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Unleashing the power of social media stars

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Social media celebrities including famous YouTubers and Instagramers have become an asset for brands. Today, each social media celebrity has behind him / her, a team – from managers to personal secretaries to manage their brand associations and further their reach. Kabita Singh, who started off with having YouTube videos sharing her cooking skills, is now a proud owner of a brand – Kabita’s Kitchen Masala Mix. Helping her in this endeavour is the India Food Network

The story of Kabita Singh is one that needs to be told. Starting off with YouTube videos, she would share easy to follow recipes. A few years down the line, today, in association with Rajeshree Naik, founder, Ping Network (founder of India Food Network), she has entered the world of FMCG and retail with her own brand. Her story accentuates the power and reach of social media that can convert a common man into a star and like how!

Excerpts from Kabita’s journey

The YouTuber started her YouTube channel in November 2014 and it was her 89th video that got really popular, the recipe was bread gulab jamun. My channel started growing exponentially and within months it reached 100000 subscribers, this is the ť rst milestone for many creators because YouTube provides a silver play button after reaching this milestone. Not stopping at that, she put in more efforts in her videos and her channel crossed 1 million subscribers at the end of 2016. YouTube provides a gold play button after crossing a million subscribers and her channel was among the first few channels in India to reach this milestone.

milestone. Elaborating on the journey further on, Kabita Singh, founder, Kabita’s Kitchen Masala Mix shares, “I kept working hard and my channel kept growing and now Kabita’s Kitchen family is 13 + million strong. In my view the highlight of the channel is feedback from viewers, many of viewers’ comment saying that they have never done cooking but they were able to do cooking because of the simplicity of my videos. I think the love and feedback of my channel’s viewers is the biggest highlight for me. I think another highlight is that my recipes were of help to millions during COVID as I started focusing on very basic recipes keeping the situation in mind.”

Beating the odds

The initial challenges that Kabita faced were related to understanding the technicalities of shooting with equipment and tools which were basic to say the least. She shares, “When I started, I did not have camera and editing skills, I did not have a setup and I did not want to invest a lot to start with.” To overcome this, she invested time and efforts in learning camera skills and editing from YouTube itself. She started in her home kitchen with the basic camera and basic lighting that she had with her.

Additionally, since she wasn’t a trained chef, her cooking knowledge was limited to a number of recipes. “Starting a YouTube cooking channel meant that I had to post hundreds of recipes. I started posting some recipes, I got comments from my viewers saying that my videos are very relatable because they covered very minor details of cooking and my setup was very relatable to them because I was cooking in my kitchen rather than a studio. Another big challenge was voice over because my home was in an apartment on the second Ŧ oor and it wasn’t possible to do voice overs during the day because of noise. I started doing voice overs late at nights when it was quiet and my kids were asleep,” she adds.

On the challenges that she had to overcome for the launch of her brand, Kabita narrates, “The biggest challenge I faced was ť nding the right partner. As I am a creative person, it was important to have a right partner on board who would take care of the other nuances in the business. Luckily, we didn’t have to meet a lot of people, as we already had a long relationship with India Food Network, so we decided to partner with them. The other challenge was in the product development stage. As I was developing these masalas during the lockdown, a lot of raw masalas weren’t available in the market due to supply challenges. We were also looking to launch this earlier, but it took longer than expected. But once we launched it, we expanded rapidly.”

Market evolution

What perhaps helped Kabita establish herself was being one of the ť rst movers in her category. She explains, “When I started on YouTube there were very few cooking channels, and in my category which is home chefs, there were even fewer.”

Today, she shares that there has been a considerable rise in home chefs posting their cooking videos thus accentuating the fact that social media has made even common man a mini star from the comforts of their own home. “Another change is in the content consumption pattern, from last 2 years, short form content is becoming more popular and it is eating signiť cantly into long format content viewership,” Kabita adds.

Getting professional

Kabita was quick to recognise the fact that to make it big, she had to follow a professional route instead of randomly posting videos with the basic video and editing skills she had. Citing the changes she had to adopt on gaining recognition, she reveals, “As my channel started growing I started investing some of my earnings in lighting and cameras to improve the quality of my videos. I hired a cinematographer and editor and have a better setup. Considering I am in it for a long haul, I fixed a schedule to post my videos every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I started following the pattern in deciding what to post next – recipes requested by viewers, seasonal and festival recipes, recipes which are in trend and recipes which I love cooking.”

