packaged goodness

March 16, 2018

According to an ASSOCHAM survey, India’s packaged food business has grown manifold with around 79% of households preferring to have instant food. What has led to this trend?

The main reasons are changing lifestyles in urban households, higher disposable income, and increase in working population who are time-crunched. The urban and semi-urban populace have better accessibility and buying capacity with respect to ready-to-cook/ ready-to-eat products.

How did iD Fresh Food manage to create a niche in an unorganized sector like that of packaged batter?

We have a 360-degree approach to market, our business and the product offerings. Our marketing mix involves public relations, below the line, above the line, and digital marketing. Our positioning is 100% natural fresh food, without preservatives or added flavors. Our ready-to-cook products help homemakers to serve their families a healthy meal.

How has technology aided in scaling your operations?

iD runs on IT. We use technology to a great extent in our business and operations. We have a sales force automation platform, which tracks 18,000 plus stores across fifteen cities on a daily basis. We also have a business intelligence tool and analytics solution, which help in tracking sales, and provides real-time data and predictive ordering systems.

Being a food brand, how do you ensure quality control?

iD as a brand is known for its quality and we ensure we stick to our brand philosophy of providing fresh, chemical-free, natural food to our consumers. As per research, we are a stickier brand compared to most large FMCG brands. We follow good manufacturing practices and SOP across all our production plants; only superior-quality ingredients are used. We have a dedicated team that checks every batch of product before it goes to the market. Also, the CEO himself still manages all customer complaints.

Your vada batter video went viral. How did the concept of its packaging emerge?

The younger generation is aware of the challenges in making vadas at home and so avoid preparing it. Hence very few people make it at home. We identified this problem and tried to solve it with the application of common sense. The journey started three years ago. The challenges were many. Firstly, we had to ensure the vada batter has the right consistency. We got this right using our expertise in the batter-making process. Secondly, even if we provide the right batter to a homemaker, she would still not make vadas at home—it is a messy affair as the batter is extremely sticky. Thirdly, vada making is still an art—not many will get the size and shape right.

Further, most people do not prefer vada without a hole. And many new-gen homemakers we spoke to did not know how to make the hole. We realized they would end up burning their fingers. After a lot of deliberation, the spout was designed. One can simply hold the vada pack directly above the wok and slide the cutter upwards. Then the pack needs to be squeezed to form a vada-shaped batter. Once the batter comes down, slide the cutter downwards to drop it into the oil.

In an interview, you said, “supply creates demand”. Could you elaborate on this thought?

We were able to help create a demand for packaged batter and parotas in the market by ensuring daily supply of our food in all neighborhood stores. Yes, supply creates demand.

You have said, “If the product is packaged right, and customers are serviced properly, that’s half the marketing done. It is the cheapest form of marketing or branding.” How was this made possible?

Right packaging, branding, and of course the right product is foremost for any business, especially in the food category. We took a lot of time to design and get the boat packaging right. In fact we have patented the design. We also did a lot of branding exercise to arrive at the brand ethos and essence.

International market presence…

As much as 25% of our current revenue comes from the UAE market, but we plan to soon launch in the US and the UK too. Our main focus right now is new product development and launches and expanding to newer geographies as we see a huge potential and demand for iD products.

What were the challenges you faced?

iD is now available across various retail stores. Initially, the concept of fresh, natural, and preservative-free food was hard to believe for not only consumers but also retailers. It took some time for us to convince people and educate them about our core brand values. We also ran disruptive campaigns like iD Trust Shop wherein we installed unmanned chillers stacked with iD products—one could pick any and pay on their own. No camera, no salesman, or cash-counting machines. Since we cater to the fresh food segment, wastage of products is high. With our technology and systems in place, we have a daily forecast planned store-wise and returns are reduced.

How is digital marketing changing the way you communicate with your consumers?

Social media and digital marketing have reshaped the way brands engage with their consumers. Traditional media are mostly one-way channels of communication. With digital media, the communication is two-way and it is almost immediate and measurable. iD has been digital heavy in the last eight months. We are experimenting with varied content and videos to understand what works best with our target group.

From setting up in a small kitchen to being a national brand, how was a cohesive organizational culture formed? How did it penetrate in a larger organizational structure?

iD’s journey so far has never been a single individual’s contribution. As a team, we adhere to certain principles and hence we always believe in growing business ethically aligned to our core values. We have a great mix of entrepreneurial and professional talent in the organization, all working towards the common objectives and goals set by the founders.

(As told to Melissa Fernandes)