Five Minutes With Abhinav Gaur of Tony’s Chocolonely

9 minute read | 11 Jan 2024

By Mark Emmons

Boomi highlights business thought leaders, the market trends they see, and the work their organizations are doing. And their hot takes on food integrations, too.

When Abhinav Gaur moved to Amsterdam four years ago, he couldn’t miss the distinctive bright red wrappers and thick bars of Tony’s Chocolonely found on market shelves. He thought the chocolate was so delicious that he packed plenty of those tasty treats for his family when he visited home in India.

However, he became even more intrigued with the brand upon learning about the Dutch company’s backstory. That’s when Gaur decided Tony’s Chocolonely was a business where he could make a real-world difference using his technology expertise.

“I like the motto of the company,” said Gaur, a middleware specialist. “We’re an impact company that makes chocolate. I feel lucky that I’m working for an organization that is working for the betterment of the world. I know it’s changed me personally.”

The company was founded in 2005 by three investigative journalists who uncovered how the world’s chocolate manufacturers benefited from systemic child labor and modern slavery in the growing of cocoa in West Africa. Tony’s Chocolonely’s mission is to sell fair-trade chocolate and ensure that African farmers who grow about 60% of the world’s cocoa yet still live in poverty get their proper share of profits. The bonus is that chocolate lovers worldwide can enjoy their favorite sweets with a clear conscience.

The company’s website provides an in-depth history of the long-standing inequity of the chocolate industry and how Tony’s Chocolonely is setting an example of how to end the injustice with its five sourcing principles for exploitation-free cocoa.

A crucial part of ensuring the company acts responsibly and turns a profit is running a cost-efficient business. Gaur oversees middleware integrations using the Boomi platform and is part of a technology team that thrives by streamlining and automating processes.

“Most of us eat chocolates, and it’s such a big part of our lives,” he said. “We never really give it a thought about how it is made and who are the people making this chocolate possible for our celebrations. When you realize what’s happening, you have a different perspective. Chocolate should not just be our celebration. It should be a celebration for someone else, too.”

Gaur discussed why integration and automation are more important than ever for businesses and how the guiding principle of Tony’s Chocolonely infuses everything they do within the company. Portions of our conversation were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us more about what it’s like to work at Tony’s Chocolonely?

Abhinav Gaur: When I started working in technology, I was like anyone in their 20s, thinking, “I just want to work for money.” But over the years, I realized that when people work for a cause, their attitudes change. Their passion and reason for going to the office change.

Tony’s is doing something on a humanitarian basis — that is what drives me in my work. It’s not just making money. In our meetings, we usually say that we are an impact company. This core value is everywhere and very evident in how people work at Tony’s. It makes you a better person.

How would you explain your role to a neighbor or friend? 

Abhinav Gaur: I usually tell people in layman’s terms that if you speak Dutch and I speak my native language, there should be someone in the middle as a translator who can help us communicate better. If we can communicate, we can live better. It’s the same way with computer systems. Every system does not understand each other. So, there should be someone in the middle to make it work. That is where I come in.

It is easy for non-technical people to understand when I explain it like this. Systems are like humans. They don’t always understand each other. Someone with a little brain should be in between the systems. I tell them that I am that brain.

Why is integration becoming more critical for every business?

Abhinav Gaur: When a company starts, the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is the heart of the business. But when the company grows, there are many more systems to connect.

The dependency on the middleware grows because the company’s internal and third-party systems will grow. There has to be some integration between all of them. Otherwise, it’s literally not possible to manage so many things. Also, since SaaS applications have grown in the market, they have to be communicating with each other. So, the middleware comes into that picture. There is a lot of dependency on middleware because the growth of companies means that the systems are growing, too.

How does Boomi make your life easier?

Abhinav Gaur: Boomi plays a big part in our growth because there are two key things in the business. First, the sales and marketing teams are shouting loudly about what we are doing. But how we operate on the technical side is how we are growing with supermarkets, not just in terms of the volume, but also covering the world map.

If you get a big order, there can be a manual system. But the preference has to be some sort of automation. You can’t just leave any customer waiting for their order or not have traceability. There has to be an automated system where the order is processed, gets sent to the third-party logistics company, and then the products get delivered. All these things have to be automated.

Boomi is the tool helping us do that because whenever there is an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) order. We pick it up and create that order in our ERP. We send it to the third-party logistics company, which sends us the shipment confirmations. Boomi automates all these things. Otherwise, it would have taken four days to process an order. Now, we are doing it in maybe 10 seconds.

It feels like there’s a message behind everything Tony’s Chocolonely does with the product.

Abhinav Gaur: Absolutely. The chocolate bars are divided into unequal sizes. That is a deliberate move, and I would say it’s a fantastic one by the creative team. It sets the tone because it is designed in a way that is unequally divided, like the chocolate industry. There is also a map. It’s an impression of the map of the west coast of Africa on the bar itself. Also, there’s a reason for the red packaging on the typical Tony’s bar. It was to raise the alarm. So, every bit of that chocolate bar speaks a story in itself.

What path took you from India to the Netherlands?

Abhinav Gaur: One of my friends was working in the Netherlands and also using Boomi, and he referred me for a job. I had a very settled and good life in India. I was not missing anything. But my curiosity took me here. I wanted to experience a very different society at least once. So, to grow, I just took this chance.

The Netherlands is a very open society. The beauty of the country lies in the fact that it is under seawater, and somehow, they have engineered it to stay afloat. There is this belief that there is always a solution when there is a problem. This is a society where, if you look for solutions, they might be everywhere.

We saved our favorite question for last. Do you have a preferred food integration?

Abhinav Gaur: I love butter chicken. It’s an Indian delicacy and more of a guilty pleasure for me with a little curry and chicken. It has a lot of ingredients, so it’s kind of an integration process because of the spices. You have to get the chicken marinated and add all those ingredients.

I try to make it healthy, but I don’t want to lose the taste. So, to make it balance, it’s a struggle. You can have five to six different kinds of spices, and you can’t say that the taste is because of one spice. That mixture gives you the richness of taste, and it has to be in the right amount. That is where the artistry lies.

Up Close With Abhinav Gaur

Role: Middleware Specialist at Amsterdam-based Tony’s Chocolonely

Home: Amere, the Netherlands. He’s originally from the city of Chandigarh in northern India.

Education: Bachelor of Engineering – Computer Science, Chitkara University

Career: His extensive technology background includes three years at Tony’s Chocolonely, as a senior consultant at Capgemini, and at Infosys. He has been using Boomi for seven years.

Cool Things About Abhinav: He speaks four languages, enjoys playing cricket and squash, and has written a book he hopes to publish. “I like to write. It’s just like my creative thing, which I have done for the last few years,” he said.

Read our case study to learn how Tony’s Chocolonely is using the Boomi platform to operate a cost-efficient, profitable business that also raises cocoa farmers from poverty.