Husband-wife duo Gopi Lingala and Saneesha Rao were struggling to get nutritionally balanced food. Gopi was working 12-14 hours a day and had all his meals at the office, while Saneesha needed a special diet because of her pregnancy.
After meeting with nutritionists and doctors, and trying out various food delivery services, the duo realised that making a balanced meal required a lot of time and effort. With this in mind, they founded LeanSpoon in May 2016 in Hyderabad with their personal savings and by taking a bank loan, and assembled a team of skilled nutritionists and chefs to prepare meal plans based on individual health requirements.
Hyderabad-based LeanSpoon helps people achieve their health goals through personalised nutrition, by integrating nutrition and lifestyle advice considering the user’s medical background, dietary patterns and health goals.
While funding was available easily, we wanted to take our time to getting the service and the product right before going for any external funding. We, however, had other challenges,” says Gopi (36), an MSc in International Business who brings 13 years of work experience in the BPO and consulting sector, with a focus on services supply chain management.
Saneesha (29) is a Computer Science engineer and started her career as a technical artist in game development before she took up painting and sculpting full time when she moved to Latin America.
Preparing the food
LeanSpoon has a team of over 20 people, including a culinary team and a nutritionist team. They select only nutritionists with a degree in nutrition and a good understanding of the science backed by work experience at hospitals.
Their chefs, too, are backed by degrees in hotel management and experience in five-star hotels or flight kitchens. The kitchen has eight staff and one nutritionist, who works closely with them.
“Getting a multi-course meal that is nutritionally balanced across both macro nutrients—fat, protein, carbs—and micro-nutrients—fibre, vitamins and minerals—and that is flexible to portion control for different dietary requirements is an intricate solution. And doing this for a rotating menu that does not repeat for ten weeks is a complex task,” says Gopi.
LeanSpoon offers subscriptions on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, with five, 22 and 70 meals respectively. The customer has the flexibility to take only nutrition advice or include breakfast and/or lunch packs (presently only in Hyderabad) as part of their subscription.
Nutrition advice includes a personal nutritionist for each customer to better understand his health goals and medical background and work with the kitchen team and other nutritionists to prepare customised meals.
This nutritionist can be reached over call, email and chat for any queries related to nutrition, health, and exercise for the entire subscription period during working hours. The nutritionist also shares relevant information and articles related to the challenges and health goals of their clients.
A monthly subscription to nutrition advice, breakfast and lunch comes to about Rs 9,000, while a three-month subscription to all three comes at about Rs 25,000. The average meal pack comes to around Rs 175–205, including nutrition advice, portion controlling, delivery and tax.
Currently, LeanSpoon caters to over 1,000 orders a month. According to Gopi, the startup gains a clear operating margin from every meal it delivers. This year, the startup will open its second production centre in Hyderabad and aims to take the number of meals it delivers to 25,000 per month.
“Over the next 2-3 years, we are looking at leveraging technology, including wearables, to gather the data to further customise our offering for users. We are also looking to working with diagnostic testing and genetic testing to help people personalise and plan their health goals accordingly,” says Gopi.
According to an India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) report, the total size of the healthcare industry is expected to touch $160 billion by 2017 and $280 billion by 2020. Diet plan is the new buzzword in the healthcare industry, with a handful of emerging startups customising diet plans according to customers' health goals.
Gurugram-based First Eat not only serves nutritious meals but also educates people the importance of nutrition through a network of dietitians. The HealthyBox serves organic healthy food in Delhi and Gurugram. Mumbai-based Grubit caters to people on different diet levels - the strict diet followers, conscious foodies who like to try different cuisines, and for the moderately active people.