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This Bengaluru-based Gen Z startup is betting on healthy snack options

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Bengaluru-based TagZ Foods was launched in 2019 by Anish Basu Roy and Sagar Bhalotia with a mission to help urban Gen Z consumers eat healthy and lead a more active lifestyle.

“We are making sure that consumers no longer have to choose between the fried fatty chips they love and the boring health bars and makhanas. We continue to launch innovative and better-for-you versions of the snacks that consumers already love – chips, dips, chocolates, and cookies,” says Anish Basu Roy, Co-founder of TagZ Foods.

Sustainability is among the top agendas of the brand. 

“At the same time, we are a plastic neutral brand as well. We recycle the same amount of plastic that we generate. As a GenZ brand, we want to make sure we leave the planet in a better shape than what we inherited it in,” Anish adds.

TagZ launched in the market with a range of popped potato chips that claim to have 50 percent less fat than fried ones. Popping, the co-founder says, is a new technology, which involves using high temperature and pressure on the finest quality potato. 

“We have two ranges of popped chips – one is a range of classic Indian flavours such as Masala, Cream Onion, and Salt, and the other is a range of international bar snacks such as Beer n Barbeque, Thai Vodka Tom Yum, and Italian Wine n Cheese,” Anish says.

“All our popped potato chips have no cholesterol, no trans fat, no artificial colors or preservatives, no palm oil and no gluten,” he adds.

The startup has also recently launched its range of international gourmet dips in flavours such as pepper jack, garlic aioli, ranch, and chipotle.

TagZ claims to have sold nearly 50 lakh units in the last 18 months. “More importantly, we have helped improve the snacking habits of lakhs of consumers in India,” says the entrepreneur.

The startup operates on an omni-channel model with an equal focus on consumers buying from its own website, ecommerce/hyperlocal channels such as Swiggy Instamart, Amazon, Bigbasket, Blinkit (earlier, Grofers), etc., and various premium offline stores as well.

“We are available in over 30+ online platforms including our website and over 2,000 premium offline stores such as Nature’s Basket, Shell Select, Wellness Forever, and Ratnadeep, among others across the country,” says Anish.

The team

Anish is based in (and in love with) Bengaluru and has worked with brands like Nokia and Coca-Cola in various sales and marketing leadership positions across Asia. Prior to TagZ, he had co-founded and was the CEO of Shotang, a tech-enabled retail distribution platform. 

He has also been an active mentor with Coworks Foundry and the TiE YE programme.

Sagar is an IIT Bombay alum with over seven years of experience across startups such as Zovi.com, Freshmenu, HealthifyMe, Oyo, and Quikr. He brings product thinking and is a design and creative asset to the team.

“It’s a very lean team of only 19 young folks who have built this business thus far. We started with less than Rs 1 crore of initial investment, and managed to overcome initial product development challenges and COVID-19-led challenges,” says Anish.

The way ahead

TagZ, the co-founder says, is focussed on the top 30-40 million households across the country to begin with, alongside exports opportunities as well. 

“We are looking at building the largest premium snack brand across categories of chips, dips, cookies, and chocolates. While we believe there is a clear opportunity to build a Rs 1,000 crore brand in these categories in the longer term, we are focussed on hitting a profitable Rs 100 crore revenue mark in the immediate term,” says Anish.

“Our primary competition is with brands such as Pringles and KETTLE in the premium potato chips category, and Cornitos and Doritos in the adjacent nachos category,” he adds.

The startup has so far raised nearly $1 million from 9Unicorns, Venture Catalysts, Agility Ventures, Dexter Angels, and marquee angel investors such as Arjun Vaidya (Venture Lead – India, Verlinvest) and Umang Bedi (Co-founder, VerSe Innovation).

“Our sales volume has grown 30x in the last 18 months since inception; our net revenues in the last six months have grown 4x,” Anish says.

“About 40 percent of our sales have come from repeat customers at a best-in-class average order value of Rs 711. These repeat customers of TagZ Foods have returned to buy 3.2X times more of the items on offer over the last eight months from the company’s website,” he adds.

