How start-ups are making the cut in India’s $30-b meat mart

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on August 16, 2019 Published on August 16, 2019

The shift to organised retail will impact the local, unorganised sector, as has happened with the vegetables and grocery sectors   -

PEs/VCs are biting into the sector, have invested nearly ₹1,000 cr in 18 months

Do you love your meat but dislike going to the butcher and looking at all that blood or listening to the terrified cries of caged animals? Well, a few start-ups are aiming to ease your mind and your conscience as you bite into that juicy chicken breast or sink your teeth into that cholesterol-packed leg of lamb.

Customers, especially youngsters, are warming up to these start-ups, and PE and VC funds are licking their lips at the prospects of this $30-billion, largely unorganised market.

TenderCuts, Fipola, Zappfresh, FreshToHome and Licious are some of the start-ups that are slowly gaining traction among customers, especially in the 25-35 age group, buying meat online. Their volumes are modest but are growing steadily by the day.

Sushil Kanugolu, MD and CEO, Fipola Retail India, an omni-channel seller of meat and seafood products, said the company, through a combination of its mobile app, website and call centre, door-delivers chicken, mutton and seafood in 90 minutes across Chennai. “We deliver 2,500 orders per day,” he said.

It’s a huge market that’s waiting to be organised, and start-ups are jostling to establish a firm foothold in it, said Kanugolu. The omni channel is the right way to tackle it, he added.

Investors lining up

The shift will impact the local, unorganised sector, as happened with the fruits, vegetables and grocery sectors over the past 15 years. PEs/VCs are looking at the meat and seafood market actively, and ₹750-1,000 crore has been raised in the last 18 months by various start-ups, he added.

Major investors in the sector include Japan’s Nichirei Corp, and CE Ventures of the UAE and Sidbi Venture Capital.

“My wife and I have not found a better fresh meat provider than Fipola,” gushes Ajit Kumar, an IT professional, adding that their favourites are the company’s marinated meats and ready-to-cook products. “Since we are a working couple it trims a lot of kitchen time. The Fipola app has made our life easier with instant order placement, payments and prompt doorstep delivery,” he said.

Licious, operated by Bengaluru-based Delightful Gourmet and one of the early entrants in the segment, has been expanding its reach across the country. “We aim to solve the prevailing customer pain points of quality, hygiene, freshness and convenience,” said a press release from Licious, which has raised $64 million till date.

Changing habits

India’s per capita meat consumption is just 4 kg compared to 80 kg in the US and 40 kg in Malaysia. An Indian meal typically contains 80-85 per cent carbohydrates and 10-15 per cent protein.

However, this trend is changing with rising disposable incomes, and people moving to more protein-rich food such as fish, mutton and chicken.

Nishanth Chandran, founder and CEO at TenderCuts, a Chennai-based omni-channel platform, said the company fulfils nearly 4,000 orders a day, mostly in the city and some in Hyderabad.

Start-ups are transforming people’s experience of buying meat, which hitherto involved a visit to the butcher, an experience that on a good day involves coping with buzzing flies, avoidable odours and the sight of animal parts hung on hooks, he said.

Chandran claimed that the meat is unhygienic and often unfit for human consumption. “Meat kept at temperatures of 5-60°C degrees becomes poisonous with time,” he said. “We keep the meat at 0-4°C.”

“Our meat price is on par with the local market, and cheaper some days, as the local market works on supply-and-demand while the company has contracts with farms and offers standard rates throughout the year,” said Chandran.

Prabha, a housewife, agrees. “They (TenderCuts) make one feel comfortable. The staff help choose the variety of meat and cuts that would work best for our recipes,” she said.

Published on August 16, 2019
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