On March 17, the customer care centre of Bengaluru-based iD Fresh Food received a panic call from a woman. This is slightly unusual for a fresh food company that manufactures packaged food products such as idly, dosa and vada batter. She requested them over and over to help her deliver batter products and chapattis to her old parents. Karnataka was one of the first states in India that announced the lockdown around March 13 and she was stuck in Mysuru, unable to return back home. All restaurants and malls were closed too and many grocers were taking weeks before making deliveries.
While the firm doesn't do home deliveries, they made an exception for her. But, it also made them realise that there would be many more consumers like her who would need the staple batter products a lot more than before.
"It was then," says iD Fresh Food co-founder and CEO PC Musthafa, "we decided to change the way we look at our business, instead of the revenue perspective we decided to focus on service mentality."
He explains that the reason for the existence of their business is to simplify the cooking process with the availability of fresh, ready-to-eat products. During the lockdown, more than ever, people need meal options that can be prepared and served quickly.
So, the decision was a natural transition, says Musthafa. "If we are not able to help our consumers during this time of crisis, there is no point in supporting them when things are right. Thinking about revenue now would mean running away from responsibility."
The first decision they took was to stop pushing their high margin products such as the vada batter or the grated coconut and focus only on producing three of their low margin but staple products such as the idli and dosa batter, paneer and chapattis.
"We had to take this call to best optimise the limited resources we had during the first few weeks, when we were facing issues with availability of the raw material from farmers as the state borders were closed," says Musthafa.
But, production was one thing, reaching to consumers another. Since a lot of these retailers were closed, to help the consumers find the products, they decided to bring the retail stores and inventory data they had internally to consumers. That was the first step in their transition from an offline food company to an online food distribution firm. Within a week 'Store Finder' was launched. It identifies open stores near one's location and tells the exact quantity of iD Fresh products supplied on a given day. It also has 'Notify Me' feature that will provide SMS alerts when fresh stocks get refilled in the store.
What helped was that iD Fresh has its own supply chain with 375 vehicles and 600 sales people who help with the distribution at 30,000 retail outlets.
They also started looking at direct home delivery models by tying up with RWAs. They have tied up with 10 RWAs in Mumbai and are planning to scale it up in other cities.
In fact, Musthafa says, even with limited operations and products for most of the days, March was their best performing month with sales of Rs 24 crores. The averages sales for FY2019-2020 for a month was Rs 20 crore.
"It is not just about a product but how you approach the customer that is important," he says.