The application of technology in food industry is the new trend prevailing in the startup ecosystem in India. The increase in the number of users of internet and smartphones has contributed significantly towards the growth of tech startups in India. First Eat, a tech startup in Gurgaon has been operating quite differently from other existing players in the food industry. The founders of First Eat loves to call itself a health tech startup rather than a food tech startup. The startup conceptualized and co-founded by Saikat Bagchi, Rishabh Tickoo, Mannat Wadehra and Shitiz Dogra started operations in November 2015. Nutrition requirements and food preferences vary from one person to another. First Eat helps its users to choose their preferred food from a wide variety of healthy food options that has been curated by a panel of nutritionists. This feature is something that makes this startup different from others.
Today, we would get to know more about First Eat as Rishabh Tickoo, one of the co-founders of this startup joins us in this interview session to share their story.
Hi, welcome to this conversation with conflatingVisions. To start with, we would like you to say a few lines about the founders of First Eat.
First Eat was conceptualized and co-founded by Saikat Bagchi, Rishabh Tickoo, Mannat Wadehra and Shitiz Dogra.
Saikat Bagchi, BE – Panjab University, PGDM – MICA, Ahmedabad.
Saikat has an extensive experience in Analytics, consumer insights, and marketing strategy. At First Eat, Saikat takes care of the Business Strategy and Strategic Partnerships.
Rishabh Tickoo, BE – DCE, PGDM – MICA, Ahmedabad.
Rishabh has worked with a digital marketing firm, and then with a VC firm taking care of the operations strategy for a restaurant aggregator startup in Gurgaon. He is taking care of the Operations at First Eat. His job is to ensure that the customer is delivered more than (s)he is promised.
Mannat Wadehra, BE – Punjabi University, PGPM – Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai.
Before First Eat, Mannat was leading a healthcare-tech project in Johannesburg. At First Eat, he plays a key role in building the tech product, along with being the ‘connect expert’ of the company, where he puts his passion (of being a salesman at heart) into practice.
Shitiz Dogra, BE – NSIT, PGDM – MICA, Ahmedabad.
Shitiz became a part of First Eat, leaving his ‘steady and secure’ PSU job in Corporate Communications. He takes care of the Marketing and PR activities of First Eat, and believes in the power of innovative marketing and growth hacking for gaining maximum traction and brand building.
Please tell us about First Eat.
First Eat is a collective brainchild of Saikat Bagchi, Shitiz Dogra, Rishabh Tickoo and Mannat Wadehra. Saikat, Shitiz and Rishabh are MICA, Ahmedabad alumni and Mannat is from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. We have been connected through childhood friendship and share a common passion for health, wellness and of course, food.
The intention to build awareness and availability of healthy, nutritious food (or diet) that helps in the proactive wellness of the body and mind brought the four of us together. The pull was quite strong and it brought us together from across geographies.
The team firmly believes that holistic wellness of your body will take care of itself if you First Eat Right; hence the name First Eat, and the tagline – for your health. Healthy food intake is the proactive approach to wellness. And this is the main idea we wish to propagate with First Eat as the purveyor of the same.
What problems are you solving with this platform?
First Eat is aiming for holistic wellness with food as its epicentre for your health. For health freaks opting for diet plans as per their goal or intent, the biggest lacuna is the fulfilment of that diet. It’s easier said than done. Plans are available but who will fulfill that diet food for you?
So for this huge gap, First Eat is the bridge. Every single food item on the First Eat app has been curated by nutritionists with calorie counted approach and measured ingredients for your health.
We have our own panel of nutritionists on board who have created various healthy meal plans. Health freaks having specific goals like Weight Loss, Weight Gain, Gym Diet, it’s all curated by our panel and available on the app.
Customers also have A la carte options available to choose from where they have a plethora of options like Zero Oil Sandwiches, Fresh Juices, Zero Oil Rice Box Meals, Healthy Salads, The Great Indian Breakfast, All English Breakfast and more.
When we started off, we were pretty sure that food is not the only thing we are going to do. We have been doing a lot of awareness activities, blogger meets, corporate wellness programs and nutritionist sessions to drive forward the idea of healthy eating.
How is the journey with First Eat so far? Tell us about the initial days.
