Startup Avacraft Finds Success Disrupting A Slowly-Evolving Industry: Cookware

Dom DiFurio The Dallas Morning News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After she couldn't find the types of pot and pans that she wanted to cook with, Asha Kangralkar literally took the matter into her own hands. She built a cookware company that in its fifth year expects to cross $2 million in revenue by the end of 2020.

Dallas

One of 42-year-old Avacraft founder Asha Kangralkar’s guilty pleasures has always been attempting restaurant recipes in her own kitchen.

Sometimes, the cookware she used didn’t meet expectations. So she would contact the manufacturer to explain a flaw or design feature that wasn’t working for her.

Why isn’t the wall of this pan deeper to prevent oil splatter? Why doesn’t this pot have spouts on both sides for easier pouring? Why is it so heavy? What if I’m dealing with arthritis and can’t lift this?

“I used to get answers, but not convincing answers,” Kangralkar said, describing many of the responses as standard script.

With the support of her husband, Vivek, Asha began building a cookware company in 2015 that would be more responsive to customers and provide quality, accessible cooking utensils at reasonable prices. Now in its fifth year of doing business, Avacraft expects to cross $2 million in revenue by the end of 2020. The small business, which is still run out of the family’s home in Plano, has been doubling or tripling its revenue every year, according to the Kangralkars. Vivek left his job at Texas Instruments in 2017 to support Asha and Avacraft full time. In October, Avacraft’s four-piece pasta pot set was featured on an Amazon-sponsored Good Morning America segment promoting small businesses on the company’s e-commerce platform. The product was recommended by none other than actress Jessica Alba, sending Avacraft sales through the roof. The Kangralkars hadn’t expected a celebrity endorsement, nor did they think Avacraft would be the sole small business displayed on the sides of 70 of Amazon’s fulfillment vans in Dallas-Fort Worth. The advertising is part of a $100 million effort by Amazon across eight U.S. cities to boost small business sales this holiday season. “It was like a literal receipt that we are doing something good,” Vivek said. Asha and Vivek are engineers by trade, with humble roots that trace to their hometown of Belgaum in India. “Once a year, we got new clothes. That used to be such a joyful day for us,” Asha said of her childhood. The couple met while attending college in India and immigrated to the U.S. in 2010. Now their two daughters want to be entrepreneurs as well and are helping with the annual task of handwriting holiday thank you letters to Avacraft customers. Staying close to customers and responsive to their input has been the foundation of Avacraft’s success, according to the Kangralkars. “For us, the priority is whenever customers ask a question we should be available then and there to answer that,” Asha said. “If they come back and say ‘[The product] would have been much better if you changed this,’ we’ll tweak all those designs in the next production line.” In the cookware industry, Asha and Vivek’s engineering minds saw a user experience problem that could feasibly be solved. And since they didn’t see any companies wholeheartedly addressing the problem, they decided to do it themselves. The two bootstrapped the company with capital from Vivek’s previous startup ventures in North Texas, learning the ins and outs of the industry as they went and even teaching themselves metallurgy – the science behind metals and how to mold them. Trying to find the right manufacturer to partner with, however, took more than six months. “Many people just hung up on us,” Asha said. The couple reached out to as many as 50 manufacturers before finally finding one willing to grow with them, Asha said. The control they were looking to have over the end product wasn’t something many manufacturers wanted to work with them on, the couple said. “We define the quality criteria for the people who work on it, and then we actually will go and stand there on the belt to teach people what exactly they should see,” Vivek said. Avacraft is planning to expand its logistics capacity in the next year beyond the warehouses they use for fulfillment in Los Angeles. The company hasn’t accepted any external funding and doesn’t have plans to sell, according to the Krangalkars. “We’re actually having so much fun with this,” Vivek said. Avacraft has potential, they said, and the couple hasn’t even connected with retail outlets like Walmart or Costco that might be interested in carrying their cookware. “What motivates us a lot is the emails from customers, they’re really amazing,” Vivek said, “And then the second one is these sort of nuggets happening, like Jessica Alba. And that just inspires us more.” ___ (c)2020 The Dallas Morning News Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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