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Ola’s Khichdi Experiment adds a twist to the humble comfort food

Shreyal Jain Chennai | Updated on March 05, 2020 Published on March 05, 2020

Khichdi Experiment is available on food delivery apps -- Zomato and Swiggy

The company caters to young adults looking for healthy, tasty food

It is healthy, simple and recommended by moms. Often labelled as ‘sick people’s food’, khichdi has been a part of our culture for centuries now.

The plain dal-and-rice combo is a comfort food for many Indians. It is so largely consumed across the country, with each region having its own version, that Ola Foods decided to shine a spotlight on the humble khichdi.

Khichdi Experiment (KE), a flagship brand of Ola Foods, the ride hailing app’s food business, was launched in mid-2019 and, within months, expanded across the country. The company now has around 40 kitchens across six cities, including Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. The start-up has a dine-in restaurant in Bengaluru, and also has cloud kitchens to deliver food through Zomato and Swiggy.

Concept and development

In the past decade, the Indian food market has witnessed exponential growth in global franchises and restaurants serving exotic international cuisine. Maybe as a countertrend, there is increasing demand for basic home-cooked food.

To cater to this need, Ola Foods began researching dishes, which led to Khichdi Experiment.

Anshul Khandelwal, Head of Marketing, Category and Revenue, Ola Foods, said: “On a macro opportunity level, India is starved of national food brands who can provide high-quality food, except western restaurants, so this was an opportunity to create a large homegrown Indian food brand.”

The Ola team travelled across the country to understand the cooking and consumption of khichdi in households. “That is when we found out that there are over 200 known varieties of khichdi,” said Khandelwal.

This high level of ‘familiarity’ among people prompted Ola to focus on creating a ‘one brand, one food’ category of business. Explaining the concept of a single product brand, Khandelwal said the company wanted to keep it sharp and neat for this brand. Other comfort/wholesome dishes are likely to be launched as new brands, details of which will be revealed later, he added.

Varieties of khichdi

To give the desi khichdi a twist, the KE team mixed and matched various flavours to finalise its menu. “Khichdi is almost like the national dish of India and that’s when we thought of bringing it to people in exciting avatars — something that will be relevant for all of India. After this, we researched and short-listed 16 varieties of khichdi,” said Khandelwal.

On the menu are palak paneer, Mumbaiya pav bhaji and Kerala mathan khichdi. Surprisingly, Pongal, the popular rice-and-lentil dish of the South, is also among the offerings. To make it a complete meal, KE serves papad and pickle with every order. There are other side dishes on the menu as well — dhaba-style aloo jeera, beans poriyal, khatta meetha kaddu, and varieties of soya chaap.

There is also an ‘experiment box’, where the customer can choose three variants of khichdi.

Target audience

Young adults in constant search for tasty as well as healthy food options are the primary target audience for KE. Migrant working professionals aged 25 to 35, as well as young couples who have just moved to new cities, are health-conscious but do not have regimental diets, observed Khandelwal. “They want to be mindful but they don't want to give up on the taste and excitement of food. We are serving them mostly,” he added.

Published on March 05, 2020

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