Four out of every 10 restaurants in India are on the verge of shutting down permanently. That’s particularly worrisome for an industry which provides around seven million jobs. But as the coronavirus pandemic changes the way people dine out, some restaurateurs are trying to reinvent the food they serve.
Take the example of the ThickShake Factory, a Hyderabad-based business that scaled up from 25 to 120 outlets on the back of selling milkshakes in less than three years. As Covid-19 struck and the country went into lockdown, founders Yeshwanth and Ashwin Mocherla pivoted to a new delivery-only model, branching out to food and other healthy beverages.
Cloud kitchens too are redrawing their strategy. Rebel Foods, the owner of Faasos, Mandarin Oak and Behrouz Biryani brands, has introduced DIY meals targeting customers who are cautious about ordering cooked food. The dark kitchen chain will launch a new line of “ready to cook” options from marinated foods to pre-seasoned items.
Smoke House Deli, owned by Riyaz Amlani’s Impresario, has also joined the DIY bandwagon. These kits, according to Amlani, can catch up because families have been reacquainted with the idea of cooking a meal together. Social, another popular joint owned by him, has started home delivery of pre-made non-alcoholic drink mixers that go into their signature cocktails.
Even upscale eateries like Bombay Canteen and Masque have started home delivery. Read the story to know how safety will trump all other considerations.
Startups seek government aid
A startup lobby founded by homegrown entrepreneurs has requested the government to create a Rs 25,000-crore fund to help the digital ecosystem tide over a liquidity crunch.
The Startup Association of India (SAI) wrote to Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, suggesting that the proposed Startup India Fund should be set up on priority, with the government contributing Rs 15,000 crore. An existing Rs 10,000 crore fund-of-funds, which is currently being administered by the Small Industries Development Board of India (Sidbi), should be rolled into it as well, it suggested.
SAI also sought an exception for startups from a recent government amendment that requires prior approval for any investment from China. It said this should not be applicable for capital calls from existing investors in ventures where they have already invested or impact subsequent investment by an existing shareholder in a startup. Read more.
Private label push
Sales of private labels of online platforms such as BigBasket, Grofers, Amazon and Flipkart have grown exponentially. This comes at a time when consumers are looking for low-cost options and as products from large fast-moving consumer goods firms have become scarce.
BigBasket and Grofers said they have been able to directly work with manufacturers to make staples and hygiene products available faster than traditional FMCG channels. And the momentum is expected to continue in the mid- to long-term.
Private brands in categories like pulses, detergents and personal care have seen an uptick after the country went into lockdown. Read more.
Charging over MRP
E-commerce firms have fared better than offline stores in complying with rules limiting sale of products to their maximum retail price (MRP).
A survey conducted by community platform LocalCircles showed that 39% of respondents had at some point in the last five weeks of lockdown been charged more than the MRP of a packaged product bought from a brick-and mortar retailer. A majority of complaints received were of overcharging on products such as masks and hand sanitisers in the first two weeks of the lockdown when there was high demand and lack of supply.
Local stores listing products on hyperlocal delivery apps above their MRPs have also come to light in the past few weeks. Read more.
When people are making every effort that they can to avoid venturing out, getting cash from an ATM seems like a herculean task.
And fintech companies are not letting this opportunity go to waste. Shoppers at even neighbourhood stores now want contactless digital payments, and that demand dovetails with what lenders want in lieu of working capital loans—digital invoices and online transaction records.
Top fintech firms are rushing to tap into this new consumer trend, with several of them offering digital solutions to small merchants. These range from instant loans to digital billing to even geotagging, as companies believe the merchant digitisation business will boom when the lockdown eases. Read more.