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INTERVIEW

“Culmination of traditional butchery and modernised with food safety stds”
Monday, 11 May, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Access to fresh meat and seafood that are antibiotic and hormone-free by establishing direct partnerships with local farming and fishing communities is providing new-age customers the ability to order multiple cuts and variety of fish via apps. This has created a transformation in meat and fish consumption from a weekly basis to right through the week. The four-year-old TenderCuts has managed to bring in the much-needed awareness on the advantages of this business model. “We only cater to homes and our 100% revenue is directly from the customers. There is a huge interest in this business model consumer spending towards protein and home-cooked food is on an upward trend,” stated Nishanth Chandran, founder and CEO, TenderCuts, providing his perspective, in an email interaction with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

In this phase of Covid-19, meat and fish sectors are facing concerns. How are companies like yours coping?
Covid-19 has created a positive movement for us, where many customers who would have taken several years to switch to a hygiene meat/seafood brand is happening at a much faster rate. We have seen an increase in demand since people are confined to their homes. This is an opportunity for us during this crisis. The pandemic spread is sensitive. We have taken utmost precaution at our stores and for the delivery partners by implementing several new SOPs to ensure safety.

What kind of measures are adopted to ensure that your staff is protected  from the pandemic and are customers opting for your supplies when Chennai and Hyderabad are reeling in the current virus crisis?
Currently, owing to the Covid-19 situation, we have come up with Contactless Retail service. Here, a customer can download the TenderCuts app, place the order and the company will allot a time slot for the customer to pick up the same from the store. Once the customer arrives at the store, he can sanitise and the product is kept ready, which  allows a different  retail experience. Online payment for the order is mandatory for the customers to make the service a seamless and a safe experience. This zero contact service is completed in a few seconds.

Considerable precautions at the store are ensured. Each employee entering for work is tested for symptoms every day. After, hand sanitisation and donning masks admission into processing area is permitted. Social distancing too is properly maintained and monitored by the HR team.

 How has your company fared in the market since its inception in 2016?
We have completely changed the way people consume meat. Traditionally chicken, mutton and seafood had unhealthy slaughtering and lack of cold chain, which increases in harmful bacteria, resulting in poor health in the long run.

Here,  the entire supply chain: from farm to fork  is hygienic and on par with global standards. The products are maintained at 0 to 4 degrees, ensuring consumers would access meat with doorstep delivery using our app. In just four years, the company has grown to having 20 stores across Hyderabad and Chennai.

What led you to set up the company?
This business model is a culmination of traditional butchery and modernised with food safety standards. The effort is to provide fresh meat and seafood which are antibiotic and hormone-free by establishing direct partnerships with local farming and fishing communities and strong backward links to guarantee absolute freshness.

Did you have to raise funds? If yes, share the details. Going forward would you raise more to fuel your growth plans?
Yes, we did multiple rounds of funding and have raised Rs 40 crore. At the current stage we are sufficiently funded however we will raise money based on the market for growth.

What is the competition and how have you positioned your company to garner sales driven by reliability?
In  January 2016, we generated  1,000 orders per month.   Today, we are one of the largest organised meat suppliers in south India. The trust in a meat and seafood app has led to a considerable shift in loyalty from a local butcher to us. More so, being  omni-channel, the accessibility quotient is  high. Today our customer base is 3,00,000 . They order on an average once a week. We have served over 90,00,000 orders within a short span of four years.

Which are the fastest growing products? Is it the fresh meat or seafood and what variety in these?
Usually the contribution of chicken is the most in terms of quantity, however in terms of price it is seafood. A typical customer consumes 3 to 4 times a week and out of this fish is at least twice a week.

Throw more light on the processing facility. What kind of investments went into it?
 We have deployed state-of-the-art technology to put in place several quality measures spanning across meat selection through stringent grading and rigorous standardisation systems, with trained personnel, besides washing and pre-cleaning of meat with RO water. Every step of the meat from farm to fork is monitored and controlled to bring the customer the best quality and experience.

The company has set a new benchmark in fresh cuts meat. Explain.
Numerous checks and quality controls right from livestock breeding, selection, cleaning and delivery are maintained. Customers comprehend  our standards and technology, so procure and cut the meat. They are unlikely to go back and purchase meat/seafood the way they used to do. Typically, women stay away from  butcher shops visits because of poor hygiene and uncomfortable environment like standing in a queue to purchase meat. We see more than 10,000+ walk-ins at our store, most of whom are women! Over  60% customers have opted for the app, which offers preferred cuts and ensures timely delivery.

What are your future plans?
As this is a big opportunity, we have accelerated our plans and as soon as the lockdown is over, we will look to expand our retail presence and launch new stores in Hyderabad and Chennai, respectively.


What are the growth prospects for this meat and seafood omni channel companies in India?
At least 90% of the population in India is non-vegetarian. Overall, 30 billion is the market potential, out of 500-600 million are from the urban cities. Hence, we realise that there is great potential and ample growth prospect for omni-channels companies in our country.

What are the visible trends that you sight in this space?
After Covid-19 pandemic has come to the fore, we witnessed an uptick in the customer awareness as look out for the source of meat and seafood and the hygiene practices followed by the seller. Hence, all the FSSAI/WHO guidelines are being adhered with not only by the authorities to give safe seafood or meat, but even by the customers. This will be the new normal for meat and seafood retailing. Earlier most home delivery orders were on Sundays, but now it is right through the week which is a trend of the future.

What are the challenges encountered by companies like yours?
There were multiple challenges encountered.  Educating our customers was a major issue as most were accustomed to local markets purchases. We created an awareness on the disadvantages of warm meat which saw the shift towards meat-fish retail. Another challenge was to train the butchers in the market and improve their life. The training was for multiple cuts in a hygiene manner. Monthly medical tests of butchers were ensured. However, it will take some time for being a business/brand, it will take some time for the customers to understand and adapt the business model. We are addressing these challenges on a timely basis.

In your opinion how receptive are venture capitalists and private equity players to support the sector?
There is a huge interest in this sector as this is one of the few large opportunities which is not taken, and as consumer spending towards protein and home-cooked food is improving this category is bound to grow.

With the entry of players like your company, we hear the traditional butcher profession of meat and fish seller has taken a hit. Comment.
We want to change the way people buy and consume meat in India by providing them with a convenient and hygienic experience. We have been quick to understand that traceability  from farm to customer of the meat for best quality and shelf-life and the inventory management for reducing wastage based on auto forecasting, are the key to run the business and have disruptive margins of >33%, hence we built our technology  to manage and automate large parts from procurement to last mile delivery which will play an important role to change the existing image of our industry and address the prevailing issues ailing the industry for long.
 
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