Association with India Food Network

Kabita caught the attention of India Food Network and even before the launch of the masala brand, she had inked a few associations with the company. Elaborating on this, she shares, “Our Association with India Food Network started way before the masala business. Two of my channels which are Kabita’s lifestyle and Kabita’s Kitchen quick recipes are managed by IFN. Even before that, we worked with India Food Network on many brand deals. We enjoyed working with them and they like working with us. During COVID a lot of viewers were commenting that not a lot of masalas were available which was making it diŨ cult to follow recipes which needed many masalas. This made me think that if there were self-suŨ cient blends, it could simply make cooking and shopping of spices easier. I decided to foray into the category and partnered with India Food Network, as they had a better understanding of the market.” 

Kabita adds, “We started the research and development for this in 2020 and cut to November 2022, this vision became a reality, thanks to our collaboration with India Food Network.” Kabita is responsible for making the spices and organically promoting it through her recipes. 

India Food Network is a digital food publisher that has been in operation for 10 years. As part of PING Network, India Food Network aims to be a catalyst for creators through content, commerce and community. With a community of over 2.5 million food enthusiasts, India Food Network is a go-to destination for video content related to recipes, restaurant reviews, street food etc. The company has worked with some of the largest food brands and award-winning IPs in the F&B category, creating over 10,000 recipe videos in the last decade. In addition to creating content, India Food Network also operates a food education vertical called Start2Bake. 

Behind the scenes of Kabita’s Kitchen Masala Mix

Rajeshree Naik, Founder, Ping Network (founder of India Food Network) shares, “Our manufacturing partner for our blended spice product is Nima Spices, based in Baroda. Nima Spices has a proven track record of manufacturing for both international and national brands, which made them a strong candidate for our partnership. Their expertise in taste and Ŧ avour aligned perfectly with our vision for the product, and we were able to work closely with them to create a winning taste based on Kabita’s recipes.” Nima Spices is a women-dominated manufacturing setup.

As of now, Kabita’s brand is available on Amazon and soon they will be launching the brand on Big Basket. Our goal is to expand our reach to other e-commerce partners, and by the end of May, we hope to be available on every quick delivery and grocery platform,” adds Rajeshree. Offline, the brand has kiosks in select Smart Bazaars, and they have been running ground events for customers, including Meet & Greets and cook-alongs. “These events have been insightful, as we’ve been able to get first-hand feedback and appreciation from our customers. Our plan is to expand our offline presence in the next few months,” Rajeshree adds.

The next step for the brand is to expand into international markets, specifically the US and UAE. She shares, “By Q3, we plan to be available in these markets through both offline and online channels, including general trade and e-commerce here in India. Currently, we have 3 SKUs, which is our blended spice product range. However, we plan to introduce additional SKUs in the future, which will complement our existing product and expand our offerings to our customers.”

Marketing and distribution

According to Rajeshree, the brand in a short span of time has become Amazon’s Choice in the blended spices space. On the distribution strategy in place, she shares, “We have been deliberate in our distribution strategy, taking the time to get everything right before scaling up. However, we are confident that by Q3 of this year, we will see a significant increase in sales volume, with a projected 10X growth in India alone.”

On the marketing initiatives, Rajeshree adds, “We have implemented several marketing and customer reach initiatives to raise awareness of our brand and products. One of our main strategies is creating kiosks for the Smart Bazaar stores where our products are available, along with promoters to help customers learn more about our products. We have also organized a few ground events, including Meet & Greets and cookalongs, which have been successful in engaging with customers and getting valuable feedback.”

In addition to these initiatives, the brand is also leveraging the interest in recipes on social media to reach potential customers. “As our products are based on Kabita’s recipes, we have a built-in audience of fans who are interested in trying our products.

However, we plan to implement a more robust marketing plan as we expand our product range from three SKUs to eight or nine SKUs and increase our distribution,” she adds.

As the brand expands into new geographic markets, the company plans to introduce regional variations to local tastes and preferences. 

On a concluding note, Rajeshree shares, “Our partnership with Kabita’s Kitchen is particularly special because of the mutual respect we have for each other, our complementary strengths, and our shared investment in the success of Kabita’s Kitchen Masala Mix as a leading D2C brand.”

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