Beef is the latest centre of controversy in India these days.

With various State governments trying to crack the whip on people trading and consuming beef, and the recent lynching of a man in an Uttar Pradesh village over allegations of storing cow meat, the image of India has taken a beating. This is all happening at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waxing eloquent about ‘Digital India’ in the US and elsewhere.

But this controversy has not deterred two entrepreneurs from going ahead with their plans to set up an online meat shop in Bangalore. Licious, as it is aptly named, aims to solve the perennial problem of finding “safe, delectable, and trustworthy fresh meat in India”.

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Licious aims to become a one-stop shop for all your meat cravings — be it fresh juicy tender chicken, or succulent lamb chops or fresh from the sea fish,” says Founder and CEO Abhay Hanjura. “We have set their eyes on just one mission: Putting a smile on your face by giving you nothing but the best, from farm to fork.”

Press the flesh with Licious Founders

The startup was incorporated in June by Hanjura, an insurance industry professional, and Vivek Gupta, former Financial Controller at Helion Venture Partners.

It aims to redefine and elevate the meat shopping experience by bringing together all stages of fresh meat procurement, processing and delivery under one roof.

“There are various aspects that a meat lover is bound to love that include choice of custom cuts and convenience of having all meats in one basket such as seafood and cold cuts. Consumers are also looking for germ-free, insect-free and contamination-free fresh — not frozen — meat. Licious provides all this with the promise of instant delivery, various payments and easy returns options,” he explains.

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Never in their wildest dreams did the duo have plans to start a meat ‘delivery’ platform, says Hanjura.

This is despite the fact that both are passionate food lovers and used to bond over good food, especially meat. They, however, saw a huge gap and opportunity in building a world-class consumer brand that focuses on hygiene and quality.

This is [a] very unorganised space and definitely needed a solution from the traditional meat-buying options, which we believe were driven more out of lack of choice than anything else, he goes on.

“Our main intention is to fill the void in a large hitherto unaddressed marketplace and the sheer prospect of being able to bring about a positive revolution and organisation in this large unorganised market,” says the CEO.

They spoke to about 100 people in Bangalore and Gurgaon and realised that almost every single respondent or friend felt that there was a genuine gap in the hygiene, quality and freshness in the meat space.

This convinced them that there is a story that they can script through intelligent cold chain management.

Milking Bangalore for all its worth

licious-2-690Currently available only in Bangalore, the startup deals with fresh poultry, lamb and a fairly exhaustive seafood range. It claims to have a whole range of delicious pre-marinated meats for gourmet meat lovers. It is also planning to add new categories, like organic meats, to its portfolio in coming months.

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Licious owns and operates a fully-automated meat processing unit in Hennur, Bangalore with delivery hubs in localities such as Marathahalli and Kammanhalli — covering an eight-kilometre delivery radius. The company plans to open six to eight more hubs in phases to cover the rest of city as it scales up.

Meat products are sourced after stringent internal quality checks and orders can be placed via phone, the web or an Android mobile app.

Currently, we have our own delivery within the city through secure, vacuum-sealed, temperature-controlled containers with the maximum guaranteed delivery time of 90 minutes. We will also be working with other logistics companies when we achieve scale, adds Hanjura.

The firm also has a dedicated sourcing team in place, which is managed by people who have built and seen meat and consumer businesses of large scale and managed sourcing with great complexity in the past.

“We have a very strict vendor on-boarding criteria and the sourcing team has a defined strategy for vendor development. We don’t accept anything at our state-of-the-art production facility if it doesn’t meet our sourcing standards,” he continues.

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Additionally, there is an in-house quality team that oversees the whole process and it acts as a regulator to ensure that defined processes are met every single time without fail. “This, by far, is the most challenging and fulfilling aspect of this business as you must understand that its a highly unorganised marketplace,” he adds.

Over the next three years, Licious is looking to build a presence in 11 cities, with the next immediate stop being Delhi.

Feathering the nest

Recently, the startup raised an undisclosed amount in angel funding from a group of reputed industry names such as TV Mohandas Pai (former Infosys CFO), Kanwaljit Singh (formerly with Helion Venture Partners), and Varun Thappar.

“We intend to use the funding to invest on spreading our footprint across Bangalore over the next two to three months as we build more hubs. Obviously, we will also be spending this money on marketing, occupying consumer mind-space, and improving technology.”

The startup is going to the market to raise its first institutional round in the next couple of months, says Hanjura.