Taking the Past into the Future: The Story of Gulabs

Khakras, Sharbats, Pickles and Masala Powders line the shelves of Gulabs’ online store. One peek at their website, and you are sure to be reminded of the snacks of your childhood, all homemade, using traditional recipes by your mother and grandmother and stored in bottles and boxes for everyday use in the future.

From Gulab Aunty’s Kitchen

The matriarch behind this array of snacks is Ms. Gulab Bhandari, fondly called ‘Gulab Aunty’ by all, following the example of her nephew Mr. Naveen Bhandari, who is her founding partner in starting Gulabs, and is now the Managing Director. Ms. Bhandari’s many homemade Indian snacks and savouries have been something of a rage among the North and South Indian diaspora of Chennai. When the demand for these delicacies grew, Gulabs, named as a tribute to her, was launched in 2015 as a brand, with the help of her nephew, a serial entrepreneur.

Gulab Bhandari is the Chief Chef of Gulabs, and a stickler for simple yet important matters such as decades of experience in cooking, handpicking raw materials for products as per select requirement, slow cooking, and batch wise production method.


Mr. Naveen Bhandari, MD of Gulabs

Says the Managing Director Mr. Naveen Bhandari, ‘Gulab aunty is a firm believer of being involved “on-the-site” and supervises the production process end to end. She was the inspiration behind starting Gulabs. When we saw the kind of fondness people had for the items, and that aunty was making it single handedly, there was obviously a gap between the supply and demand. That’s when we just knew, we had to bring it under the organized sector, with proper packing, lab approvals, FSSAI licensing and bring it to the mass consumers, whilst maintaining the recipes, quality and taste.’

Gulabs sells sharbats, masalas, pickles and preserves as well, but the hot favourite among the buyers seem to be their Khakras. ‘Khakhras are our specialty,’ says Mr. Bhandari. ‘So our khakhras are roasted, not fried, and this roasting happens in ghee (unlike the oil, as in usual cases). These khakhras are also thin and crunchy and crisp. We have them in 2 sizes, 2.5 inch diameter and 6 inch diameter.’

The aim of the Gulabs team is to take the glorious heritage of age-old recipes for traditional Indian snacks to the millenials. ‘It is our responsibility, we feel, to keep alive the traditional food and pass on this culture to the new age,’ says Mr. Bhandari. ‘Having said that, in the last few months, things have changed (to our benefit). Although globalization has occurred in other domains, the consumers’ behavior pattern towards food consumption is quite different. People, including the millennials, are eager and excited to go back to the traditional recipes and methods of cooking, they want to experiment different ancient cuisines,’ he added.


A Delicious Vision

First started in October 2015 in Chennai, Gulabs is now present in Kodaikanal, Goa, Pune, Mumbai, Chattisgarh, Kerala and Bangalore. When asked how they see Gulabs growing in the future, Mr. Bhandari says, ‘We see Gulabs growing the product range by at least 15 – 20 SKUs in the next 6 months and to the rest of India in the next 3-6 months. Exports will start after 10 months or so.’

As for the strength of Gulabs, they focus entirely on the finesse in the taste of the products which are made using age old recipes, therefore ensuring their high quality. This is the secret behind Gulabs’ popularity. Speaking about his vision for Gulabs, Mr. Naveen Bhandari says, ‘The ultimate vision is to make Gulabs a household name, nationally and internationally. The traditional snack items of Rajasthan must be introduced to one and all.’

Find their delectable range of traditional snacks right here!


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