As Janice Shah & Himanshi Vora would do the rounds of supermarket aisles, the variety of sauces, mixtures and canned foods at the stores gave them the idea of starting their own venture. The idea was to offer budding gourmands who love food and aspire to cook restaurant style meals at home, a great variety of products. Their love story with gourmet food and products began when they were pursuing their masters in UK. And it is the same passion, that made these young ladies start thegourmetbox.in in March 2013. The idea was to sell exquisite, handpicked gourmet food products in Mumbai. They wanted to introduce experienced home cooks to the vast treasure of local and imported food products. The site has an online gourmet store and offers the conveniences of online shopping for these products. They also have a monthly subscription box, to promote products to new shoppers coming online.
Thegourmetbox.in has more than 173 products spread over 23 categories. These products are a mix of both international and national brands of exotic tea, coffee, muesli, healthy granola bars, organic honey, jams, pretzels, chips, dips, pasta, sauces, quinoa, noodles and lots more. Some of the brands selling online include Chai Diaries, Under the Mango Tree, Garofalo, Dave’s Gourmet, The Coffee Coach, Al Fez, Blue Dragon, Clearspring, Roland, El Sabor, Chocotella, etc. The products are sourced directly from international food importers and local food producers, manufacturers and distributors. The site also sells fresh and organic gourmet goodies made by home cooks, who do not have access to get their products stocked on big retailers’ shelves.
“After a lot of soul searching and scanning the food sections of supermarkets in India, we realized there is a huge market of great gourmet products here. Many individuals are overwhelmed by the choices and do not gravitate towards them due to lack of recommendation and knowledge of use. Eventually consumers always pick products they are comfortable with or have always bought,” says Janice. Every food product displayed on the website is carefully chosen by maintaining a balance between products that the customers might have seen in the supermarkets and products that are completely new and are not available easily.
Each month the team brainstorms to curate a box of gourmet goodies from different cuisines and themes across the globe. The selected products box goes through a focus group taste test before it is sent to the subscribers. The beautifully packaged monthly boxes include 5 or more gourmet products for Rs 1,250 inclusive of shipping, and includes new recipes and pairing ideas. Customers can also opt for quarterly boxes at Rs 3,750 or half yearly Rs 7,500 boxes, which come with added store benefits.
The putting together of this box is done after extensive research about consumer buying behavior and price point perception. More or less, the pricing is similar to the MRP printed on the gourmet products unless the product is displayed in the special price section. Himanshi says their entire focus is on quality, assortment and building up of a unique collection of products which are not available at any local store or supermarket. Inventory is constantly monitoring to manage it better and ensure products listed on the site is well within the expiry date. While some gourmet food products have short shelf lives, a lot of them have a year’s shelf life.
“Thegourmetbox.in maintains highest standards of quality in stocking and delivering its products. In order to have utmost control over the delivery, we have developed our own logistics system. We work on three different supply chain models,” says Himamshi. For certain fast moving products, they keep physical inventory at hand, but exotic products are delivered on consignment basis and other products, mainly fresh products that have shorter shelf lives, are bought and delivered upon order.
In case a customer receives a product beyond its expiry date or in a damaged condition, the product is accepted back and a replacement is issued at no additional cost, or as per company policies.While there are other competitors like Yzury, BigBasket, Olivefreetrading etc, Janice says, selling subscription service for gourmet food is an aspect of increased value they provide.
They are looking at internet savvy customers to come to their store. According to Janice, the biggest challenge blocking growth at this point is, the necessary take off required for subscription based services which is still very new to the country.
The startup is completey relient on social media websites where a pool of like-minded foodies are encouraged to share recipe ideas, cuisines, ingredients offers, new product launches etc. In the coming days, they also plan to collaborate with restaurants and chefs and participate in various food related events to market their brand. “Within the first month of launching, there has been 54 registrations, but like most of the ecommerce companies we also have been facing logistics issues and aversion to purchasing products on the internet, which we feel can only change over a period of time” says Janice.
The future seems bright for the startup, as the gourmet food business in India is expected to grow at 20% annually and reach close to US$3 billon within the next two years. There are also plans to collaborate with accomplished chefs to curate interesting boxes and give subscribers expert recipes suggestions and help them cook a different variety at home.