How We Started A $15K/Month Online Cookie Business In India

Published: July 30th, 2023
Arushi Sachdeva
Founder, Dohful Cookies
$15K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
10
Employees
Dohful Cookies
from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
started October 2018
$15,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
10
Employees
Discover what tools recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on Dohful Cookies? Check out these stories:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Arushi & I’m the founder of Dohful Cookies. We are India’s first soft-baked cookie company. All our cookies are handcrafted, made fresh on order & shipped all across India.

As of now, we sell Dohful solely through our website, and some corporate gifting tie-ups. The cookies are 100% eggless, made with pantry ingredients, and without any preservatives or additives.

Our bestseller cookies - Choco Brownie Cookie and Choco Chunk Cookies are both soft and gooey and loaded with premium Belgium chocolates of varying intensities to give you a sinful chocolatey experience you’ll come back for.

Our cookies are also large-sized (palm sized) and individually wrapped so that each cookie can be enjoyed on its own. Back when we were starting up we assumed women living in urban cities would be more of our target market since they are more eager to try different experiences, and they have the spending power, but we couldn’t be more wrong.

Our customers are all young people, from the age group of 18-30 years of age, who might have traveled to different parts of the world, are aware of global food trends (through social media), and want to try high-quality global food products here in India as well. Irrespective of their gender and which part of the country they belong to.

I started Dohful with my husband Chaman back in 2018 and we run this business in a bootstrapped manner to date.

dohful-cookies

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I am an Engineer + Management graduate by education. My husband & co-founder Chaman is also of the same educational background. Both of us had never imagined we would make our career in the food industry.

We met in business school & started dating almost the same time we started our first business together. It was a small sandwich, burger based QSR (quick service restaurant) and we started it while we were still studying.

A few years later we got married and the Dohful story starts on our honeymoon itself.

We were on our honeymoon to Europe where we first got introduced to Soft baked cookies, and let me tell you, we both fell in love! We had never tasted something like that - so soft and gooey and buttery and bursting with flavors.

India is a biscuit-eating nation so all that we get here are small, dry, crunchy throughout kind of cookies (these are also biscuits in disguise IMO) and to be honest I have always hated them.

But when I first had the soft baked cookies in Europe, it was like a Big O moment. I had never imagined that cookies could taste so good. When I came back to Earth again, the first thought in my head was “Why don’t get cookies so good in India?”

Having been in the F&B industry for 4-5 years already, we knew what kind of food products worked well in India and we were mighty sure that real, genuine soft baked cookies would be appreciated as well by Indians as the rest of the world.

We also knew on that trip that we wanted to be the ones who introduced India to soft-baked cookies.

About a year later, we officially launched Dohful.com.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

Making real, genuine soft baked cookies for India was no small feat though. Our cookies had to be eggless. because India has the largest vegetarian population in the world and the majority of them don’t even eat eggs. So eggs were out.

Plus, we were starting an online cookie business because one of the challenges of our previous business was that it was too localized to an area. Though we had 6 odd outlets by the time, it still felt like we were starting from Zero every time we entered a new geographical location.

With Dohful, we wanted to change that. The cookies had to be delivered all across the country to each & every doorstep so they needed not to break in transit. To do this using all pantry ingredients, without any preservatives or additives was quite a journey for us.

Because both Chaman & I already had F&B experience, the first thing we did was to rent out a small space where we built our first Dohful kitchen. It was in that space that I spent more than 70 days making cookies for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner before we could finalize even one single cookie recipe.

And the day we finally cracked our first recipe - the Choco Chunk Cookie, it was like I had won it all. I think that was one of the happiest days of my life.

dohful-cookies

Describe the process of launching the business.

While I was busy trying out all the different versions of cookie recipes and testing them on various parameters, Chaman was the one who took command of everything tech. At the time, Shopify was just entering India and we capitalized on that big time.

Building a beautiful and professional website was important to us because that was going to be the only touch point where the customers would interact with us.

Ignoring any tenet of your business is simply delaying your success.

So even though, most beginners would consider Shopify to be an added expense, we did not shy away from taking that on and focussed completely on the look and feel of the website. And since it was just the 2 of us at the time, from deciding the Shopify theme to choosing the color scheme and doing the product shoots, etc, we did everything ourselves.

Another thing that we focussed a lot back then was SEO. We were writing articles about our journey, a few baking recipes we liked, etc on our Blog, and with time, it became a repository so strong that we started appearing first on the Google search engine for keywords like “Cookies India” without doing anything specifically for SEO. Our main aim was to share our baking knowledge and to build Dohful in public.

We were rewarded with a high SEO ranking and this was significant because around Christmas time a lot of Western companies who have teams here in India, want to send something to their employees. The keyword search ranking has brought us many paid orders so it was worth paying attention to when we were starting.

We were lucky enough to have a previous business to sustain us while we worked on Dohful but within a few months of running Dohful, we completely got out of our previous venture and started focussing on this full-time.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As I said, soft-baked cookies weren’t even a thing in India back in 2018. Or so we thought. Slowly & steadily, due to our efforts on social media channels, and our Youtube influencer partnerships, we started forming a community of like-minded cookie lovers who were not only aware of soft-baked cookies (because of their overseas travels) but were looking for them here in India.

