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INTERVIEW

“We will disrupt the food industry completely”
Monday, 15 February, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Being Chef is a start-up operational in F&B space, providing exhaustive solutions to daily food requirements in a healthy and economical manner by flexible mode of subscription and on-demand nutritional meals. It is operational in Gurgaon since 2014 and it is the first mover in DIY meal kit space in India. Their recipe kit empowers the consumers to cook anything in less than five minutes. It also provides buyers with all the ingredients (chopped & processed) customised as per one’s taste with a simple 8 step recipe card.

Along with this, the company has built other lines of business like delivery of fully prepared meals, customisable meal boxes, customisable party packs which have helped them in absorbing their fixed cost and generate profit. Recently, it received the “Transformation of the year” award at Amazon SMBhav 2020. Shubham Maheshwari, founder, Being Chef, shares his insights on maintenance of hygiene in recipe kit, trends in DIY meals and so on, in an email interaction with Vijetha Iyer. Excerpts:

What is the impact of the pandemic on your business?
Covid-19 has impacted the entire world economy. Due to lockdown, a major imbalance came across a few industries initially, the effect of which trickled down to other industries too. F&B was one of the industries with major hit and we also experienced the same. The government guidelines, restrictions, disruption in logistics, containment zones etc. resulted in a lot of struggle in the past few months. Having said that, these changes are cyclical and structurally, this pandemic will be a blessing in disguise for us. As most of the people attempted cooking in lockdown, a whole new market has been developed for us.

How is your company different from that of competitors?
We are working on a very unique concept to disrupt the two major industries: Cooking & Health. There is no exact competition to our business model. Part of the model has competition though. If I talk specifically about the DIY Kit, we are the first mover in India (started in 2014) and till date the only company that enables you to cook anything within 5 mins and 8 simple steps. Also, we are focussed on the vegetarian & vegan segment and are humbly the industry leader in the DIY meal kit segment. For our product innovation and the business model, we were recently awarded the "Transformation of the Year" award at Amazon SMBhav 2020 (biggest event for SMEs in India) in presence of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and other distinguished personalities.

How are you maintaining freshness and hygiene in your recipe kit?
Hygiene & quality are the two major pillars of the foundation of our company. We have very strict protocols along with SOPs and automation to ensure this. Also, we have a separate department to take care of this and we do a lot of scheduled and surprise audits to ensure the same.

Since your company is the first mover in the DIY meal kit in India, what are the challenges you faced while coming up with the brand?
I was just 23 years old when Being Chef started. When we started building the product most of the industry experts thought that it is a road with a dead end. People used to doubt us with one simple question: How can you enable an 8 yr old kid to cook a dish in 5 mins with the same taste as that of a professional chef. We were confident about our product and after 3 beta versions in 3 months launched the company in 2014.

What are the visible trends that you see in DIY meals?
DIY meal kit is the future of the food industry. It has already proven the potential in the West where companies like Hello Fresh did 1 billion Euro in sales with around 15% EBITDA in just 3 months (April-June 2020). Covid-19 has already started the boom in India in this segment and soon there will be unicorns in India from these segments like that in the West. Hopefully, we will be one of them.

Since your recipe kit is available only in New Delhi, are you planning to expand your market areas?
Yes, we will be expanding across all the major cities of India very soon. We have planned our expansion and are in the middle of our fundraising. We have already got a few commitments. Till date, our focus was to understand the unit economics and create a business in this segment. This was the major reason that we restricted ourselves to just one geography doing a lot of experiments in stealth mode to understand the industry and business at the grassroots level. We also wanted to become EBITDA positive before expansion and thus took the main risk from our own money by deciding to remain bootstrapped till now.

What about plans such as diversification and collaboration and so on?
Yes, a lot will be coming out very soon. We are working on a few very innovative things which will disrupt the food industry completely.

What are the precautions taken by the company to tackle the Covid-19 threat, while delivering the meals?
We are lucky to have one of the best teams. Our team has ensured that "Show Must Go On". We were operational throughout the lockdown and we took all the necessary steps as told by Government of India and World Health Organization.
 
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