How a personal pain point led Parul Sharma to launch protein-based cookies, bites

 How a personal pain point led Parul Sharma to launch protein-based cookies, bites

Parul Sharma, Co-Founder Gladful

Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

In India, more than 80 per cent people, and 73 per cent of the urban affluent population have protein deficiency. What rues more is that a majority of protein brands target the gym-goers ignoring the “normal people”. Protein is the building block of the human body and is crucial for everyone, especially for kids in developing age. The lack of it impacts muscle growth, immunity, and oxygenation of cells, hormones, hair, skin, and nails. What’s surprising is that more than 93 per cent of Indian moms are unaware about the importance of protein.
Driven by a mission to provide holistic and accessible solutions to protein deficiency, Parul Sharma launched Gladful, a brand that offers a range of easily accessible, inexpensive, and highly digestible protein pre-mixes, protein cookies, and date nut-based dessert bites. In a detailed interview, Sharma tells us more:

How and when did the idea of Gladful come to you? Please share the story behind its inception.
Gladful was an epiphany that arose from a personal pain point. A mundane paediatric consultancy for one kid made me realise how protein deficiency can affect a child’s growth and daily activity. The gravity of this issue became apparent, triggering a profound realisation and igniting a passion for addressing this pressing concern. Discovering protein inadequacy in our customary Indian diet was a startling revelation. Unlike fats, which can be stored in our bodies, proteins necessitate daily consumption to meet our nutritional requirements. This fundamental understanding was further magnified by the realisation that numerous parents shared similar concerns, yet overlooked the vital role of this essential macronutrient. All these revelations catalysed the inception of Gladful.

Once you had the thought in mind, how did you go about setting up the business?
After conceiving the idea of Gladful, I embarked on the journey of setting up the business. Drawing upon my extensive FMCG background, which encompassed 14 years of valuable experience in the consumer packaged goods industry, working with renowned brands such as Cadbury Gems and Five Stars at Mondelez India, I possessed a profound understanding of the target audience – mothers and children. With a deep-rooted passion for addressing the protein deficiency issue and armed with insights into the needs and desires of our target consumers, I decided to quit job.
To complement my expertise and broaden the scope of Gladful, I enlisted the support of my younger brother, Manu, who brought with him extensive experience working with high-growth startup companies like Insta-cash (founding member), Veris, and Winzo. Together, we embarked on an arduous journey of relentless effort, conducting exhaustive research, and executing our vision with unwavering determination.


What kind of market research and R&D went into developing the products?
Before the launch of Gladful, we conducted an extensive market research to gain deep insights into protein consumption habits, awareness levels, and misconceptions prevalent among parents across India. We engaged in direct conversations with hundreds of parents, aiming to understand their knowledge, concerns, and attitudes toward proteins.
The research revealed a startling fact that over 93 per cent of mothers lacked awareness regarding the significance of protein. Many believed that protein was essential but had limited knowledge about the recommended daily intake.
We found that protein consumption was low across different cities, economic backgrounds, and age groups, which challenged the prevailing notion that protein deficiency was confined to specific demographics or social strata.
During our interactions, we encountered numerous myths surrounding proteins, which were prevalent not only among the general population but even within intellectual circles. These myths ranged from misconceptions such as two bowls of dal (lentils) being sufficient for meeting protein requirements, protein causing weight gain or digestive issues, and proteins being exclusive to bodybuilders. All this made us realise that we had to dispel these myths and provide accurate, evidence-based information to our customers.

How much investment went into it? Is it bootstrapped or angel-invested business?
Gladful was preseeded by Antler India, and now also backed up influential investors like Huddle, Shiprocket, and Angel investors such as Shantanu Deshpande (Bombay Shaving), Ankita Vasisht (Strongher Ventures), Pawan Nanda (Winzo Games). Gladful

How much family support did you get?
Significant. Initially, there were concerns and discussions about the potential risks involved in leaving a stable job and the financial security it provided. However, after open and honest conversations, I was able to convince them of the importance of pursuing my entrepreneurial vision.
I am immensely grateful to my family, including my parents, my husband Sudhir, and my children, for their understanding and support during this decision. Their encouragement and belief in me allowed me to take a leap of faith and embark on this entrepreneurial journey without the added worry of financial burdens.
In addition to my family, early believers in our idea, such as Antler and Huddle, have been incredibly supportive. They have provided us with valuable expertise and networks, giving us the freedom to pursue our vision for Gladful.

Since your brother works with you, please share with us your work domains. How do you handle disagreements that are bound to erupt occasionally?
As co-founders of Gladful, my brother Manu and I have designated work domains based on our expertise. I oversee product development, marketing, branding, and customer relations, while Manu focuses on operations, finance, and technology. Disagreements are handled through open communication, listening to each other’s perspectives, and finding compromises or alternative solutions to ensure the success of Gladful. Our shared passion and mutual respect drive our collaborative efforts.


Which is the best-selling product.
One of our best-selling products is our sprouted protein breakfast. It has gained popularity among customers due to its convenience and high nutritional value.

Are there any plans to enter the adult market or do you want to keep yourself in the children’s niche?
While initially targeting the children’s market, we quickly realised that our products have broader appeal and can meet the nutritional needs of the entire family. We understand that protein deficiency is not limited to children alone, and adults can also benefit from our offerings. As a result, we aim to cater to the diverse needs of families and provide nutritious options that are suitable for all age groups. Our goal is to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of protein-rich foods, regardless of their age.

What are your future plans?
I want to make Gladful the most preferred brand for families. We are expanding our sprouted protein breakfast range and introducing new products based on sprouts and millets. Additionally, we aim to collaborate with partners and promote healthy eating habits through education. Our commitment remains to offer accessible and nutritious food options for families to enjoy.



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