Running a B2C venture is said to be challenging, it is also said that seeing success in food business is also not easy – What made you start Eatfresh and how has your journey been since?
In 2015, we had built out Ovenfresh, a 50 outlet bakery chain in Chennai and Bangalore, and were serving over 8000 customers a day. We observed the emergence of online ordering among Indian consumers, and realized that we unique a unique advantage to capture consumer needs given our operating experience and learnings at Ovenfresh. We knew from our experience building a profitable business, that the economics of this space would work only for a full-stack model where gross margins would be higher than 50%.
The decision to launch Eatfresh was a straight forward one, given our strengths and scale of the opportunity. This has held us in good stead to emerge as the fastest growing breakout player in the full-stack space.
The last ten months with Eatfresh have been exciting and with the efforts of a strong team, things have worked out very well for us. Eatfresh is growing at a fast pace, with over 10X growth in sales and 11 hubs added in Bangalore since inception. We have served over 50,000 customers since our launch in August 2015.
Explain what do you mean when you say Eatfresh is in the ‘food technolgy’ business – we are sure it is not as simple as putting a website and have people order in and the food is delivered?
FoodTech or food-commerce is a very unique e-commerce business. Our product catalogue changes daily, the inventory is replenished on an hourly basis, we produce what we sell, and deliver in under 30 mins. That’s little crazy for an ecommerce business isn’t it?
Unlike traditional e-commerce, we have two huge spikes of order volume one around 12 pm for lunch and 8 pm for dinner. And, delivery has to be done within 20-30 minutes.
So, imagine a system that has to orchestrate taking 100s of orders each hour, routing it to the delivery hub closest to the customer, then helping the team prepare and pack the right food for the right order, and then having a rider get it to the customer, all within 30 minutes or so.
From the very start, we have been focused on building a business that outlasts individuals. Which means we have to constantly maintain a balance between efficiency and hyper growth. Rich data helps us in all aspects; for example, in market it helps with deciding what the referral reward program should be or which locality we should do our leaflet distribution. We use predictive analytics to manage production on an hourly basis across all delivery hubs.
We mess up one in every few thousand orders; but, it works mostly because we work around how tightly our systems are integrated, facilitating seamless data flows from one app to another. Order and other consumer data flows seamlessly through to planning, sourcing of each ingredient, and to production control as all our recipes are 100% system integrated.
Your counterparts have opened (and shut) their service in more than one city – you have been in the game for 10 months and are still in one city – Why so?
We have been running multi-city operations for our Oven Fresh brand in Chennai and Bangalore for the past three years. Based on this experience, we believe that achieving in-city penetration is a true proof of scale, and is our current focus. In addition, ground work for expansion of Eatfresh into Chennai is being laid. We have recently signed up 16,000 sq ft space in Chennai to expand our operations there.
In our research and even talking to you, you stress on ‘Chef Made Meals’ – explain it to us.
Eatfresh.com is an online food commerce platform, serving a daily changing menu of chef-made meals, salads, desserts and beverages. Our technology-led full-stack approach combines quality supply, scalability & great unit economics. Our curated, 5-star quality chefs operate from our commercial kitchens and we control the supply chain from procurement up to last mile delivery. Our model differentiates itself by being Chef-centric in approach –They are recognized both on our site and on each meal box served, fostering a relationship of feedback and curation between the customers and the Chefs.
In our conversation you shared that team ‘Eatfresh’ is not regular – How do you hire?
For managerial levels we look for individuals who are passionate about the business model and what we want to achieve. We have found that self-starters with an ability to function independently work best in our setup. For junior levels, a good attitude and a desire to learn are key areas we measure for.
According to you, what is the future of ‘foodtechnology’ business in India?
Proof of scalability in the full-stack space already exists – Jubilant Foodworks (Dominos India) became a unicorn long before the word was in vogue, and similar opportunities abound in virtually every food vertical in India.
The secret ingredient that dramatically changes the economics of the space is the ‘Full-stack’ approach to on-demand food. Full-stack food players operate a tightly controlled supply chain, managing everything from cloud kitchens right up to the last mile delivery to the customer. By doing so, we at Eatfresh are able to control and guarantee every aspect of the customer food experience, from ingredients, hygiene, packaging to delivery times.