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Keeping Food Quality & Safety as Priority, This Indian Meat Startup is Changing the Buying Habits of Customers Indian meat and seafood brand Licious raised $25 million in a Series-D growth round led by Japanese conglomerate Nichirei Corp

By Aastha Singal

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Indian meat and seafood market valued at approximately $40 billion currently is highly underserved. As food safety and quality continue to serve as massive concern points, the category-first brand backed by technology, Licious is standing on the forefront to solve the existing customer pain points of hygiene, freshness and convenience in a sustainable manner.

Claimed to be India's leading fresh meat and seafood brand, Licious has vouched for their philosophy of clean food over the years, which has now worked in their favour as Japan's largest public listed conglomerate Nichirei Corp has decided to invest in the startup. In a recent Series D funding round, the Bengaluru-based started raised $25 million.

The funding round led by Nichirei Corp along with the existing investors 3one4 Capital, Bertelsmann India Investments, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India, UCLA and Sistema Asia Fund is targeted at further strengthening Licious' dominant market presence. Built on the farm to fork business model, the startup has so far raised a total of $64 million.

Dream Expansion

The funds will be utilized to boost the company's geographic presence, product portfolio and strengthen its supply chain. Talking to Entrepreneur India, the co-founders of Licious, Abhay Hanjura and Vivek Gupta stated, "We will continue to expand our presence across the country to strengthen our national leadership position. Our expansion plans and entering 7 new cities in the next 10 months, engaging with our consumers, and furthering our value-added portfolio."

The 7 cities Licious plans of opening operations in the new year include Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. With the goal of becoming national leaders in meat and seafood market, the firm has no plans of exploring other sectors and focus on its core categories, that is, fresh meat and seafood, which the co-founders believe have an enormous scope.

"We don't intend to get distracted by anything else which is diametrically different from a category perspective. However, we will continue to innovate in various new formats of consumption be it ready to cook or ready to eat, or other such adjacent opportunities," Hanjura and Gupta said. Moreover, the dynamic duo is excited to develop their value-added portfolio for offering greater convenience, product choices across various formats to the quality seeking Indian consumer.

Philosophy Working Right

Quality and food safety has been a way of life at Licious. This philosophy has worked in the startup's favour and Nichirei works on the same motto. "Safety and Quality have always been the cornerstone for Nichirei since its inception and it is wonderful to share the same philosophy with Licious. With our individual experiences and business know-how, Nichirei and Licious can create beautiful synergy in future." said spokesperson at Nichirei Corp.

Both the co-founders are adamant at continuing to invest in food safety and quality and build on the foundation of being a product-first and consumer-obsessed brand. "Building credibility for a brand in a relatively broken and unorganised industry where the definition of quality standard is capricious is a continuous process. This can be strengthened by word of mouth that powers and lends credibility," they believe.

Moreover, associating with a large conglomerate like Nichirei Corp will aid Licious' vision to build an Indian food brand with a global outlook. The Japanese brand has built deep expertise in the area of food processing, cold chain and logistics. Given that Japan is one of the most evolved meat and seafood industries in the world, the strategic association with Nichirei will greatly benefit the Indian brand.

The co-founders believe that as they go forward, the learnings from Nichirei and other investors would play a highly relevant part in helping them define the right standards across the supply chain and product innovation.

Part of a Pie

Reports suggest that the Indian meat market is expected to reach $65 billion by 2022. Talking about the entire meat and seafood market, Licious is, without doubt, a part of the humongous pie which has multiple players like Zappfresh, EasyMeat, Brown Apron and MeatRoot competing for a larger share. With BigBasket also planning to introduce non-vegetarian on its platform, the competition is about to get fierce.

With convenience coming into play, customers have inclined towards online delivery channels but offline options like butcher shops still enjoy the maximum customer attention, making it difficult for platforms like Licious to meet their goal of providing quality food. Addressing that 92 per cent of a meat market in India is highly unorganized, Hanjura & Gupta emphasized, "we find ourselves challenging the status quo rather than competing."

The fact that a competitive environment works positively for entrepreneurs aspiring to reach the pinnacle of success can't be ignored but belief in own work is what further amplifies the result. Nonetheless, when a crucial change is in order, no individual organization can stand firm without the industry's support.

"While we have had a strong head-start across all dimensions of the supply chain, product quality, consumer love and category understanding, we believe that we will need a collective effort from the industry to bring a change in buying habits. We will continue to be at the cutting edge of driving this change and every player who is making an effort at organizing the industry will play an important role in making this happen in the coming years," affirmed the Licious co-founders.

The Inception Story

Launched in 2015 by co-founders Abhay Hanjura and Vivek Gupta, Licious is operated by Delightful Gourmet Pvt Ltd. Touted as India's leading food brand operating in the meat and seafood category, the startup has a presence across Delhi NCR and Hyderabad. The venture was built to offer prime quality meat products to customers who were otherwise dependent on the unhygienic and unreliable wet market.

Supported by technology, the platform owns the entire back-end supply chain powered by world-class processing facilities along with stringent cold chain control to scientifically maintain the quality and freshness of each product that reaches the end user. Licious' 90% repeat business monthly is a testimony to its exponential growth and efficient service.

Earlier this year, the startup has witnessed accelerated growth in terms of reach, accessibility and product innovation. While it has introduced a host of value-added products to its fresh meat and seafood portfolio with spreads, marinades and pickles, it has also become the only Indian FSSC22000 certified meat and seafood brand, further adding evidence to its high food safety precautions.

Aastha Singal

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Features Writer

A business journalist looking to find happiness in the world of startups, investments, MSMEs and more. Officially started her career as a news reporter for News World India, Aastha had short stints with NDTV and NewsX. A true optimist seeking to make a difference, she is a comic junkie who'd rather watch a typical Bollywood masala than a Hollywood blockbuster. 

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