With most Indian cities calling it a day well before midnight, many working professionals, party-goers, students and even late-night movie enthusiasts are left at the mercy of unhygienic and unsafe back-alley shops to buy food or emergency items. To fill this vacuum, some start-ups have now come up with the novel idea of late-night services that deliver freshly cooked food, among other essentials. All you have to do is log on to their websites or simply call their numbers and place your order. Most of them are open till about 5 in the morning.
Batman Delivers, Fly By Knight, Midnight Munchies, Midnight Sutra, Take It That One and Mad Bites are some of the names that are picking up business in the niche sector. They not only deliver food and beverages at your doorstep, but also cigarettes and chocolates, and even antacids and contraceptives.
Mumbai-based Mad Bites was started by Jigar Zatakia, 24, an engineering graduate from KJ Somaiya Vidyavihar. “It was very difficult to get decent food after midnight. We often had to sleep on an empty stomach or eat unhygienic food. That’s when we planned to come up with a service that can cater to people like us,” says Zatakia. Mad Bites’ menu ranges from salads, sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs and pizzas to salads, paranthas and biryani.
Mad Bites has seen a huge demand among students and working professionals. Its minimum order policy is R350. Its highest-selling items are chicken hotdogs and burgers, which it offers from 8 pm till about 4 in the morning.
In Gurgaon, which is regarded as the hub of call centres working 24x7, Saurabh Luthra, 27, who holds a degree in hospitality from the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore, and another in marketing from Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, founded Midnight Sutra, an online food delivery service. Luthra already had a kitchen by the name of Live More in the ‘Millennium City’, but it was operational only during the day. However, looking at the increasing number of people working late into the nights, Luthra decided to tread the path less taken.
Since the time of its inception just four months ago, the firm has seen a 100% month-on-month increase in the number of orders post-midnight. “We have seen a huge demand from MBA and hotel management students as well as offices that are open 24x7,” Luthra says. Midnight Sutra delivers food to most places in Gurgaon. It is now planning to expand its services to south Delhi by opening another kitchen in the bordering areas of Gurgaon. It takes orders between 8 pm and 5 am.
About 30-40% of the start-up’s orders come from corporate offices. And, they are happy about it. “Getting a corporate order is the best deal as there is no chance of fraud or payment rejection by a customer,” says Luthra. His minimum order policy varies from R250 to R500, depending on the location of the customer.
Most of these start-ups delivering food at night have a “no-doorbell policy” so that they do not end up disturbing neighbours or other members of the customer’s household.
For Raghav Negi, marketing head of Gurgaon-based Batman Delivers, the idea struck in December 2012 when the Delhi gangrape incident brought to focus the vulnerability of residents at night. “As the city becomes unsafe after dark, it is very difficult for young professionals and students to get quality food. I took this as an opportunity and decided to launch Batman Delivers,” says Negi.
Batman Delivers, which started its operations on April 15 this year, takes orders between 9 pm and 5 am. It delivers across various categories, including food, beverages, essentials, desserts, over-the-counter drugs, contraceptives, etc. It also offers a unique service called “you name it and we have it”, but at an extra cost.
While business may be booming, running an establishment at ungodly hours has its pitfalls too. This holds true for cities like Delhi and Gurgaon, which are known for their high crime rates, and have a huge presence of touts, police checkpoints and patrolling teams. “Usually, we don’t take more than 35 minutes. But on Fridays and Saturdays, this can extend up to one-and-a-half hours. So, we keep our customers informed,” says Arjun Sethi, who started Midnight Munchies in south Delhi in November last year.
Midnight Munchies’ menu comprises food ranging from Italian to continental. It recently incorporated a few Indian dishes, and is looking to increase the number of items—without compromising on the quality of food and packaging. Currently, the start-up is delivering anything between 30 and 50 orders per night and is looking to expand to other parts of NCR by end of the year.
One of the biggest hurdles these midnight delivery firms have to encounter is getting decent people to work during those unearthly hours. However, the start-ups are hopeful that as the business gets more publicity, they will get more people to work. “Getting good staff to work at hours that they have usually never heard of is a big task. It’s hard to make them believe in our idea. But once they do, the sky is the limit,” says Sethi of Midnight Munchies.
Some have even witnessed incidents of robbery while delivering orders. Negi of Batman Delivers says, “Recently, we saw two stray incidents in which our food items were forcibly taken away from the delivery boys and the customers refused to pay.” However, he adds, “Though we have filed police complaints, these are part and parcel of the game.” Meanwhile, Midnight Sutra is planning to set up GPS devices on its bikes so that it can track its delivery boys and ensure their safety.
AT YOUR SERVICE
Timings: 11.30 pm to 4 am
Product portfolio: Food, beverages, essential items
* Batman Delivers
Timings: 9 pm to 5 am
Product portfolio: Food, beverages, cigarettes, essential items www.batmandelivers.com
* Midnight Sutra
Timings: 8 pm to 5 am
Product portfolio: Food, beverages, essential items
* Mad Bites
Timings: 8 pm to 4 am
Product portfolio: Food, beverages, desserts
* Fly by Knight
Timings: 11 pm to 4 am
Product portfolio: Food, sweets, beverages, cigarettes