First Eat currently serves Gurgaon with an average of 230 daily meals and 90+ daily running subscriptions of nutritionists’ recommended diet plans. With nearly 10,000 app downloads on Android and iOS, and an active user base touching 6700+, First Eat has a staggering repeat rate of 67% and is eyeing expanding to other areas of NCR soon. You can get the app on Android and iOS for your health.
When we started off, we faced a few operational challenges and took inputs from our customers to ensure changes real time and offer an unmatched experience. For example, in the beginning, we harnessed third party players for our deliveries but it caused a lot of issues as shared by our customers as well. So we decided to get rid of the practice and own up entire logistics and delivery. Gradually we learned the ropes and introduced product innovation to offer more value to our customers and we learn every day. A rewarding experience truly.
Share the investment details.
Name and background of investors
Undisclosed serial investor, who is also an F&B entrepreneur in Gurgaon, is investing through a seed round in the business proposition of First Eat.
Amount of funding raised
Previous investment rounds
Bootstrapped before the seed round.
How are you building a successful customer base for your health tech startup First Eat?
Quality. Consistency. Communication with your customer. These key tenets team First Eat swears by religiously. Every customer is a reward and you never take a reward for granted. We ensure we talk to our customers on a consistent basis and implement their suggestions real time and enhance their experience further. And it’s actually a very engaging process. The more you talk, the more you think like the customer and know exactly what they want. That’s how you build and ensure a loyal customer base.
At First Eat, we are committed towards creating a sustainable product offering for our customers with a prime focus on the tech-driven enhanced customer experience. In order to reach out to a wider base, we continue to establish strategic business alliances with a focus on common synergies.
In what ways are you different from similar other players operating in this sector?
First Eat offers you a host of options to choose from for a healthy living whether it is A La Carte options or Goal Oriented Diet Plans. Yes, food forms a critical component of our proposition but it is not the only thing we do or want to do. This fact has formed the DNA of our business. You have food; you have assurance and guidance of a nutritionist and you have affordability. So we are taking care of your health and wealth too.
As mentioned before, we have our own panel of nutritionists on board who have created various healthy meal plans. Health freaks having specific goals like Weight Loss, Weight Gain, Gym Diet, it’s all curated by our panel and available on the app.
More so, every order is prepared fresh, on-demand ONLY. Thus mitigating our food wastage and ensuring the customer receives the meal freshly prepared and hot.
What are some of the present challenges?
Healthy food is an exciting space to be present in provided players does not digress from the original proposition that they set out while entering the market. There are many players doing their niche, but how they keep their major elements viz. quality and delivery while scaling up is the real challenge. Since we are in healthy foods space, heightening the awareness about healthy eating and its benefits is paramount and for that marketing initiatives need to be experiential in nature. Traditional methods of communication are little a passé now.
How do you intend to overcome the challenges?
We are consistently engaged in a dialogue with our customers and keep implementing their feedback and suggestions real time to enhance their experience. We feel these simple things are what add the extra to the ordinary. At First Eat, we’re bringing in innovative methods of communication that catch the customer’s eye and we’ve received very promising feedback for the same. For example, our strategic alliance with Philips recently helped us carve out an entire range of zero Oil air fried snacks and it generated an immense positive response and gave impetus to adopting healthy habits.
Also, we recently launched the concept of Healthy Calorie Counted Thalis. People are hardly aware that consuming healthy calories and not empty calories is what drives your stamina and energy and that’s what our products are loaded with. Our panel of nutritionists has curated these calorie counted meals taking into consideration the typical Indian taste preferences. We believe, staying true to your core proposition is what helps you stand the test of time and we do not wish to deviate from that at any point of time. Where there is health, First Eat shall be.
What are your future plans to scale up the growth of First Eat?
According to the IAMAI, mobile internet penetration in rural India is growing at close to 58 percent YOY. Several reports also suggest these regions account for close to 40 percent of the country’s middle-class income group with increasing spending powers. The food delivery market in India is worth USD 1.6 billion, growing at 30 percent a year. But, less than two percent of the orders are placed online. So yes, there is an immense scope. Also, smartphone penetration and disposable incomes are on a rise and inclination towards proactive wellness is also shooting up.
We are currently focused towards strengthening our operations within Gurgaon and build a scalable model that can be adapted to the needs of different markets. We are also concentrating on building awareness through the online medium which has an inherent advantage of scalability. The market and the eco-system is currently very encouraging not only for metros but also non-metros with the ever expanding smartphone market.
And one last question of this session, if you have had one wish…
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