lite. We also have a software under development. Our involvement in the bioprocess field can also be expected as we have planned and prepared blueprints for our bioreactor which will soon be introduced in the market.
Considering you are studying how hard it is to manage both?
It is actually hard to manage both but somehow I manage time for work and studies and it has helped me to improve my style of learning in a better way.
Your thoughts on student startups and innovation.
I think now is the best time to bring out the ideas and convert them into products. The efforts taken by KSUM has raised the enthusiasm of young entrepreneurs due to the help received in terms of mentorship and funding. The monetary relief is something that makes difference in minds of young students who dream to be an entrepreneur.
This is the best time to make a positive difference in the country’s growth. Startups and innovations in our country can mean only good for the future of our country.
What advice you would give to aspiring student entrepreneurs/innovators
Never give up no matter what obstacle is present before you. Real life experiences helped us drive through all our problems and accomplish what most people feel is impossible for undergraduate students.
Know a great startup story or want to share your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you. For more updates follow Kerala Insider on Facebook.