Today FreshToHome is the Flipkart and Amazon of India’s online fish and meat space. Even though this young startup’s metrics may seem less flattering compared to these e-commerce behemoths, its achievements are still worthy of high praises.
In a very short span of time, FreshToHome has crossed $30 million (Rs 200 crore) in annualized sales, becoming the first e-commerce company to cross such high sales figure in the fish and meat space. Today this company claims to be growing at 30% month-on-month basis, which technically places this young startup amongst India’s fastest-growing e-grocery companies in India.
But FreshToHome is not just chasing fancy numbers, it is also seeking to set new quality benchmarks in India’s burgeoning food industry. The company takes immense pride in its zealous mission to offer chemical-free and unadulterated food to consumers. The company goes through great amount of pain and has placed state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that it overcomes this challenge with flying colors.
Investors, on other hand, are going all out to back this promising and ambitious company. Only last month, investors Iron Pillar and Joe Hirao pumped $20 Mn into the company.
To know more about FreshToHome, Techpluto caught up with the company’s founder and CEO Shan Kadavil in an exclusive interview. Kadavil, who was previously former India CEO of social gaming giant Zynga, throws light on various important aspects of his young e-commerce company.
Q) Why and how did the idea of starting an e-commerce platform dealing in fish and meat space came to you?
When I first moved to Bengaluru with my family, being the foodie that I am, I went looking for places where I could buy fresh fish from. Most of the fish that I got from the wet market didn’t have the freshness that I was used to back at home. This made me dive deeper into the matter. That’s when I discovered most of the fish available in the market was laced with Ammonia and Formalin.
Occasionally, it would taste and smell of it and that really worried me because of its impact on my health. SeaToHome, an online seafood delivery store managed by Mathew Joseph, solved all my problems. The downside to this solution was that they were shutting shop. So, I wrote to Matthew and told him I could help him fix the issue of supply demand using technology. Together, we started FreshToHome.com. From the get go, we had one mission and that was making fresh, chemical-free food accessible to the masses at large.
Q) The task of providing 100% fresh food with 0% chemicals is indeed a challenging task. How does FreshtoHome goes about to ensure that it succeeds in this immensely challenging mission?
We started FreshToHome with the intention of selling fresh, chemical free food. We didn’t want to jeopardise the livelihood of fishermen which led to collaborating with fishermen across coasts, who work with country boats. This would allow us to grow together.
We developed a tech-based solution called the ‘Commodities Exchange Platform’. This patent pending app allows fishermen from various coasts to bid with FreshToHome by tapping pictures on their mobile phones. This unique technology has given us the opportunity to buy products from Fishermen for a fair price, the benefit that we then pass on to consumers, leading to eventual growth. Additionally, we use IoT based technology for our cold chain preservation along with artificial intelligence and machine learning for predicting patterns of growth.
Q) Considering that majority of Indian farmers suffer from technology illiteracy, how difficult it is to make sure that they adapt to your app as well as the overall smartphone technology?
When we developed the commodities exchange platform, we were aware of the challenges we were working with. Bearing that in mind, we decided that the app should be image driven and easy to navigate for the convenience of the fisherman.
Q) How does FreshtoHome plans to utilize the latest capital infusion of $20 MN raised in Series B round and when does the company plans to raise the next funding round?
FreshToHome will utilize the funding to expand into other tier 2 cities in India and the UAE. The company will also use the funds to further diversify their product offerings in various other fresh and chemical-free food categories, such as fruits and vegetables, cold pressed oils, organic cow & buffalo milk, dairy products, organic staples and other healthy food products. These products will eventually be distributed across e-commerce platforms, retail outlets and other channels across multiple geographies.
Q) Can you please shed some light on FreshtoHome’s current revenue numbers?
We are one amongst the fastest growing e-grocery companies in India with over 25% month on month growth. We crossed USD 30M (INR 200 crores) in annualized sales, recently.
Q) After recently launching services in UAE, which are the other international markets that FreshToHome will be trying to target in the near future?
FreshToHome is at a nascent stage in The UAE and we would like to establish our presence there like we are here in India, before we venture into another market. But we will eventually look at expanding into other Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
Q) Your thoughts about the existing competition in the industry and how challenging it is to cope with the presence of well-funded startups like BigBasket in this market?
Our real competition is the wet market because majority of the consumers still prefer buying meat, fish & seafood from local stalls. The biggest challenge is to educate consumers regarding safety issues in today’s food supply chain and raise awareness. We can safely say that FreshToHome’s brand proposition- 100% Fresh & 0% added Chemicals is a unique offering we have across categories which is possible because we own the supply chain end to end.
Q) Where do you see FreshtoHome in next 2-3 years in terms of revenue and market expansion?
The core team behind FreshToHome is the same one that launched Zynga in India during my tenure as the India CEO. So after two exits, FreshToHome is much more than a company to us. FreshToHome’s vision is to ensure that there are no preservatives used in the food supply chain- this means reinventing every aspect of the supply chain from farming to food trade to transportation- no added chemicals at any step from procurement till it reaches the consumer.
We started this at a small scale and have quickly ramped up to $30M in sales, in the near future we hope to hit $100M in sales and in the longer term over a Billion Dollars- given the size of market in India, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Q) What are some of the key challenges that India’s cold storage industry is currently facing?
According to a Citi Report, over 35% of seafood from catch to the fork is wasted – a large part of this is due to lack of sufficient cold chain infrastructure. The ignorance of its importance leads to the addition of harmful preservatives to extend the life of the product. We ensure that all of our products are chilled and transported within 0-4 degree centigrade leading to enduring freshness.
Q) Being a successful entrepreneur yourself, what advice you’d like to give to all the budding entrepreneurs out there?
The journey is never going to be easy, hurdles are aplenty; what makes it easy is keeping your sight on the goal.