Hyderabad-based bootstrapped KhaanaGiri was started specifically to provide healthy food options for those working the graveyard shift.
When the IT boom hit Bengaluru and Hyderabad, several young engineers were exposed new work environments and different work timings. Apart from opportunities of on-sites in the US, UK and Australia, many employees worked according to US timings, which meant work shifts would begin in the evening and last late into the night or early next morning.
The odd hours led to late-night snacking in most offices, either junk food or road-side snacks. This is exactly what Aatish Raathi, a software engineer on the graveyard shift, faced one night. Sitting by the roadside, eating idlis at a stall, he couldn’t help but wonder how much easier life would be if he had healthy food options.
Thinking along these lines, Aatish began researching and realised that there was potential for late-night food delivery in Hyderabad, especially around the Cyberabad area, which hosted all the IT companies and major colleges like ISB, IIIT and NIFT.
The demand was there, he realised, but there was no one serving quality food and delivering it to office employees.
In November 2015, Aatish started KhaanaGiri, a startup that promised delivery of healthy meals from 7.30pm to 3am. However, the huge demand by their regular customers recently led them to offer lunch services from 12 to 4pm over the weekends.
“We have a centralised kitchen in the heart of Cyberabad (Gachibowli circle) where food is prepared by experienced chefs who are trained to prepare home-like food. We have our own fleet of dedicated delivery boys who deliver even during heavy rains and thunderstorms,” Aatish says.
Apart from working in the world of software engineering, Aatish had also co-founded an NGO, WHAT (We Help All Those) Club, which is present across five cities with over 500 members.
But for KhaanaGiri the first challenge was to get a good location for the centralised kitchen; they needed a spot from where all IT companies were within a 5-6 km radius. The second biggest challenge was to find dedicated staff members, including chefs and delivery boys.
Aatish, says, “I visited over 100 restaurants and met many chefs, asking them to refer some of their friends or relatives who were in this profession and looking for a good opportunity. Eventually, after conducting many interviews, we finalised our initial core team.”
Since Aatish was from an engineering and a NGO background, he was quite inexperienced in the space. But when he realised that his yoga teacher, Ashok, also ran a restaurant, Aatish sought his help to understand the space and sector.
There were different challenges in scaling up - marketing ideas to increase customer acquisitions (while keeping the unit economics correct), maintaining quality and service for customer retention, and increasing the workforce.
KhaanaGiri now has a 28-year old head chef, with over 10 years of experience and six months training at a five-star hotel in Hyderabad.
“All my delivery executives are also under 30 years of age and have years of experience of doing deliveries (under various ecommerce companies and pizza outlets before),” Aatish says. KhaanaGiri has also partnered with Swiggy, Zomato and FoodPanda.
On KhaanaGiri, the customer has the option of placing orders via WhatsApp, phone, the website or through food delivery platforms. The team prepares and packs the food in their centralised kitchen.
“And then our delivery executives do the rest - quick and quality delivery,” he says.
There are several players in the cloud-kitchen space. The top ones are FreshMenu and InnerChef, and both follow a centralised kitchen format.
Foodtech and online food delivery never seem to go out of style. In April 2015 alone, the foodtech space had generated funds worth a whopping $74 million on a total of seven deals. In August, this figure dipped to $19 million with a total of five deals. In September, the number further fell to two deals.
However, by the end of 2015, the foodtech honeymoon had started ending. TinyOwl started facing severe troubles; operations were slashed, employees were asked to leave and the founders even faced hostage-like situations.
Even Rocket internet’s Foodpanda, which had seen a host of acquisitions and was expanding, started facing problems. It was acquired by Delivery Hero this year. In 2016, Swiggy raised two rounds of funding.
In January, it raised $35 million, and went on procure an additional $7 million and $15 million in May and September respectively. In May this year, Swiggy roped in Naspers and further raised $80 million in Series E funding. Apart from this Eatigo, the Southeast Asian food startup launched operations in India, as did San Francisco-based uberEATS.
However, what helps KhaanaGiri stand out in the crowded sector is the fact that they serve till 3am. Aatish says their customers also like the flexibility of ordering on WhatsApp.
“Our menu card has an item code for each item; customers just have to ping us the item code and their order is placed. It’s as simple as that,” Aatish says.
Currently bootstrapped, the team claims that they broke even in the second month of operations and were profitable from the third month. Aatish pegs their revenue at $5 million in the first year of operations.
KhaanaGiri’s average growth rate has been 30 percent over the last six months, and the team claims to have 35 percent of their daily orders from repeat customers.
“We plan to have a B2B model along with B2C for this unit. We have done over 15 tieups under B2B with various corporates and hotels (OYO and Treebo) and the results are very encouraging. We want to take this model forward,” adds Aatish.