Techsparks 2019: Abhay Hanjura of Licious on how battling mindsets helped the startup taste success

On the second day of YourStory’s TechSparks, Licious Co-founder Abhay Hanjura explains how the startup challenged several old practices and naysayers.

Abhay Hanjura and Vivek Gupta always wanted to build a startup that outlives them; a startup that can be synonymous with high-quality meat and seafood in India. Thus, in 2015, they started Licious as an ecommerce platform for fresh meat and seafood.

Today, the startup is present in seven cities, namely Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, and Chandigarh. It has served over 300,000 customers and delivered over three million orders.

Abhay Hanjura

India is a heterogeneous, young, and hungry market,” explained Abhay Hanjura. He was addressing a crowd of over two thousand eager and avid listeners on the second day of TechSparks, YourStory’s flagship annual conference.

This is perhaps why, he opined, that foreign brands that enter the market find it difficult to disrupt or introduce a new product for the country’s varying and diverse palate.

“Almost 99 percent of food innovations in India have failed. However, when brands have tried to localise food in India, it has worked most of the time,” Abhay explained.

From commodities to brands

A shift happened when consumers embraced packaged products. Abhay noted that food commodities that were loosely available previously then became packaged products.

But some things remained unchanged. For example, meat, which continued to be sold in black polythene bags.

“It is quite telling of mindsets. We Indians don’t want to embrace meat eating. This is why meat continues to be sold in ‘ghettos’. Today, except for meat, people want everything else, including water, packaged.”

Hence, the real challenge for Licious was to battle the mindset of people.

India consumes meat worth around $30 billion every year and the demand is expected to grow faster than before driven by economic growth, rising per capita income, urban trends, and a rise in the awareness of the nutrition provided by meat and related products.

Despite the growth, Abhay added, around 90 percent of the meat market is unorganised. This includes butchers and Sunday markets.

Challenging the odds

When Abhay and Vivek homed in on fresh meat as their startup’s offering, the decision did not sit well with their family and friends. The duo often had to deal with questions like ‘Isn’t there anything else for you to start up with?’ and ‘Why meat?’ from their well-wishers. Even investors were initially reluctant to invest in a meat-selling business, Abhay noted.

“Meat buying business is always separate. People buy all other things online but are ready to travel far to get the meat from one particular shop or market,” he said.

This was a challenge Licious was ready to take on. Abhay debunked the myth that India is predominantly a country of vegetarians, saying, “India has about 72 percent of people eating meat.” This fact further spurred their efforts to build the brand.

Today, Licious has over 500 tonnes of meat bought and sold every month with about 90 percent revenue coming from repeat customers.

Abhay believes that building a brand is platform-agnostic. “Platform has nothing to do with your ability or inability to build a brand. It really depends on the consumer need. If there is an opportunity in the market, you will surely build the brand.”

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

YourStory's annual extravaganza TechSparks brings together the best and the brightest from the startup ecosystem, corporate world, policymakers and, of course, the investor community. Over the past decade, TechSparks has grown to become India's most loved tech and startup platform for knowledge sharing and networking. A big thank you for all your support over the years and a big shoutout to our sponsors.