Lending a New Meaning to Farm-to-Fork got this Food-Tech Big Hitter Into Entrepreneur India's 35under35 List

How this entrepreneur is helping farmers earn more, mitigate wastage of harvest and in turn is generating massive revenues
Former Feature Writer
5 min read

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Blenders Pride Reserve Collection presents Entrepreneur’s 35U35 list included some path-breaking names from the field of entrepreneurship and WayCool Foods co-founder Sanjay Dasari made it to the list for enabling aspiring entrepreneurs to have an online presence. 

After completing his graduation in 2015 from the US, Sanjay Dasari’s entrepreneurial genes kicked in. A gluttonous millennial, he was very excited by the food industry and considered opening a restaurant of his own.  He reached out to a friend who ran one of Chennai’s most successful restaurants and one thing led to another. “The aesthetics and food quality were next level. I met the interior designer, chef, bartender, sources of raw material and witnessed everything that goes behind the scenes to run the place, and even made the whole business plan for me own venture” he still reminisces.

It was then that he visited a prominent vegetable vendor at the city’s prime open market to discuss sourcing for his restaurant. “I was honestly shocked when I saw the hygiene levels maintained, and disappointed by how it all seemed to be taken for granted. In fact, inside the vendor’s office, there was a pile of cabbages on the floor and a dog defecating just 5 ft away from it,” he tells. On further enquiring, he realized that the vendor claimed to be selling vegetables to someof the top-end hotels and restaurants in city. “In that moment, I felt nauseous. I figured that there must be more people like me that want cleaner, fresher, and better products and hygienic supply chains,” he tells.

Since independence, population of India has risen by 3x, and food production has increased by 4x. “This is where the problem gets evidently deeper. We are not necessarily suffering from hunger issues due to food scarcity, but largely due to inefficiencies in food distribution that leads to high wastage levels across the industry. In addition, the information gap between the consumer and farmer is massive and getting larger. This leads to mismanagement of crop planning, poor harvesting practices, and lower returns to the country’s farmers,” he asserts.

Why WayCool Foods?

Subsequently, he laid the foundation of WayCool Foods, using mobile food trucks to enter into apartment complexes and IT buildings, selling hygienically sourced fruits and vegetables directly to end consumers and to small hotels and restaurants. His father, Vinod Dasari who was the managing director of AshokLeyland, apprised one of his colleagues Karthik Jayaraman about Sanjay’s budding project. At the time, Karthik, who was ex-McKinsey with a Purdue MBA, wanted to start a supply-chain business of his own to make a positive impact using the skills and knowledge he had gained through nearly two decades of work experience. The two eventually met, and decided to join hands and build WayCool together. “It works extremely well, as Karthik brings an enormous amount of experience to the team, and is an operational mastermind, that balances against my tendency to experiment with cool, new, and random ideas. His ability to understand potential business pitfalls, take advantage of market opportunities, and structure a world class supply chain, catapulted us from a small startup to a growing corporation,” says the 25-year-old founder.

After Karthik joined forces as co-founder WayCool started serving 4,000 clients, doing 2,000 deliveries a day at an average. “With time and experience, we aggressively branched out into more product portfolios and more channels. Today we supply into Supermarkets, Catering companies, and Kirana stores, offering fruits, vegerables, rice, dairy, maida, atta, and more,” he iterates.

Helping the farmers

Though, he emphasizes that it is a social enterprise but it doesn’t tantamount to a non-profit motive. “Of course, we aim to make a profit, since we believe in sustainable business practices more than pure charity. We show this in action as well, as 72% of our products are sourced from marginal farmers (owning 2 acres or less land). And, now as many as 35,000 farmers have come under our ambit, earning 25% more net income on average, and being paid 100% digitally within 3-5 days,” he says brimming with confidence.

WayCool Foods stomped their authority in food-tech sector as they bagged investments to the tune of Rs 120 crore from impact investors such as UK-based LGT Impact Ventures, Caspian Impact Investment Advisor Pvt. Ltd and Northern Arc Capital Ltd, on January 16. Sanjay claims that WayCool is moving 150 tonnes of products per day across 13 cities and in the process it provides employment to 850 people.

“With influx of more investments, we will continue to scale across diverse product segments, geographies. We are very close to achieving breakeven, and will do so this year. But the scale is massive here and the potential for more scale is even more so. After raising Series A funding in 2016, our monthly turnover was 70 lakh and now it has grown 20+ times to 21 crores,” says Dasari.

(This article appears in the February 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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