Once a waiter, this entrepreneur now digitises cafeterias for top multinationals

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Updated: March 12, 2019 10:57:04 AM

HungerBox provides technology solutions to companies for digitizing their cafeteria operations. The startup also take care of food safety and compliance part along with curating vendors.

The startup has an annual run rate of Rs 360 crore and runs around 350 cafeterias.

In 2000, Sandipan Mitra shifted to Bengaluru for studies from his home town Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. The pocket money, however, that he used to get was never enough for him to sustain in the city. So Mitra decided to take up a job to add on to his pocket money. After few rejections, he eventually landed a job as a waiter at the fast food restaurant Wimpy. Working there for the next few months helped Mitra understand the nuances of running a restaurant. This was followed by brief stint at a call center before joined Wipro as a software engineer and later Yahoo.

“The cumulation of all these experience gave birth to foodtech,” said Mitra who launched a full stack, B2B foodtech startup HungerBox in 2016. However, before launching HungerBox, Mitra and his friends had built and sold online food ordering company Hungrybangalore.com

“The concept of starting online food ordering company came to us way back in 2005 where we looked at different services in the US that were coming to India. Online food ordering was one of them. So we started India’s first food ordering website,” said Mitra.

The startup caught the ecosystem’s attention in 2011 when the UK-based online food ordering company Just Eat acquired majority stake in HungryZone (name changed from Hungrybangalore.com) in 2011 to become Just Eat India. Mitra and his team ran the company for the next 5.5 years before Foodpanda acquired Just Eat India in February 2015.

“After that we looked at the B2B side of foodtech to launch HungerBox as we realised that no company in India was doing significant work in it whereas on the B2C side there were so many players. As per our estimates, this is a $14 billion market in India growing at 15 per cent year-on-year,” said Mitra.

Digitizing Cafeterias

HungerBox provides technology solutions to companies for digitizing their cafeteria operations. The startup also take care of food safety and compliance part along with curating vendors. HungerBox, claimed Mitra, is the world’s first fully-digitized cafeteria solution provider with most of the large enterprises in India as its customers including Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, IBM, Wipro, TCS etc.

The startup has an annual run rate of Rs 360 crore and has around 350 such cafeterias across companies. Mitra said that the company is currently processing 3.6 lakh transactions per day and aims to close 2019 with a million transactions a day.

“At-scale, effective cafeteria management, ensuring standards, quality processes in F&B etc., are all aspects that are severely lacking in most corporates. By bringing the right platform and technology together, HungerBox has demonstrated the ability to deploy tech-led solution to disrupt the corporate F&B space and has also shown that it can scale operations in line with the requirements of some of India’s biggest corporates and institutions,” K Ganesh, Serial Entrepreneur & Partner – GrowthStory told Financial Express Online. HungerBox is promoted by GrowthStory, a venture builder platform based in Bengaluru.

Mitra said that the company has positive unit economics from the beginning with gross margin of 66 per cent at each of its cafeterias. “If a cafeteria does Rs 10 lakh sale, we make 10 per cent commission from that. Our operations cost includes deploying our experience manager at the cafeteria that costs Rs 25,000 per month and another Rs 8,000 for miscellaneous expenses,” said Mitra.

HungerBox raised $4.5 million in its Series A round from South Korean investment firm Neoplux and India-focused private equity fund Sabre Partners.

Foodtech company Zomato had also last year forayed into B2B vertical through the acquisition of TongueStun, a Bengaluru-based that aggregated restaurants and caterers for office canteens. Swiggy, on the other hand, had last year in October reportedly begun pilot of its B2B offering under Swiggy Cafe to digitize corporate cafeterias.

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