Ola Foods, the food delivery unit of taxi aggregator Ola, has put aside plans to open Quick Service Restaurants Offline (QSR) due to the pandemic situation. Instead, it will expand its private brands into new categories such as biryani, pizza, self-help kits and healthy meals, a senior company official said.
Demand for food delivery has slowly and steadily recovered for food delivery start-ups like Swiggy and Zomato, and for cloud-based cooking brands like Faasos and Freshmenu.
According to analyst estimates, around 70% of the pre-covid demand is back for the online food delivery segment. However, consumer behavior and mindset has changed as startups like Ola Foods, Faasos, and Swiggy experiment with meal kits and ready-to-cook kits.
Pranay Jivrajka, CEO of Ola Foods, said the meal kit brand is currently in the pilot stage and plans to launch the full product in the coming months.
“The idea behind the Meal Kit brand is linked to our fundamental vision of making daily meals exciting and with this we enable our customers to also enjoy the experience of cooking their favorite dish without having to worry about the ingredients or the exact ratio you need to use on your plate, ”he says.
Faasos has recently expanded into the food kit space with similar dishes to read for the kitchen, such as marinated chicken tikka, Hakka noodle recipes, exotic pasta, and more. The Swiggy food delivery platform is also running a similar pilot in Bengaluru and Gurugram.
The demand for meal kits and ready-to-cook kits can be seen as an alternative to weekend dinners, which are now lacking in many cities as consumers are still reluctant to visit restaurants and pubs.
“There was a certain amount of wallet spending on restaurant meals, especially on weekends when people usually want to try new cuisines. But after the covid, restaurant meals were hit”, said a food tech venture capitalist, who asked not to be named.
The previous investor added that the same consumer who dines on weekends is now a new category of customer for cloud kitchen and food delivery startups.
But given that many of these consumers are still skeptical of the hygienic standards of ordering in a restaurant or cloud-based kitchens, it makes sense for them to order meal kits with specific ingredients.
For example, cooking pasta at home may require the customer to purchase exotic ingredients such as cheddar cheese, green onions, etc., but since this is an experiment, the ingredients may be wasted after the first use.
“Indians won’t be using chives and cheddar cheese in their daily cooking, so if you can provide consumers with portions of these ingredients, then they can just put them (the ingredients) together at home, so people feel safe doing this at home, and your need for indulgence is also satisfied”, added the investor.
Ola Foods is also expanding its existing food brands such as Khichdi Experiment and Paratha Experiment, Jivrajka said the Khichdi Experiment brand has already passed the million-order mark.
“We currently cover 35-40% of door-to-door delivery customers and plan to expand our coverage to meet 75-80% of the demand for urban food delivery. “Our plans to expand offline formats are now on hold and we will review them once the COVID situation improves”, Jivrajka said.
Ola Foods was launched in response to increasing competition in the food delivery market, particularly from its competitors UberEats. However, UberEats exited the Indian market and sold its food delivery business to Zomato India in January due to falling margins and heavy cash consumption.
Ola Foods does not add restaurants or cafes like its competitors Swiggy and Zomato, but rather operates a network of delivery-only kitchens, commonly referred to as “cloud kitchens”. The Ola Foods brand currently operates more than 50 cloud kitchens in six cities across India.
Ola Foods is a spin-off of Foodpanda India, which was closed by Ola almost 18 months after its acquisition. In May 2019, Ola ceased the activities of Foodpanda India.
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