Bhojan Tech (foodtech startup)- Vaibbhav Arora was working for foodtech unicorn Zomato last year as part of a nationwide meal distribution system when he realised there was an urgent need for accessible, hygienic, and home-cooked meals. He then left Zomato and decided to launch Bhojan Tech in Gurugram in 2020.
Bhojan Tech (foodtech startup) is a new age foodtech company committed to providing affordable food. All meals are subsidised to under Rs 100 to ensure that they are affordable to a large segment of the population.
“The lower and middle income segments of our population have been hardest hit, and they have been forced to work in order to survive. The need to make hygienic, home-cooked food more accessible to the masses is more critical than ever. Additionally, they do not have access to this type of food at the price points that they require,” Vaibbhav explains.
He continues by explaining that as a result of the country-wide lockdown, street vendors vanished, local eateries were closed, and people faced salary cuts and job losses, making even something as basic as food unaffordable for many.
Why another foodtech startup?
According to Vaibbhav, the brand was created to serve homey meals and educate people about the importance of eating healthy food while maintaining the values of a traditional Indian kitchen. While unicorns such as Swiggy and Zomato exist in the space, Bhojan Tech (foodtech startup) is focused on fresh home-cooked meals priced under Rs 100.
“We’re driven by a strong social consciousness and the recognition that every human being has the right to a clean, fulfilling meal. Until the second wave of the pandemic in 2021, our focus was the food-on-the-move needs of the average person,” says Vaibbhav.
He continues by stating that the company’s goal is to become India’s largest organized food technology distribution channel that is trackable and monitored at every stage.
Currently serving the Delhi-NCR region, the company provides hygienic and affordable food to the region’s underserved demographics with the help of Zomato and Swiggy. The meals are distributed through a broad distribution network that includes kirana stores, department stores, mass transit hubs, and corporate locations, as well as through their disruptive last-mile delivery solution, Bhojan-on-Wheels.
“Our B2B2C business model aided in the establishment of a platform for mass food distribution and facilitated the growth of microentrepreneurship. We established extensive channels for our product to reach the end customer through this model, including retail locations, corporate locations, mass transit hubs, and co-working spaces,” Vaibbhav explains.
The brand made the decision to accelerate their B2C subscriptions (which were originally scheduled for the second year of operations) in light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“The lockdowns and restrictions that came with the second wave made us pivot quickly from our ‘food-on-the-move’ focus to serving ‘food-at-home’,” he says.
“With people banding together to assist one another in navigating these perilous and chaotic times, we felt compelled to be a part of the solution. Because our mission is to make nutritious, safe food accessible to those in need at an affordable price and with ease of access, we began our subscriptions with those in the most need – those isolating, trapped in containment zones, and even those suffering from mild covid and under home quarantine,” Vaibbhav adds.
The current B2C offering includes subscriptions for seven-day, 14-day, and one-month meals. Bhojan’s food is prepared fresh daily in their kitchens and distributed via a delivery fleet. He notes that the menu changes frequently and that the recipes are wholesome, made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and free of class II preservatives and artificial colours.
Additionally, there are numerous meal options available, including Chota Bhojan (breakfast options) for Rs 49, combo meals for Rs 55, classic meals for Rs 79, and standard thalis for Rs 95. The average basket size for one person is Rs 88, while the average basket size for two people is Rs 150.
The team currently numbers twenty members and is growing. Vaibbhav recruited Rahul Khandelwal, a serial entrepreneur, as co-founder once the concept was solidified. Aneez Mehta is the marketing director and is responsible for branding, marketing strategy, communications, and digital brand development.
Saurav Choudhury, head of operations, is a former chef turned operations guru with over 19 years of experience in food and beverage supply chain management, club kitchen operations, and startup concepts. Shodhan S is the chief of staff; he is an engineer and IIM alumnus with extensive experience in scaling, programme management, and enabling P&L efficiencies.
According to a RedSeer report, India’s overall food delivery market was worth $15 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at a 24% compound annual growth rate to reach $36 billion in 2020.
Although the pandemic may have impacted these projections, according to a recent survey conducted by the company, 21% of respondents indicated that they were more likely to increase their online ordering of takeout food following the lockdown.
Recently, demand for home chefs has increased, and they are being aided by dedicated platforms such as Noida-based Homefoodi and Mumbai- and Pune-based Authenticook, which connect them with prospective customers and assist them in building a loyal customer base.
“Our primary motivation is to keep costs low and our food fresh by increasing production and distribution efficiencies. This is where the “tech” component of BhojanTech comes into play. We are developing technology to ensure that we meet our business’s imperatives – AAAQ, or Affordability, Accessibility, Assortment, and Quality,” Vaibbhav continues.
According to him, the aim is to achieve complete automation in the kitchen and IoT at every feasible touchpoint in the supply chain.
“We leverage our culinary expertise, cutting-edge technology, and robust distribution networks to ensure that our meals are not only delectable, but also extremely affordable and widely available,” he explains. Currently, the startup is being funded by a family office.
Vaibbhav claims that the company has grown revenue by 300 percent on a quarterly basis.
In reference to the future, he states,
“Our vision is straightforward: ‘Feeding Bharat,’ and our first modest goal is to sell 1,50,000 meals per day by the end of FY’21. Along with pursuing this objective, we will continue to integrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into our operations in accordance with our deeply held values of’service.’ In the coming years, we intend to donate 2% of daily meal orders to our ‘give-back’ programme, which will benefit causes close to our hearts, including feeding the elderly and those living with leprosy.”