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Chocolate Queen

At 15, Zeba Kohli fell in love with chocolates. Today at 37, her love for chocolates has only grown; she runs a successful business making delicious chocolates.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2004 10:04 IST
Kavita Devgan (Women's Feature Service)
Kavita Devgan (Women's Feature Service)

At 15, Zeba Kohli fell in love with chocolates. Today at 37, her love for chocolates has only grown; she runs a successful business making delicious chocolates by the name of Fantasie Fine Chocolates.

Kohli makes chocolates in over 1000 shapes and in more than 40 flavours. Over the years she has created several chocolate dreams - a chocolate jewellery box complete with chocolate rings, necklace (embedded with edible jujubes and marshmallows), a chocolate creative kit complete with puzzles for children and a variety of chocolate toys.

When Kohli took over the family business at the age of 18, Fantasie was retailed through one store with less than 12 varieties. Now it is has seven stores - in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. Fantasie is also sold on the net.

In April this year, Kohli held a chocolate sculpting event in Mumbai, where she invited three world-renowned sculptors to craft masterpieces out of huge chunks of chocolate. Recently, she held a chocolate evening, again in Mumbai, where the entire decor, from curtains to invitation cards, was done in chocolate. Mannequins were dressed in chocolate mini-skirts, stoles,
necklaces and hats. Guests were served fondue (melted flavoured cheese or pieces of food dipped in a hot sauce) and chocolate shots and medallions, rings and bracelets were presented as return gifts.

Mother of two daughters (aged six and eight), Kohli says she "dreams only in chocolate". She believes being a woman makes her more successful in this creative field.

A commerce graduate from Mumbai University, Kohli knew from the start that she wanted to join the family's chocolate business. At 14, she started visiting the family store to figure out what sells and how best chocolates can be sold in India. While she inherited the business early, Kohli decided that to make a success of it she needed to train herself in every aspect of chocolate making.

She armed herself with several certificates from training institutes like The Wolf in Switzerland, Richemont Professional School (for specialisation in making pralines) and a diploma from the Call Ebaut Chocolate College in Singapore.

Kohli was clear that she wanted to create a niche in the market for quality Indian chocolates. Her 'chocolate boutiques' don't keep stuff more than 10 days old. Before sending each designer chocolate out of the factory, Kohli's staff tastes it. Every month cash prizes are given to employees for identifying successful flavours.

Kohli says that Indian chocolates lose out because they are not very smooth.She agrees that India today does not figure anywhere on the international chocolate scene, mainly because of the monopoly of Swiss chocolate companies and poor quality products made at home. However, she feels consistency in quality will put India on the international chocolate map. Kohli has already made inroads in the foreign market and is selling chocolates in the UK and USA.

In India, her clients include film stars, business people and socialites. Consumer trend, she feels, is moving towards less sweet chocolates. Her personal favourites are liquid Mocca Mousse and exquisite Swiss hand-rolled truffles.

Kohli also conducts classes at Karen Anand's Gourmet Academy (Mumbai) to train adults and children in chocolate making.

What's her next fantasy? A chocolate play area for children and adults to create their own chocolates. The chocolate here would be unbelievably smooth and creamy with a shelf life of a year.

First Published: Mar 08, 2004 10:04 IST