Frshly: This automated fresh food retailer makes dishes from top restaurants available on demand

Published: August 20, 2018 12:25:33 AM

In a bid to make good food accessible, everywhere, Satish Chamyvelumani, CEO and founder of Frshly, came up with the idea to set up a number of outlets that are driven by technology and served by top restaurants locally.

Satish Chamyvelumani, CEO and founder of Frshly

In a bid to make good food accessible, everywhere, Satish Chamyvelumani, CEO and founder of Frshly, came up with the idea to set up a number of outlets that are driven by technology and served by top restaurants locally. “There are places for fine dining if you want to sit and eat. In essence, what I tried to create and perfect was a 7-Eleven for fresh food, to serve to a transient population who have very little time to sit and eat,” says Chamyvelumani. Frshly is a marketplace for restaurants that is operating in the brick-and-mortar space. The outlets are completely automated and require a minimum of 40 square feet of area to be installed.

“We believe that restaurants are great at cooking and so we should take care of everything else,” says Chamyvelumani, talking about the daily operations of Frshly. The food that is delivered through the outlets are packed at the partner restaurants right after they are cooked, using automated packaging machines. The packaging, all of which will soon be biodegradable, is standardised by Frshly, based on prevailing food safety standards and research to maintain the freshness of the food till it is delivered to the customers. Once the wrappers are sealed, a bar code is pasted on the packages. The codes contain the time of packaging. Frshly then transports the packages and stacks them up in an array at their automated outlets. All a customer has to do is select the items from a digital menu and pay. The food gets delivered within 90 seconds of payment by a mechanised arm that moves across the array.

To maintain the freshness of the food, the company uses lab-tested time periods for each item in the menu and removes them from the outlets if they are not delivered to customers within the consumption period. The expiry management system makes it mandatory for restaurants to cook all the meals, everyday, without using any leftover food for the next meal. “We restricted our partners to the top five or ten restaurants in a given locality to enable us to do a lot of research, quality checks and to have high on-boarding standards,” explains Chamyvelumani.

With outlets already functional in Pune, Kolkatta, Chennai and Bengaluru, Chamyvelumani plans to expand to Mumbai and Delhi soon. He also believes that the market for his business will be great in other countries as well. Frshly is expecting a revenue of `55 crore this year. The start-up has raised around $5 million in funding from PG LLC, USA and Sakh Holdings so far. “These investments have mainly gone into R&D. Our technology is patent pending and we will get it done soon. Our main aim is to perfect our product,” says Chamyvelumani.

The technology is primarily based on connected machines, data and machine learning. Each node in the value chain is connected to every other node. At the outlets, it is the addition of robotics that finally delivers the food to public. The start-up also has one person at every outlet to oversee day-to-day operations and help customers.

With both domestic and international expansion plans on the books, Frshly faces a few challenges as well.  “You are asking a person who is used to eating from a large plate to eating out of a tray. It is a paradigm shift that we are seeing right now. It will take some time for people to get used to it, especially on the go, during a work day,” explains Chamyvelumani. Apart from this, as a platform for sellers, Frshly faces challenges in getting restaurants to adapt to technology and to its own business model in addition to the restaurants’ actual business.

Srinath Srinivasan

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