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REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Million dollar deal.
STARS LOVE TO LOVE STARTUPS

Why is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars eyeing a young Indian yoghurt brand?

By Niharika Sharma

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone will now be the face of the flavoured yoghurt brand Epigamia, following her investment in its manufacturing company.

The Padmaavat actor, on May 14, announced a major deal with Drum Foods International through her strategic initiative arm, KA Enterprises.

“With Deepika coming on board, not just as an investor and a brand ambassador, but as a strategic partner and a shareholder, we have found a perfect fit for the company who shares the same values we do,” Rohan Mirchandani, co-founder of Drum Foods, told Quartz.

The company, however, did not share details of her investment.

“Celebrities are looking for diversified portfolios. They want to be associated with firms that can complement their image, and with Padukone partnering with a brand like Epigamia, it’ll help the brand in getting more consumers,” Ashok Madharavally, former director of NASSCOM 10000 Startups, an incubation programme, told Quartz.

Drum Foods was founded in 2008 by former Wharton School alumni Rohan Mirchandani, Ganesh Krishnamurthy, Rahul Jain, and Uday Thakkar. Since the 2015 launch of Epigamia, its other products have quickly found their way into Indian households, making it one of the leading startups in the branded fresh FMCG space.

At present, Epigamia sells Greek yoghurt, artisanal curd, snack packs, MishtiDoi (a sweet variant of curd), and smoothies. “Our products are the contemporary take of Indian traditional sweets and beverages,” said Mirchandani.

The company now plans to widen its distribution to 50,000 outlets in over 25 cities in the next two years.

Currently, Epigama sells through more than 10,000 platforms, including online retailers BigBasket and Amazon, besides stores in the Delhi National Capital Region, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai.

So how does a Bollywood celebrity fit into the scheme of things?

“The company believes in fusion, (and) she (Padukone) serves as its best example—as a liberal modern woman with strong  traditional values. Her involvement will accelerate the pace of reach of our products,” according to Mirchandani.

Padukone, not the first time entrepreneur

This is not the first time Padukone has ventured into entrepreneurship.

The star owns All About You, a clothing label for online shopping site Myntra, and has funded startups like online furniture rental platform Furlenco and beauty products marketplace Purplle.

In 2018, she became the first woman to make it to the top five of Forbes India’s annual list of India’s highest earning celebrities.

As of 2018, she endorsed over 20 brands and had a brand value of $102.5 million (Rs720 crore), according to a celebrity brand valuation report by US-based consultancy firm Duff and Phelps.

The Bajirao Mastani actor is also the latest among many Bollywood celebrities to fund startups and ventures.

In 2018, Priyanka Chopra funded dating app Bumble and became its brand ambassador while also serving as its adviser. Septuagenarian Amitabh Bachchan has invested in local search service platform Just Dial. In 2015, he also invested $250,000 in Ziddu, a cloud service platform.

Filmmaker, actor, and singer Farhan Akhtar in 2015 invested in film discovery app Flickbay. Other actors like Suniel Shetty and Rannvijay Singh have also funded various startups.

“Funding from a celeb investor is helpful for the startups too, it helps the business in expanding its consumer base and gives a credibility to the brand, therefore, it’s a win-win situation for both the parties,”Madharavally said.