scorecardTo not ‘police’ children’s creativity, moms create child-friendly art products & find investors on Shark Tank India
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To not ‘police’ children’s creativity, moms create child-friendly art products & find investors on Shark Tank India

To not ‘police’ children’s creativity, moms create child-friendly art products & find investors on Shark Tank India
Business4 min read
  • Two mompreneurs started Dabble, which produces child-friendly, toxin-free and development-friendly products for art and play.
  • It was incubated at NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore’s flagship business incubator.
  • Despite low sales, the founders’ vision and quality of products left the sharks impressed.
When it comes to creating safe and fun products for children, moms really do know best. At least, that was the case when mompreneurs Neha Bajaj and Karen Saldanha appeared on Shark Tank India S2 to pitch their startup Dabble.

Dabble produces child-friendly, toxin-free and development-friendly products for art and play, which are made from natural and safe ingredients like organic beeswax, natural waxes, coconut oil, etc. Founded in 2017, the Bangalore-based startup was incubated at NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore’s flagship business incubator.

“When we parents try to inspire creativity in our children, we buy art products for them. But when children try to become creative, we act like the traffic police. Why? For the safety of our children,” shared Saldanha on the show.

Impressed by their product and vision, Shaadi.com founder Anupam Mittal offered to come on board as a third partner.

Cooking more than just food!

Bajaj and Saldanha are both moms of children aged below 10. Saldanha holds an MBA degree in management and finance from the School of Communication and Management Studies, Cochin. She has worked with ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and PlatinumOne Learning Solutions in the past.

Bajaj, on the other hand, is a photographer who has worked with publications like Lonely Planet, Travel & Leisure, and others. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru, before pursuing a Master’s in photography from Light & Life Academy, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu.

Bajaj and Saldanha met at an expressive art therapy course in Bengaluru and became friends. Inspired by their own search for locally available safe art products, the two started Dabble in Bajaj’s kitchen - experimenting with various organic and natural materials. The experimentation continued with the duo commissioning a food technologist and cosmetologist to develop the formulations.

Ultimately, in 2019, Dabble sold its first product. Dabble, which started with crayons and finger paints, currently has 10 products for children aged 1 and above - art accessories like glue, canvas board, etc. along with art & craft kits and combo sets. The products are available on the company website and marketplaces like Amazon and FirstCry.

The paint brushes are ergonomically designed to make them easier for children to hold and use. Apart from regular crayons, Dabble also produces crayons in different shapes that are fun to play with. The products are designed keeping in mind the emotional and mental needs of children and are safe enough to cause no harm, even if children accidentally ingest them, claimed the founders.

“We are the first company in India to have printed the entire list of our ingredients on our packaging…We decided to take this step as mothers, to build transparency,” shared Saldanha on the show.

Dabble achieved sales of ₹17 lakh in FY20, ₹14 lakh in FY21, and ₹47.5 lakh in FY22. Its year-to-date FY23 sales stood at ₹33 lakh.

Products that should be flying off the shelves

Though impressed by the product, packaging, and vision, the Shark Tank India panel was concerned about the low sales, prompting sharks Peyush Bansal, co-founder of Lenskart and Namita Thapar, executive director at Emcure Pharmaceuticals, to back out.

“A product like yours should have been flying off the shelves. Sales are not strong, so I’m out. But I think you have a great product,” remarked Thapar.

However, Shaadi.com founder Anupam Mittal made an offer to go on board as a third partner, and not just as an investor. He thus offered ₹50 lakh for 33.33% equity in the company. This valued the company at ₹1.5 crore.

“I can give you ₹50 lakh but I'll come in as the one-third part. I’m not at all giving a valuation to the company. I want to be somebody who can come in as a business partner and help your business move in the right direction, and subsequently, scale up,” remarked Mittal.

While Sugar Cosmetics co-founder Vineeta Singh also backed out, boAt co-founder Aman Gupta offered an equity-and-debt deal – ₹15 lakh investment for 10% equity with ₹35 lakh debt at 0% interest. This also valued the company at ₹1.5 crore.

“I can’t be your co-founder where I want one-third of your share. I don’t want to run your company,” shared Gupta.

Both Gupta and Mittal tried convincing the founders on which deal was better. Ultimately though, the founders agreed to Gupta’s offer - an investment of ₹15 lakh for 10% equity with ₹35 lakh debt at no interest.

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