We build our Insta & Youtube page by doing these partnerships as described in the following paragraphs. The more people associated with us, the more we grew. Apart from this, we also shared our baking knowledge on Youtube.

The first cohort of customers we acquired was by partnering with 2 Youtube channels we were absolute fans of. The best part was that though these Youtubers were producing great quality content, they were comparatively small at the time so they agreed to partner with an up-and-comer like us for little to no money at all.

One of those Youtube channels was by an English couple who happened to be in India at the time, we reached out to them via Instagram DMs and they agreed to talk about us in one of their vlogs. I remember we received huge ticket-sized orders after that video came out.

The other Youtube channel is called Ronnie & Barty by an Indian couple who were experts in film making & storytelling, living remote life in a hill station in India. Their video also brought many loyal customers to Dohful because these guys themselves have a loyal fan following.

Over the years, we have partnered with a lot of influencers to promote Dohful and in my experience, partnering with people who we connected with, as people, really helped. Whenever we signed on with someone we weren’t fans of and only worked with them because they had a following, it backfired on us.

Plus, we felt that Youtube videos gave more justice to our cookies because the long-form video format helped as people tried the cookies on camera and talked about them.

To bring back the customers, the one thing that has always worked for us in Dohful is my writing. I write Sunday Letters to all our subscribers and customers every single week & slowly we have built a following of 50,000 fam members. These emails get an average open rate of 30% and this increases further during the festive season.

dohful-cookies

dohful-cookies

dohful-cookies

dohful-cookies

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As I mentioned above, till now we are only serving Dohful Cookies through our website. But now, shortly we are launching on Amazon and are also opening a brick-and-mortar cookies + coffee store in the capital city of India - New Delhi.

The last 5 years of working in Dohful have proved that our initial hypothesis was true - soft-baked cookies are well accepted in India and now its time to take this cookie madness to the next level by taking it to the streets and serving the real genuine soft baked cookies - fresh out of the oven.

To date, we have served 60,000+ orders and have partnered with 50+ large-scale corporate clients in India for their employee service & gifting needs. About 90% of our orders still come through our website and we love this because it helps us get the rest of the 10% (corporate orders) inbound, without having any sales team at all.

We look forward to taking Dohful cookies omnichannel where both the brick & mortar and our online website will be complimenting each other and serve the specific needs of our customers.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When we were initially starting Dohful, both Chaman & I, came from a more traditional (offline) business vertical. We were both F&B entrepreneurs and our business was mostly run on serving our customers in the best way possible and effective operations handling. We never really had to work towards bringing the customers through the door.

In Dohful, it took us a long time to grasp the fact that without consistent marketing efforts, it would be impossible to run an e-commerce business. We learned all the digital marketing we could, on the job, when Covid hit.

And coincidentally, we were also discovered by most of our customers at that time only. But I think, mostly it was because the whole world was going towards online spending more, and in that wave, we ended up growing over 13X in one month.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our website is on Shopify.

For our weekly Sunday Letters, we use Flodesk which has helped take our newsletter writing game to a whole new level. We are not using any targeted email tool as of now, because I think the Sunday Letters work way better to engage our audience and it's more of a personal connection than just asking them to buy from us again and again.

For reviews, I think Judge.me is the best thing that happened to us. It makes it super easy for us to collect reviews from our customers without breaking the bank. Over the years we have collected 5000+ five star reviews and an overall rating of 4.7+.

We are also using a one-click checkout platform called Shopflo right now.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

For one, Starter Story has been a great help. There are so many marketing ideas that we have taken from Starter Story, as well as we were introduced to Flodesk also here at Starter Story when we read about another business using that tool.

Apart from that, both Chaman & I are avid readers and are always looking for the next book we can learn from. At the moment, I’m reading Trader Joe’s story and am finding many relevant learnings about how to build a product category from scratch in that book.

One of Chaman’s favorite books is Positioning: the battle for your mind by Al Ries. The book is full of examples of how businesses big and small created a space for themselves in the minds of their customers and is helpful for anyone trying to build a business.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Okay, this is specifically for food business enthusiasts. In a food business - there are 2 parts - food & business. I think most of the time, people make the mistake of learning about only one of them.

Any successful business, especially the food business is only possible if you have a deep understanding of both. And if there is any third angle involved, for instance, Dohful is an online cookie company - so we needed to understand the online game as well.

Ignoring any tenet of your business is simply delaying your success.

And this is easier said than done, I am aware of that, and somewhere, even after 8 years of being in business, I’m still learning on a daily basis. But that’s the life of an entrepreneur.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking for people who can work with us to improve our digital marketing game even further. There is so much we are not doing right now because of bandwidth issues.

A few positions open right now are - Video content Creator & Distributor, Amazon PPC expert, and Meta Ads Manager. For detailed information, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] and [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Related Business Ideas