How Startups are changing the way India buys meat
Deepanshu Manchanda, co-founder and chief executive officer, Zappfresh, the four-year-old online store for fresh meat, says you have to be a meat eater to understand the problems one faces when buying meat in India. And, that is precisely why he launched his online meat delivery startup from an apartment in Gurugram in 2015. Meat is sold in the country in the most consumer-unfriendly manner. Procuring raw meat is a huge challenge. Product availability is a problem, the supply chain is broken, and both the source and the quality of meat are suspect, says Manchanda, whose company currently sells chicken, mutton, sea food and cold cuts online.
Manchanda is not the only one to spot an opportunity in India’s unorganized meat market. In the last four years, a number of startups have launched to make meat available to the consumer at the click of a button. Licious, Meatigo and FreshtoHome, among others, are helping consumers overcome the challenge of accessing good quality meat in a convenient way.
These startups are slowly changing the way urban India consumes meat. Founders of all the meat delivery startups admit that there was a big demand gap in the market. “Whether it is your hotels, modern trade or local shops, everybody procures meat from the mandis,” says Siddhant Wangdi, founder of Meatigo.com, compromising quality and convenience in the process. Traditionally, meat is cut in the open with little regard for hygiene or temperature. There are other health concerns, too. Wangdi says that meat available in India has the highest levels of antibiotics. “There are no cold storage facilities so the microbial count also increases,” he adds.
Vivek Gupta, co-founder, Licious, owned by Delightful Gourmet Pvt. Ltd, points out that surprisingly while most consumer food products in India have moved from being unorganized and unbranded to branded, the trend bypassed meat. Domestic meat consumption remained largely ignored. And, that’s where the online meat delivery brands stepped in, and evolved a farm-to-fork model to ensure that safe, healthy, clean and fresh meat reached directly to the consumer.
Since 90% of the market is completely unorganized, there is a lot of catching up to do. Meat startup founders claim that 70% of India consumes non-vegetarian food. Various reports peg India’s meat market at $30-35 billion, growing at between 18% and 22% a year. Not surprisingly, Zappfresh has seen its daily orders jump from 10 in 2015 to 2,000 today. Zappfresh is currently available in Delhi-NCR and has recently launched its services in Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula. Licious, meanwhile, is growing 300% year-on-year. The company has a presence in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Delhi-NCR. and recently entered Mumbai and Pune. “Pune is growing faster than Mumbai,” says Gupta. Although Bengaluru is still the company’s largest market, Delhi-NCR is the fastest growing. The company plans to enter Chennai shortly. Meatigo, which is now eyeing Kolkata and Pune, is already present in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
What’s clearly driving growth at these firms is the changing consumer mindset. Consumers, especially millennials, are looking for quality, convenience and trust. They are also increasingly health-conscious and discerning about what they eat. V.S. Kannan Sitaram, venture partner at Fireside Ventures, which has invested in Licious, agrees that online meat and fish stores are making a difference to a consumer’s life by addressing issues of hygiene, quality and availability at home. Zappfresh’s Manchanda says that anyone buying food online is their customer. Zappfresh is backed by Amit Burman, vice-chairman, Dabur, as well as Sidbi Ventures. What these firms have also managed to do is to bring the women to the forefront in buying meat. Earlier, meat shopping was a male domain. “Now, more women are buying meat online for their kitchens,” says Gupta. At Licious, of the total meat sold, 40% is chicken, 40% is fish and the remaining 20% red meat.
Gradually, Indians are also developing a taste for exotic meats with some of these firms offering rabbit, quail, duck and turkey in their portfolios. But, going forward, will there be room for all the firms in the meat delivery space? Sitaram feels that the number will eventually come down, or firms will remain very local, because home delivery requires scale for profitability. He believes their biggest challenge will be achieving scale.
Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.