Biz & Entrepreneurship

A look at 5 offbeat food ventures which are experimenting with new ideas

5 offbeat food ventures dishing out new ideasBCCL
5 offbeat food ventures dishing out new ideas
Text: Anoothi Vishal, ET Bureau

Opening a restaurant may come up pretty high on the list of the secret (or not so secret) ambitions of many millennials. It is not an ambition without travails and tears. These may be fewer if you choose not to open a restaurant but get into one of the offbeat food businesses.

The opportunities are more, risks lower. And while you do need to sweat it out, the rewards are many.

Many exciting innovations in food are not happening in restaurants, but in the offbeat retail space. It is a market ruled by content, even if there are many stories of startups that refused to start. The failure rate of these new businesses is perhaps as high as that of restaurants.

At least half of these were led by pipe dreams of funding. We only have to look at the dubious examples of many food-tech startups, now flailing. Yet, with a younger demographic raring to try out new things — at lower price points — new food formats are the Next Big Thing.

Here’s my pick of five:
Salad DaysBCCL
Salad Days
Started by: Varun Madan and Kunal Gangwani

What's Special: Offers salads as a meal in Gurgaon, banks on the health quotient

Varun Madan and Kunal Gangwani played for the same band at Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur. They jammed well but little did they realise that they would also, one day, toss up vinaigrette and greens.

That was two years ago. There was a gap in the market for a product that offered salads as a complete meal.

Operations have been the toughest part. Sourcing ingredients — they largely use imported fruit and veggies to maintain consistency, get cheese and vinegars from Parma and Modena "because the taste really is different", and pick herbs grown in their own garden — and maintaining supply chains are a task.

Last year, the business attracted "a small funding from Japan". On expansion to more areas in the Capital, beyond south Delhi, a retail outlet and backward integration with local farming communities.

Viability Quotient: Salad Day operates on a net profit margin of 13%; operations need to be streamlined to up it to the industry range of 15-20%.
Eggjactly and Sushi House MafiaBCCL
Eggjactly and Sushi House Mafia
Started by: Vikrant Misra, Lvanika Parti

What's Special: These food trucks serve waffles, milkshakes and fries in the NCR

Food trucks have been trendy all over America for the past five years, serving up interesting, quirky menus at about $20 a meal.

For Vikrant Misra, 33, who started one of the first food trucks in India two years ago, the inspiration was simpler. A former retail executive at Provogue, he and his business partner Lvanika Parti were scouting for a cafe location in Gurgaon, but soon realised that the investments required were too high — as was the risk.

Viability Quotient: Profit margins are higher and investment lower than in restaurant retail. But you have to man the van in all kinds of terrain and weather. Also, there are too many variables and no clear government policy yet.
Started by: Insia Lacewalla, Paresh Chhabria

What's Special: It is a food festival in Mumbai that celebrates local food producers, home cooks, bakers

About 60 stalls, tightly curated, are put up for one day, from 7 pm to midnight, every quarter at the Khar Gymkhana. And every one sells out.

From the time they put up their pilot with desserts — 13 home bakers under a roof for a five-hour sale — and were sold out in half that time, they have not looked back.

Viability Quotient: Profit margin is 50-60% for each "local market" they set up. The events are less commercial and thus have lower revenues. Partners run other consulting businesses.
Goila ButterchickenBCCL
Goila Butterchicken
Started by: Saransh Goila

What's Special: Delivers to Mumbai homes the not-so-rich butter chicken that made Goila famous on social media and TV

Saransh Goila is a well-known name on television — having hosted two food-based shows — and on social media.

From butter chicken rolls to a range of kulchas (chicken rezala, mattar-paneer-mango, gongurapork) that you can eat alongside the BC, the menu is short and "cool" and designed for young consumers who want higher quality food than the neighbourhood takeaway.

The kitchen is in Andheri, Mumbai, for now; Goila wants to go to Bengaluru and Kolkata this year, for which he will seek investors.

This will be an interesting experiment where a chef is leveraging both his cooking skills and social media presence for a business venture.

Viability Quotient: According to some calculations, to be profitable, Goila needs 100 people eating every day (dishes are priced in the Rs 250-300 bracket). Will they bite?
Started by: Ruchika

What's Special: An online community of home cooks who open up their homes to travellers and guests

Commeat — started by 34-yearold Ruchika (last name withheld on request) — is short for "community eating". The idea is simple but fills a big gap: creating an online community of credible home cooks, who can open up their homes to travellers and guests looking for "authentic" experiences.

Leveraging social media to bring the dining table — "the centre of social interactions in older times," as Ruchika says — back in fashion is a bit ironical.

But it is an idea whose time has come. The Commeat website documents recipes of different home cooks, who are chosen with care, and posts short videos of them. A bank of recipes is just one of the aims. Small pilots, where dinners for six-eight people are sold as intimate, at-home experiences, have been initiated.

Viability Quotient: It is not monetised yet, but linking travellers to home-food experiences is a business to look forward to.
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