Khichdi may be India’s comfort food, but when it comes to ordering in, biryani has no competition.
Swiggy’s annual report on the country’s food ordering habits revealed that Indians ordered an average of 95 biryanis per minute, or 1.6 biryanis per second, in 2019.
With technology making huge inroads in the food sector, Kaushik Roy and Vishal Jindal realised that cloud kitchens could be the future of this oft-ordered dish. The duo launched Gurugram-based foodtech startup Biryani by Kilo (BBK) in 2015 with a vision to create a global brand.
The company has grown significantly in revenues since then, going from Rs 86 lakh in FY16 to Rs 48 crore in FY20.
How did Biryani by Kilo manage such growth?
Unlike most restaurants that bulk-produce, Biryani by Kilo's USP is to “dum cook” fresh biryani for every individual order, and deliver biryani in that very handi to the customer.To enhance the biryani experience, the company also sends earthen angeethis with each order, to preserve the smokey flavour and aroma of the spices used in the rice.
BBK also delivers Nizami dishes like kebabs, kormas, and phirni.
The strategy of serving fresh biryani each and every time seems to have worked.
“Biryani is a part of India’s heritage. The versatile and complete meal has many variants - Hyderabadi, Lucknowi, Bengali, and more - and caters very well to delivery. BBK has around 40 outlets across 20 cities in India currently and we are growing very fast,” Kaushik says.
The startup has since then streamlined technology and sourcing in each city for rice, meat, vegetables, and spices. It works with over 100 suppliers, who provide information on what is being sold at its outlets. The brand then sources these items without stocking up on inventory.
The founders plan to use the same plan to scale up in the next three years. The idea is to sell on their own platform along with maintaining a presence on foodtech aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato.
BBK claims to be profitable and growing for the last three years. It netted profits of more than Rs 6 crore last year and is using the cash to plan its pan-India expansion.
Kaushik believes they have put the foundation of the “best SOPs, technology, and operational efficiencies in Biryani by Kilo so we are able to scale as a world-class F&B company”.
The back story
Kaushik started work in 1997 with Pizza Express. Eighteen years later, he was the COO of Zooropa Foods. Vishal, meanwhile, worked in the technology industry with companies like Vector and Bharatiya, and then founded PE fund Carpediem Capital Partners.
Vishal and Kaushik conceptualised a biryani and kebab chain that used tech and followed SOPs, systems and processes, standardisation, trainings, and audits in a way that could provide biryanis and kebabs of consistent quality.
The duo has invested around Rs 1 crore in the biryani startup till now. The company has also raised Series A and pre-Series B rounds of around Rs 50-60 crore from CX Partners. The company, which has a 200-member team, raised the amount in 2019 and used this money to streamline its operations in Delhi. This provided the blue print to open fresh outlets in new cities.
Taking on coronavirus
Analysts say foodtech may continue to bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, with people staying away from restaurants and food outlets. Around 30 percent of smaller dine-in and delivery outlets might not survive this crisis.
However, COVID-19 does not worry the founders.
"People will shift majorly to food delivery with big brands that they can trust for safety and hygiene. Biryani by Kilo has taken all necessary steps to ensure hygiene and safety of employees and consumers," Kaushik says.
Vishal agrees, saying: “BBK is doing well in states that have allowed food outlets to open. The situation should improve in the next few weeks. We believe BBK should be in a very good position as we have taken quick action when it comes to hygiene, safety, and communication.”
The company is now investing in strong middle management, standardisation, technology, and customer service. BBK also emphasises on employee empowerment and growth.
"By keeping costs low with a lean and agile model, we can grow faster because we are focused on food delivery. Domino’s has seen a surge in the US despite the current crisis,” the founders say.
Challenges and the way ahead
The founders say standardisation and consistency of food quality were the initial challenges. Hiring, training, and retaining employees at mass scalewere other stumbling blocks.
However, they believed in processes and set up a supply chain that can handle customer orders on its website, app, call centre, and Zomato/Swiggy.
A report by Google and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says the appetite for food ordering is set to rise with India’s online food ordering market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25-30 percent to touch $7.5- $8 billion by 2022.
Biryani by Kilo claims that the biryani market in India is estimated to be approximately Rs 1,500 crore in the organised sector, and Rs 15,000 crore in the unorganised sector. The startup, which competes with Rebel Foods, Ghost Kitchens, and Cross-Border Kitchens, serves close to half a million customers per year.
The startup has around 40 outlets in 20 cities with approximately Rs 70-80 crore in ARR for FY21.
Hungry for more
In the next 18 months, the company aims to have 70-80 outlets pan-India and increase its revenues to Rs 150-200 crore.
There are more plans for the next few years.
BBK plans to grow to 150-plus outlets pan India in the next four years and expand to international destinations. The founders are “eyeing Rs 500 crore annual revenue and a healthy bottom line in the next four years”.
The founders are gung-ho about the future and believe that “both the biryani category and food delivery have enormous potential and BBK is set to expand both and create a worldwide food services company from India”.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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