Although, India is yet to come up with internationally-renowned food brands such as Domino’s, McDonald’s or KFC, the country has no dearth of food startups. Zomato, TinyOwl, Faasos, Chai Point, and SpoonJoy – these are just few of the many names that come to our mind, when we think of the country’s rapidly expanding ecosystem of food and beverage startups.. Apart from restaurants and food manufacturing companies, the list also includes a great number of food-tech startups that are using technological innovation to solve the major problems that are existing in the F&B industry.

Is food & beverage industry the next big thing in India? What are the major challenges associated with starting up in the F&B sector? What are the current trends that are dominating the market? In what way has the eating habits and preferences of Indian consumers changed over the years, and how will it influence the food businesses of the future? What role will technology play in the success of food startups in India? The May 2015 edition of Startup Saturday Bangalore had a delicious mix of startups, aspiring entrepreneurs and food-lovers discussing on various aspects of the food and beverage industry in India.

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The session started with an inspiring talk by Amiya Pathak, Founder and COO of ZipDial. Recently acquired by Twitter  and ranked 8th in Fast Company’s list of the ‘The World’s most innovative companies 2014’, Amiya co-founded Zipdial along with Valerie Wagoner and Sanjay Swamy in the year 2010. A mobile marketing platform that has served leading brands such as Unilever, Disney, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, Zipdial assigns brands a special phone number that they can use in print ads or TV commercials. Consumers can give a missed call on this number and get a text or call that allows them to enter in contests, receive coupons, or place an order. Talking about the inspiring journey of Zipdial from its launch till its acquisition, Amiya shared insights on what it takes to build a successful business and shed light on the challenges that entrepreneurs often face in the initial years after starting up. “It’s not necessary to know your co-founders,” he said, stressing upon the critical role that the founding team plays in the success of any startup. “It was the idea that brought the Zipdial founders together and the common vision of –  Either Go Big or Go Home. The team members also had complementary skills that they could bring to the table.”

Addressing those who are bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, yet hesitant to take the plunge, for the fear that their startup idea isn’t innovative enough, Amiya said that the only way to address the itch of starting up is to start up. One may succeed or fail. But, the only way to know this is by executing the idea. The idea execution and consistent delivery of results is far more important than the idea itself, and something that investors look for while funding a startup. Amiya also spoke about the significance of building a strong team and gathering customer feedback. “Break the business model into achievable milestones and get some validation on the product from customers,” he said. “Also, be ready to invest in hiring. You might have to shell out a huge amount to hire a new member in the team. But, the investment is worth it, for a quality hire.”

The second speaker at the event was Ritesh Dwivedy, CEO of JUST EAT India.. Launched in 2006 with the name HungryZone, the company was rechristened as JUST EAT India in 2011, after its partnership with JUST EAT Group, the leading online portal for ordering food that operates in 13 countries around the globe, and allows users to browse through hundreds of restaurant menus online, and get their favourite dishes delivered at their doorstep. JUST EAT India now serves more than 6 lakh registered foodies all over India. The website has over 3,000 restaurants on board, and 52 cuisines to choose from. Today, part of the FoodPanda network, it’s competing with the likes of Zomato in the food technology space.

Talking about online food delivery businesses, Ritesh stated that in addition to quality food, it’s also critical for businesses to ensure that the food delivery is done on time. Else, the hungry customer is likely to turn into an angry customer and hurt the brand reputation. To enable restaurants to respond faster to the orders made on JUST EAT website, the company uses a GPRS-based device which is installed at restaurants and integrated with JustEat’s systems. Orders placed on the website are automatically routed to the restaurant using this device. But, despite having these systems in place, there are various other challenges the company has to deal with on a daily basis, Ritesh pointed out. There’s a need to coordinate with the restaurants from time to time, and update changes in the menu prices on JUST EAT website. Often orders need to be cancelled, due to the unavailability of particular dishes at the restaurants, and such cancellations are often unpredictable. Talking about future opportunities in the food startup space, Ritesh said that there is a good scope for startup ideas that would help promote innovation in food packaging, or those that would improve kitchen capacity utilizations in restaurants.

The event featured two mouth-watering demos by Team Delish and Cookass who got a chance to share their startup idea with the food-loving audience and gain some valuable customer insights.

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Adding more flavour and richness to the event was the Panel Discussion Session moderated by Rohith Veerajappa (Co-founder at Wow Labz and Senior Volunteer at Headstart Network Foundation), and featuring Panel speakers Madhu Menon (Food photographer and writer at Madhu Menon Food), Mukesh Tolani ( Director at pH4 Food), Rajat Agarwal ( Investment Professional at Matrix Partners),
Ritesh Kumar Dwivedy ( CEO at and Rakshit K (Co-Founder at DropKaffe)

Some of the questions that were answered by the panelists during the session are:

Q: Has the definition of ‘healthy’ changed in our country over the past decade?

A (Madhu and Rakshit): Yes, people are definitely more aware of what they eat now. Buyers are reading labels on packaged food and evaluating them for their health benefits or health risks, before buying. Food and Beverage startups must therefore provide customers with ample choices for health foods.

Q: Can JustEat and foodpanda model be replicated without significant funding? Is there any place for a new entrant in this Market?

A (Ritesh): There are already many big players in the market. It’s highly challenging for a bootstrapped startup to break into the market, attract investors, and overpower the biggies that are already existing and growing.

Q: If you had 100 bucks in your pocket and you were to start an online restaurant, how would you spend it?

A (Ritesh and Rakshit): Spend the money on engaging customers and testing the product in the market.

Q: What are the trends in the market? Healthy food? Organic food? Gourmet food? Or simple “Ghar ka Khana”?

A (Ritesh and Rajat):Although people are more health-conscious now, data suggests that junk food such as chips are being bought and consumed more than health foods such as oats. So, there’s always a gap between what people want to do and what they actually do. Also, those who are on a strict and healthy diet generally, tend to not be that finicky while eating out in restaurants. It’s one of those occasions when they let themselves indulge guiltlessly.

Q: What are the trends that you see in the Beverages industry?

A (Mukesh): The beer industry is growing rapidly in India and has a huge scope for growth in the coming years.

Q: What are the hidden challenges in F&B business? Things that are not apparent?

A (All): Retaining quality staff and dealing with high retail expenses are some of the key challenges for offline F&B businesses.

All in all, the May 2015 edition of Startup Saturday Bangalore was a highly delectable event, attended by over 140 participants, with 30% of the attendees already running a startup, and the rest of the attendees looking to understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem and launch their startup soon. A huge thanks to the enthusiastic audience who attended and participated actively in the event; and to our Venue partner IBM, our Gift partner Giftxoxo and our Beverage partner DropKaffe for their generous support and contribution.

About Headstart Bangalore:

Established in the year 2008 with the vision to ‘Change the World through Entrepreneurship’, Headstart Network Foundation ( is the largest network of early stage startups in India. A non-profit, volunteer-driven organization, HeadStart Bangalore facilitates entrepreneurial learning, hiring and peer mentoring amongst the startups and addresses their issues through various initiatives such as: . Startup Saturday Bangalore, Headstart Clubs, Headstart Higher and Headstart Cofounder Search Program.

If you are a startup looking to hire quality candidates for your company or a job-seeker looking for new opportunities at startups, then block your calender for Headstart’s biggest startup hiring event – ‘‘Headstart Higher’ happening on Saturday, 16th May 2015. The initiative provides a platform for candidates and startups to interact with each other through a speed dating setup. Registration and more info on Headstart Higher here:

Compiled by:

Swati Ramnath

Volunteer at Headstart Bangalore