Thirty-year-old Akash K Sajith was shocked when both his parents were diagnosed with cancer, especially since they had followed a healthy lifestyle – doing yoga every day, eating organic food, taking regular walks, and staying away from tobacco and alcohol. This unfortunate event provided Sajith and his co-founders, Shikha Lakhanpal and Niranjan KS, the impetus to probe the link between food, health, and climate change. As they dug deep, they found that Indians are consuming approximately 70,000 metric tonnes of pesticides every year, including those that are banned in other countries for causing cancer.
Living Food was thus started in 2018 to assume better control of our food systems, getting underway with a hydroponic farm in Sajith’s apartment that grew chemical-free nutrient-dense greens and offered farm-to-table subscriptions. “Today, Living Food provides fresh and high-quality food directly to its customers, servicing 100,000 households in the city of Bengaluru alone,” says Sajith, the co-founder & CEO.
According to him, food-borne diseases are a growing concern in India, costing $15 billion annually at present and the number of cases is expected to rise to 177 million annually by 2030. The government is taking steps to promote good quality food in the country and has launched initiatives such as ‘Eat Right India’ in an effort to transform the food ecosystem. The government laid emphasis on chemical-free farming in the last budget as well.
“Living Food is an effort to bridge gaps in the ecosystem and provide insanely fresh, world-class food directly to Indian consumers,” says Sajith. “The fresh food supply chain is at the core of Living Food’s functioning, with fresh vegetables, fruits, and freshly baked bread being delivered within hours of harvest or production. By working directly with farmers and growers, Living Food enjoys a very short turn-around time. For instance, the company delivers Ice Apple or Nongu, a most delicate and tender fruit, within an hour of harvest, and was one of the first D2C brands to launch this much-loved seasonal fruit,” he adds.
The company delivers fruits and vegetables, freshly baked bread, artisanal dips, spreads, fresh cheese and other products from across 24 categories, ensuring strict quality control. Its customers know exactly where the food items are coming from, and when the items were harvested or produced, an aspect on which Living Food has made a pioneering contribution. “The company currently fulfills 99% of its deliveries in under 24 hours, with 80% of the orders being completed within just six hours,” claims Sajith.
In order to achieve this, Living Food has built its own supply chain and relies on robust technology. Real-time end-to-end order tracking optimises logistics resources and keeps the customer posted on the status of goods from harvest to delivery stage. They use temperature-controlled trucks and cold packaging for transport, which help preserve the quality of items like fruits without the use of preservatives. Most importantly, the company has struck exclusive partnerships with some of the top organic farms in the country that practise the best and most environment-friendly ways of agriculture, like hydroponics, aquaponics and permaculture.
In January this year, Living Food raised $7.5 mn in a Series A round led by Amasia, a thesis-driven global venture capital firm investing in sustainability via behavioural change. Today, Living Food ships 1,50,000 units every month, which works out to more than three products shipped every minute, and has grown by 600% in just the last six months. Currently at 1,000 SKUs, the company is launching more than 100 SKUs every month. Their team size has grown to over 400, a ten-fold increase from a year ago. “The company is the market leader in the fresh food segment in Bengaluru by a wide margin and is one of the fastest-growing food-tech companies in India today, all set to reach $20 million in ARR in the next 12 months,” says Sajith.
After completing the beta launch of its cloud kitchen recently with overwhelming customer response, Living Food will be opening two cloud kitchens every week across 50 locations in three cities in the next one year.