How This Entrepreneur is Dishing out Fresh Food to Households in South India

The journey has been built around the idea of assisting the homemakers by providing them with hand-made batter

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Visit any of the small ‘Kirana’ store in South India and you will find batter (dosa and idli) supplied in a plain pouch without any branding. Those products have quality consistency issues and more importantly hygiene issues.

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That’s when PC Musthafa along with his cousins thought of fixing it. Musthafa invested a small amount of INR 50,000 in a 50X60 square feet room. They got into product processing creating samples with different permutations and combinations. Talking about his start-up journey, he says, “We started with 20 stores with 100 packets sold in those stores. Out of 100 packets, 90 used to come back to us initially. Net sale was even less than 10 packets a day.” The cousins set a six months' target for themselves but could achieve it only by next nine months. iD Food, which started with four employees company, today is a 1,500 people strong brand spread across 14+ cities. The company sells 50,000 idli batter packets per day which come across to around 135 crores of idlis per year.

The journey has been built around the idea of assisting the homemakers by providing them with hand-made batter.

In between, the entrepreneur tried his hands at snacks but that didn’t work out. The biggest trait about them is the fact that they have the courage to scrap off the wrong product at the right time. Sharing about the brand ethos, Musthafa says, “We only focused on the highly fresh products. That’s our focus even today. All our products are natural and without preservatives.. We follow the traditional process.”

This further reduced the shelf life of the product to three days, which is unheard of in other FMCG products. On how he manages the logistics part of it, he mentions, “We ensure that our products reach the consumers within the same day. We run our own distribution model and do not depend on any external distribution. We built an in-house van, so today we are covering more than 20,000 stores in a single day.”

Though the model made them unique in the operations and in tune with their brand philosophy but it did prove to be a dampener in terms of fast expansion. “The benefit of this model was easy for the customers to believe in but yes that is a constraint when it comes to expansion,” agrees Musthafa.

After bootstrapping the company till 2014, they decided to take VC funding for expansion. Two years back, venture capital firm Helion Ventures picked up some stake in the company for INR35 crore. This year, Premji Invest pumped in INR 170 crore in the company.

For the initial eight years, not even a single penny was spent on marketing claims Musthafa. Though traditional marketing has been adopted in the last two years, it was only word-of-mouth earlier. As per Musthafa, the company will touch 250 crore revenue this year. Going forward, markets like Delhi will see further expansion as the primary focus so far has been the southern part of India. They have penetrated the western belt. Internationally, they have already expanded to UAE, which already contributes 20 per cent of the revenue. “Besides, we plan to expand to Saudi, USA and UK,” informs Musthafa. In terms of product expansion, they are planning to launch few more products in the next one month and will be having 15 products in all.

(This article was first published in the August 2017 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)