Ride-hailing unicorn Ola launched its food business, Ola Foods, in 2019. With its flagship brand Khichdi Experiment, Ola Foods made a blockbuster entry into the food segment.
Pranay Jivrajka, CEO, Ola Foods, says, “Khichdi Experiment is India’s fastest food brand to reach one million orders and one of the fastest growing categories on all platforms.”
But within just a year of its launch, the company faced financial and operational challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, with its multi-brand kitchen model, the company is betting on favourable tailwinds, cloud kitchens, and contactless food delivery to stay afloat during these tough times.
Recently, YourStory caught up with Pranay to trace the journey of Ola Foods and its plans for the future.
One dish at a time
Back in 2017, Ola acquired Foodpanda India for $200 million to enter the online food delivery business. Rumour was that it was taking on Uber, its biggest competitor, that had already launched UberEATS (later acquired by Zomato).
However, these speculations were put to rest when Ola launched its own brand – Ola Foods. “Our learnings from the past have helped us in building a sustainable food business that goes beyond food delivery and captures other parts of the food value chain,” Pranay says.
Speaking on the inspiration behind the launch of Khichdi Experiment, its first cloud kitchen product, Pranay says, the brand wanted to start its food journey by reimagining khichdi. Started with the aim to create a differentiator in a cluttered market, Khichdi Experiment has been able to acquire a dominant market share of around 80 percent in the online kitchen category within just one year of its launch.
Commenting on why they entered the food business, Pranay says, India has considerably low restaurants per capita when compared to China, and only a couple of large restaurant chains.
“With Ola Foods, we wanted to cater to this segment through our network of cloud kitchens to enable brands to optimise costs, scale rapidly, and build consumer-first food brands in every market,” he adds.
India has a handful of national food brands, and thus brands like Ola Foods have got an opportunity to build a portfolio of food brands to serve customers’ needs.
“Our approach is to create new categories and redefine existing food categories to deliver a differentiated consumer experience,” Pranay adds.
At present, Ola Foods has a network of more than 50 tech-enabled smart kitchens and four brands across cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune. The startup is now focussing on expanding its presence across the country.
Apart from khichdi, it plans to build new categories including biryani, pizza, health, and meal kits. “We have already launched some of these brands across select markets and will be scaling them in the next few months,” Pranay says.
Check what goes behind an Ola Foods cloud kitchens in the video below: