PODCAST: Superfood specialist LVL Life on the move from MNC to start-up

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: FNA Trailblazers, Podcast

In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast, we speak to LVL Life co-founders Avinash Aswani and Rohit Nanwani, entrepreneurs and first cousins who have moved from under the wings of a longtime family business to build a superfoods brand based on e-commerce.

When we last spoke to LVL Life​, the firm was seeing its sales surge during the COVID-19 outbreak due to its immunity and plant-based offerings being on trend at the time, in addition to being very e-commerce focused.

Both co-founders hail as fourth-generation family members in the five-decade-old Tolaram Group, an MNC doing everything from food to finance with a strong focus on Africa.

Stepping away from traditional management methods to start a business focused online appealed strongly to both as it was recognized to be ‘the way younger consumers shop’ ​and a ‘lucrative and resilient channel’ - ​something that was proven during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“E-commerce is also the most direct way we have found to directly connect with consumers, so even if offline sales start to climb, we still want to maintain our focus here,”​ Nanwani told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“Even long-term I don’t think we’re going to make any changes to our sales strategy, as we completely believe in having a direct line to our consumers and e-commerce is the way to do this.”

The most challenging thing for them was getting accustomed to working with developed markets such as Singapore and Australia as opposed to developing markets like Nigeria and Egypt where Tolaram has the most presence – but other than that, the transition was mostly supported by the family due to a recognition of the need for innovation.

“There’s a sense of individuality and listening to the consumer a lot more in a start-up, whereas in a family business, especially one that’s established, the approach is usually more [prescriptive] and top-down, looking at the market to identify gaps,”​ said Aswani.

“What we do at LVL Life is a lot more premium than what we are used to doing too, which has been really interesting.”

Nanwani also highlighted taking on external investors and raising capital as new experiences for them and the family as a whole, saying: “They’re more used to putting up their own capital expenditure and setting up a plant and moving forward then that’s that. [This investors topic] was the first sit-down conversation we had with them, and luckily they were understanding.”

“The family also sees plant-based and health and wellness as the progression and trend for the F&B industry moving forward.

“Maybe one day we’ll be able to marry our family’s learnings on solving hunger [in poor communities] together with ours, and be able to make health and wellness super super cheap – I’m talking highly nutritious instant noodles that can be sold for 10 cents or 20 cents even in the African market.”

Listen to the podcast below to find out more.

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