PurpleBasil wants to be the ‘McDonalds’ for healthy food

8th Aug 2018
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Dhananjai Raja Kuttikad and Rashmi Ghale, co-founders, PurpleBasil

At a glance

Startup: PurpleBasil

Founder: Dhananjai Raja Kuttikad and Rashmi Ghale

Year it was founded: 2016

Where it is located: Bengaluru

The problem it solves: Healthy food made tasty

Sector: Food-tech

Funding raised: Undisclosed

Two years ago, Dhananjai Raja Kuttikad and Rashmi Ghale, both in their thirties, decided to make a lifestyle change and start eating healthy. The couple, however, soon found there was a dearth of credible service providers who genuinely focused on all-round nutrition.

More importantly, what was marketed as “healthy food” was boring and bland, making it difficult for anyone to take up healthy eating on a regular basis. “We wanted to change that. We wanted to make healthy eating interesting. That’s how we hit upon our concept of really healthy food that tastes like fast food!” says Dhananjai.

A lawyer experienced in international contract and commercial management, Dhananjai, and Rashmi, who was quality analyst at GE, decided to solve this problem with ‘PurpleBasil.’

“Our vision essentially, is to help make healthy eating an easy, convenient habit for our customers. In the long run, we plan to be like a McDonalds for healthy food,” Dhananjai says.

Even the name - PurpleBasil - was chosen in line with this vision. “Purple stands for the top notch and premium customer experience that we provide, while Basil denotes the freshness of every meal that leaves our kitchen. Also, PurpleBasil is considered to be one of the healthiest and flavourful herbs in the world,” Dhananjai explains.

Identifying the customer base

PurpleBasil targets two customer groups - those who want to eat healthy and tasty, and those who are fitness conscious and want to solve the food part in their fitness regime. Dhananjai claims their marketing spend has been minimal, and that they have acquired customers through word-of-mouth and basic social media marketing.

PurpleBasil - Banh mi sandwich.

For scaling up, which involves the addition of new verticals while growing the current business at a faster pace, PurpleBasil has clear strategies. Dhananjai elaborates,

“We hope to acquire customers through a combination of strategic partnerships as well as one-on-one marketing and/or corporate sales. We recently tied up with our first gym partner Multifit, a Pune-based fitness chain that recently launched its first center in Indiranagar in Bengaluru. We opened our first offline space within their gym. Multifit members can now subscribe to our meal plans and pick their food up from our center in their gym.”

PurpleBasil also has a few corporate clients that subscribe to their meals.

Working together

A married couple working together always comes with its merits and demerits, but Dhananjai says that there has never been a disadvantage for him and his better half. He believes that in today’s world, the phrase ‘work life balance’ is not as relevant as ‘work life integration.’

“We are all constantly integrating work into our personal lives, and vice-versa. Working together brings about an alignment of our professional goals. Work never switches off for us, neither does personal life. I don’t feel the need to set aside different timeslots for each of these,” he says.

PurpleBasil - Shakshuka.

PurpleBasil is a team of just under 20 people, including kitchen staff (from chefs to cleaning staff) as well as the delivery fleet. Other aspects, such as marketing, PR, finance etc, are handled by consultants. Dhananjai takes care of strategy and planning, while Rashmi leads operations, customer experience, and delivery.

Dhananjai says that since neither of them have prior experience in the food business, they are able to view problems from a customer perspective. In short, their inexperience in the domain is what makes them imminently qualified to change the world, one meal at a time.

Finding a way, and funding it well

PurpleBasil initially raised seed funding from three investors (including their first customer). Recently, it raised another round of undisclosed funding from angel investors across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and London.

“Our philosophy of funding has been to raise funds only as and when required. Our model maximises customer VFM (value for money) while also maintaining a fair state of unit level profitability for each meal. At scale, we plan to continue this approach and gain in volume,” says Dhananjai.

He claims PurpleBasil’s efficient supply chain ensures the cash burn is minimised. “Additionally, with about 20 percent of revenue coming from subscriptions, we have some amount of predictability built in to our ops, thus reducing wastage to a large extent,” he says, adding PurpleBasil serves around 3,000 meals each month.

Catering to customer demand, PurpleBasil will soon roll out certain new diet plans. “We also get a lot of requests for breakfast smoothies and post workout shakes. A new series of drinks on these lines should be out soon,” says Dhananjai.

In the food businesses, quality is of utmost importance. Since PurpleBasil keeps its operations process-driven and not person-dependent, Dhananjai claims they are able to deliver a consistent taste for every order.

“Further, we are able to ensure that any meal order that hits our kitchens is cooked fresh and sent out for delivery within an average of 8-11 minutes. We refer to this ops methodology, which is confidential and proprietary to us, as Kitchen Symphony internally. We believe that this will be integral in helping us scale quickly without risking quality issues,” he adds.

PurpleBasil - Ragi Dosa

Finding a unique path

In the last few years, several full stack cloud kitchen model businesses have come up, focusing on developing great tech with minimal innovation in food. PurpleBasil, though, wants to be a food company that serves happiness.

“Technology is surely an enabler, but our focus has always been on innovating food. We are perhaps one of the few foodtech startups in the last few years to have focused on innovating in food first and tech secondarily,” says Dhananjai.

PurpleBasil has achieved a breakeven on a monthly basis, and aims to become profitable at scale in the next two years or so. Its most important metric is repeat customer statistics.

By FY 2021, it hopes to expand in Bengaluru, as well as launch in Hyderabad and Mumbai, with 30-50 kitchens. They hope to capture one percent market share of the health-conscious food segment. “We also hope to set up a training center to solve for manpower issues in our kitchens,” adds Dhananjai.

According to a KPMG report on India’s food service industry, the health conscious segment of India (across six major cities) reached Rs 125 billion in 2016. It is expected to grow at a rate of 10-15 percent annually. Competing with Curefit, Growfit, and FreshMenu, PurpleBasil dreams to go international as well.

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