A startup manufacturing “romantic” incense sticks gets no love on Shark Tank India

A startup manufacturing “romantic” incense sticks gets no love on Shark Tank India
  • Va Perfumes manufactures “night incense sticks” which, its founder claims, leave the room fragrant enough to evoke romance.
  • Before founding Va Perfumes, Amit Hotchandani ran a business of rice exports.
  • The sharks were left thoroughly amused by the founder’s constant references to the sticks’ mood-setting capabilities.
  • However, the company did not find an investor on the panel.
From heartwarming pitches to inspiring stories, the Shark Tank India judges have heard it all - but the pitch for Va Perfumes was unlike any other. Founder Amit Hotchandani gave one of the most amusing pitches on the show when he presented his product – night incense sticks that he claimed set the mood for romance.

Va Perfumes manufactures devotional incense sticks for religious purposes - similar to many other brands in India. However, it also manufactures “night incense sticks”, which he claims leaves the room fragrant enough to evoke romance.

“Many people across the world experience the same boring night routine in their rooms. There’s nothing new - no excitement, spice, or fun. What do you do? How do you do it? The solution is the smell. Smell is a sense that can instantly lift up a person’s mood. At Va Perfumes, we make a revolutionary product - night incense sticks which leave the room so fragrant, it automatically puts you in a romantic mood,” said Hotchandani.

Suffice to say, his pitch and product left the sharks thoroughly amused with Anupam Mittal, founder of Shaadi.com, even inquiring about the origin of the product.

“I’m very curious to know how you came up with this idea to develop incense sticks that can light a room on fire - not in the literal sense, but in terms of desire… so what happened? Did a tragedy strike or did you feel the need for it?” asked Mittal, leaving the other sharks laughing.


A whiff of romance from West Africa

Originally an exporter of rice, Hotchandani turned to manufacturing incense sticks after his original business shut down due to a ban on exports. He actually got the idea from his partners in Nigeria, West Africa where, as per Hotchandani, romantic incense sticks are a popular product.

While his partners didn’t want to enter the India market, they were happy to share the recipe for romance, aka the ingredients and formula to make romantic incense sticks, with Hotchandani. And thus started Va Perfumes. Under its night incense sticks category, the brand produces varieties such as romance, classic love, extreme fun, and others.

The sharks, especially Aman Gupta (co-founder, boAt) though, had questions about the legitimacy of the product - especially after Gupta spent a fair amount of time inadvertently smelling the incense sticks on the set since he was sitting the closest to them. To this, Hotchandani responded that the sticks work best in a bedroom.

“It’s (the night incense sticks) tested but how can one prove it? Once it’s lit in the room, the mood is set. (But) it should be burned inside a room, at least. It won’t be effective if you burn it in a stadium,” remarked Hotchandani.


No time to stop and smell the incense sticks

Apart from achieving monthly sales of ₹10 lakh, Hotchandani talked about the large market size and high margins to persuade the sharks to invest, but the panel had no time for romance!

Namita Thapar, executive director at Emcure Pharmaceuticals, backed out because she couldn’t connect to the product, and Amit Jain, co-founder of CarDekho, backed out because he believed it would be a difficult product to scale.

Peyush Bansal, co-founder of Lenskart.com, didn’t invest in the product as he didn’t have any expertise in the field. Gupta also backed out while stating that he didn’t understand the business of night incense sticks and didn’t agree with selling both devotional and night incense sticks under the same brand.

Mittal, meanwhile, commended Hotchandani’s business acumen but didn’t think the startup was investable.

“You have a certain kind of fanaticism, and it’s often said there’s a fine line between insanity and greatness. Only you know if you’d succeed in making the business great in the future,” said Mittal.


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