Last fiscal, TagZ has generated a revenue of Rs 1.5 crore and this fiscal year, the startup is eyeing for Rs 15 crore ARR (annual recurring revenue).

TagZ has over 70 distributors across the country and is available in stores in most major metros in the country, and even in Tier-II towns such as Aizawl, Imphal, Guwahati, Pathankot, and Ludhiana, among others. 

 “We are looking at creating the largest urban GenZ snack brand, which will forever change the way consumers snack on potato chips, gourmet dips, chocolates, and cookies. We intend to achieve this through our innovative products, sustainable packaging, and truly international brand,” Anish says.

TagZ is present in over 12 cities in India and has recently started exporting to markets such as the UAE.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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Akros Technologies, an AI-powered asset management platform, raises funding from Z Holdings • TechCrunch

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Artificial intelligence is taking over almost every industry. The investment and finance industry is no exception. In Deloitte’s 2019 report, the firm reveals that AI is transforming the financial ecosystem to reduce costs and make operations more efficient by providing automated insights and alternative data, analysis and risk management.

Technology such as AI has digitized the finance sector, ranging from payments and remittances to lending. However, asset management is still in the nascent stage of digitization, according to the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Akros Technologies, Jin Chung.

Akros Technologies wants to disrupt the current asset management industry via its AI-driven asset management software platform that mines market data for stocks. Akros just raised $2.3 million from Z Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital wholly owned by Z Holdings, which also owns the Japanese messaging app Line and internet portal Yahoo Japan.

Akros intends to strengthen strategic ties with Z Holdings via strategic investment, the startup said. The latest funding, which brings Akros’s total amount raised to $6.1 million since its 2021 inception, will help Akros to scale its software platform and asset management products and ramp up its users, including local and global financial institutions and fintech companies.

The outfit is already in discussions with potential partners to expand its AI-powered product called portfolio management as a service, or PMaaS, an all-in-one operating system for portfolio management. Chung explained to TechCrunch that PMaaS “enables B2B clients such as financial institutions, fintech startups and robot-advisors to launch their own exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without having to set up ETF teams and infrastructure.”

He added that it expects to secure more than five B2B clients in the first quarter of 2023.

The startup claims that its AI-powered portfolio management platform can reduce “the overall cost structure [of] the traditional fund development,” including management fees and unnecessary fees involved in the investment process, by more than 80%. The outfit aims to maximize the finance management performance of data-driven ETFs and offer a portfolio management solution via the PMaaS for Akros’s users to help them compete with global ETF institutions like Vanguard or JPMorgan.

In August, Contents Technologies launched Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, and Korea Entertainment ETF, on the NYSE Arca Exchange under the ticker KPOP, using Akros’s PMaaS solution to develop the ETFs. In addition, Akros listed an AI-driven target income ETF, called Akros Monthly Payout ETF (ticker: MPAY), on the NYSE in May with monthly distributions at an annualized target rate of 7%, according to the startup.

To build a slew of investment strategies that lower the cost of portfolio modeling and generate scores of investment portfolios, Akros applies a generative AI model based on a decision transformer, which predicts future actions through the sequencing model, Chung said, adding the company also employs GPT-3 natural language processing (NLP) to analyze unstructured language data.

Akros plans continuously to enhance its engineering technology by bolstering its business to disrupt the asset management market and attract new partners across the globe, including Japan, Singapore and the U.S., co-founder and chief executive officer Kyle Moon said in a statement.

Founded by CEO Moon, CSO Jin and chief marketing officer Justin Gim, Akros employs seven people.

Co-founders of Akros Technologies: (Left to right) Justin Gim, Kyle Moon and Jin Chung. Image Credits: Akros Technologies

Moon previously worked for Qraft Technologies as head of AI research and CSO and had experience listing four ETFs on NYSE. Before co-founding Akros, Gim had more than nine years of experience in the asset management industry; Chung did research work for Bayesian deep learning in autonomous driving cars at Oxford Robotics Institute.

In March, Akros raised $3.75 million in funding from PeopleFund, a South Korean peer-to-peer lending platform. The company declined to provide its valuation when asked.

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