While meat is an essential part of India’s cuisine, people often find it hard to source good product that contains no chemicals or added preservatives. Regulation is a farce and business lobbies collude with the authorities to flout rules and market their poor quality products, which poses huge health risks.
Gurgaon-based Zappfresh aims to address this perennial problem of sourcing good meat. The startup, backed by angel investors, provides an online ordering platform and has a 3,000 sq ft avant-garde processing unit in Gurgaon, where fresh meat comes in every morning and the leftovers, if any, is sent back to the vendor the same day.
e27 talked to Zappfresh Co-founder and CEO Deepanshu Manchanda to learn more about the firm, the market in India and more.
Here are the edited excerpts:
What is Zappfresh all about? Why the name? What made you start a venture in the fresh meat space?
What started as passion is now a serious business and a brand in the making.
When Shruti Gochhwal (Co-founder and Director) and I started discussing the business opportunities, we mapped the market to see the potential of our idea. Since both of us are equally passionate about food we wanted to innovate in the food segment, and personally I was tired of eating out. We explored the category of food at home. We liked the fact that the home-cooking category was doing well.
And on further research, we found that although ready-to-eat is a part of the grocery, there is a huge potential to add products in this segment. Our research gave us considerable insights into the meat industry in India. We were sure that meat is what we will be associated with. We also found through our research that there is no one innovating in this segment. It is one of the most challenging categories in food to deal with, considering the fact that the unorganised market dominates the segment.
There is a huge gap in the demand and supply chain of the meat industry. No one was doing fresh meat the way it needs to be done.
In terms of fresh chicken, fish and mutton, people have been selling stale products. There was standardisation in terms of freshness, pricing and quality. None of the existing players were keeping variety and no one offers pork.
We only offer fresh meat to our customers and keep a variety of meat products including ready to eats, salamis, seafood, marinades; offering convenience and we do home delivery within 90 minutes of receiving an order.
The word ‘Zapp’ co-relates to speed. So we amalgamated zapp and fresh to create ‘Zappfresh’ which represents our business idea of delivering fresh meat with a Zapp.
Can you please explain the business model?
We work on an inventory based model and we don’t keep any stale meat.
We work on a high tech platform where we forecast the demand for the day and effectively manage the inventory in house. We use technology to the best to ensure that there are no leftovers by the end of the day and whatever is remaining, goes back to the supplier/partner.
How do you ensure the hygiene and high-quality of the meat products?
We are a “direct to consumer” meat brand. We work alongside farmers, vendors to make sure that the meat is raised right, prevented from diseases and regularly monitored by veterinary doctors.
Once the meat reaches our processing unit, we have different sections for different meat categories with exclusive set of knives, chopping boards etc. This demarcation is done so as to ensure product hygiene and no contamination.
Our packaging is also a differentiator. The inner layer of packaging helps retain cold temperature of the product for longer periods of time. The double layered packaging also helps in carrying the product around with no leakages.
We are currently functional in Delhi and Gurgaon.
We recently wrote about another meat e-tailer Licious. How are you different from them?
We are emerging as a resurgent brand in the organised meat industry. In a short span of eight months, we have been successful in operationally breaking even. We deliver to over 12,000 customers in a 30-day cycle. We started with 12 SKUs in July 2015 and currently have over 50 SKUs and expanding.
Our robust tech platform enables us to efficiently manage demand forecasting thus reducing our need to keep much inventory, also this helps us to manage the quality of meat delivered to our customers and reduce wastage.
On the packaging side, we have been prudent in using food grade packaging to ensure that there is no contamination. We go that extra mile by doing customised cutting for each clients on request.
We also have a strong sourcing and processing system backed by technology which helps us learn our shortcomings which we can work on immediately. Since meat and meat products are highly temperature sensitive and any variations or fluctuation in temperature could lead to meat going bad, we have partnered with ColdEX, India’s leading cold chain logistic company to ensure that the temperature of the product is maintained at constant from the factory to home.
We offer fresh raw meat of chicken, mutton, pork, seafood along with ready to eats and soon launching marinades. We have over 50 SKUs in our basket right now.
What are your immediate expansion plans? Are you going pan-India?
Currently our focus is to reach the complete Delhi-NCR, Faridabad, Noida, Greater Noida consumers and we are confident that we’ll be able to establish our presence in these locations in the next 4-5 months’ time. Post this, we plan to expand to other cities.
What are the key challenges in the online meat industry?
Meat industry is highly unorganised with no government intervention. Local butchers and suppliers have created a monopoly in the system as a part of which they are selling stale meat to the consumers who are ignorant of this fact.
Another issue is maintaining the freshness of the product. This process is very expensive and meat at a higher price is not accepted in the market. With few players in the market, a collaborative approach is required. There is no standardisation at farm level. Whatever few bodies are there in the industry, no one is doing anything to regularise systems and processes here. And those who are working ethically are providing to B2B customers like Mcdonald’s, KFC etc.
Freshness of the product is not a criterion of the industry which we are trying to achieve and maintain.
What are your key learnings as entrepreneurs?
Building an ‘A’ Team should be on the top of the list and it is very important and challenging to attract the right talent, wearing different hats and keep hitting master strokes in each and every side of the business. A mentor in each segment of the business is the key to avoid wrong decisions.
What are their advices to budding entrepreneurs?
Keep a close watch on the cash in the bank, focus on monthly goals, stay hungry but not foolish. The spirit of going on is the key.