How young Indians eat? Major traction from these cities for ready-to-eat meals, snacks: Prerna Kalra, DaalChini

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June 17, 2021 1:58 PM

India’s current landscape for food takeaways, office meals and offerings looks and feels very different from what it was like before the pandemic struck.

dalchini kioskNotably, DaalChini has incorporated a tech-driven, temperature-controlled supply chain which is not demand-driven but forecast-driven led by machine learning-based projection tools.

Given how the second wave gained momentum, it is no surprise that Indians stayed at home and WFH continued to be the new norm. However, not all offices have been closed and many office goers have had to take the step of adhering to safety protocols and reaching their office on time. Food, in such situations, presents a serious dilemma as it is also linked to their safety during the pandemic.

Safety, being a critical aspect of food deliveries and office meal operations, is non-negotiable.

India’s current landscape for food takeaways, office meals and offerings looks and feels very different from what it was like before the pandemic struck. An up-and-coming new generation of WFH professionals and regular office goers are redefining what it means to be consuming ready-to-eat meals and snacks that are safe and nutritious, with a renewed focus on the freshness of ingredients used in food items. At a product level and a cultural level, there is greater awareness about food safety among young Indians, particularly when they order food online.

Prerna Kalra

Prerna Kalra, Co-Founder, DaalChini, tells Financial Express Online, “At this time, contactless is key to safety. To this end, we offer a 100% contactless solution for 6-meals-a-day. Buying from unmanned Daalchini also ensures social distancing. We do regular monitoring of our refilling staff and also flash the refilling person’s body temperature on the screen. Regarding our kiosks, we ensure regular sanitization and the timings of sanitization are also flashed on the machine to instill confidence and a sense of safety among our users. We also have cloud kitchens that specialize in home-style meals so we don’t offer restaurant food but something suitable for everyday consumption.”

Known for providing affordable and healthy home style meals to corporate professionals through IoT-enabled vending machines, DaalChini has been addressing the current pandemic with healthy and ready-to-eat meals and meal kits are a key offering, as are the recent introduction of healthy bars and immunity boosters, which are the veritable need of the hour.

Notably, DaalChini has incorporated a tech-driven, temperature-controlled supply chain which is not demand-driven but forecast-driven led by machine learning-based projection tools. Their tech suite also uses IoT retail to keep food safe, healthy while allowing remote monitoring.

In which cities do you find the most demand for your vending machines and what are the age demographics like?

When we launch a city, our objective is to have maximum coverage in that city. We are witnessing major traction from Chandigarh and Mohali where adoption is high among BPO/KPOs and the younger population. This is a convenient, tech-driven value proposition that the new-age consumers appreciate and adopt. Similar trends have been seen in Pune as well.

What is the methodology you use to adapt your menu?

We deploy an intuitive machine learning tool OFT (Order For Tomorrow) which allows us to identify the trends and create a suitable menu for the next day. This has been crucial in expanding sales across key geographies. It captures various demographics as well as sales-insights of the location to predict the demand.

Are there specific snacking patterns emerging during the pandemic period based on your sales pattern so far?

The pandemic has shifted the focus of healthy meals that are not just delicious but also nutritious. We are seeing a greater demand for healthy snacks, ready-to-eat meals and meal kits. As people try to keep their immunity high, smaller, frequent portion sizes are preferred. During this time, the customer is more aware of what they consume. While they are experimenting with new products, they also want to know more about the products. Customers want to understand more details like ingredients, nutritional value, freshness of product etc, before making their buying decision. This is why brands like Daalchini are also focusing on creating content around their offerings.

Tell us more about your proposition of creating a sub-99 food store and what categories it caters to and why you are looking at these categories across multiple geographies?

In the last couple of years, there is a massive demand for ready to eat/cook food, snacks, and healthy foods. However, a majority of D2C brands have failed to scale up with digital-only distribution as 83% of retail is unorganized and shelf-space is dominated by incumbent FMCG players with rentals comprising 20-25% of sales. Moreover their inventory is not digitally connected.

At Daalchini, we are a smart retail offerings brand catering to different on-the-go use-cases to drive “daily” retail across various channels and offer variety of foods & beverages under one roof with our 24*7 availability of items for the snacking needs for customers within 200 meters of reach. This makes it easier for customers to explore new and upcoming brands and experience them in real-time.

Are there safeguards to ensure that that nutritional value is not compromised?

At Daalchini, we are promoting options like healthy bars, fruit bowls and roasted snacks that are high on nutrition. Along with healthy food, we also offer the right content and information about our meals and snacks, so customers know exactly what they are consuming. Our meals are fresh and delicious, and always in line with customer preferences. We use feedback mechanisms to continuously improve the assortment of products that we offer.

As a brand, what are your top three priorities right now and how do you plan to fulfill it?

In the current scenario, we are looking at driving customer loyalty while boosting availability in more locations. For this, we will be eyeing expansion through the right channel partners and forging tie-ups with brands with which we can drive customer satisfaction.

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