These IIT-Kanpur alumni want to make snacking easy as pie with vending startup GruBox
When workplace meetings and catch-ups are often on the run, why can’t snacking be on the go?
Despite the abundance of food kiosks and outlets at workplaces, getting a snack often involves placing and waiting for an order. This was a pain point that IIT-Kanpur alumni Nishant Mishra and Prerna Singh wanted to resolve.
The duo had earlier founded Snacxy, an on-the-go refrigerated food startup. It was while working on the distribution network that they realised the need for an unmanned retail chain system for India and launched GruBox, which claims to be India's first ML-driven vending store that offers a range of tasty and healthy food and beverages in office pantries and cafeterias.
“We were able to identify a huge need gap for an on-the-go food channel. We began by bootstrapping for around six to eight months in 2017 in Delhi. We believed that the power of technology and real-time tracking would position GruBox as a new retail channel,” Nishant says.
How does GruBox get your grub?
Users can use the GruBox mobile app, and connect to a GruBox near them to place an order and subsequently collect products. This is very similar to the ecommerce concept except that the product delivery is instant: a must for on-the-go needs.
“We are open at on-demand locations 24X7. We install GruBox as per our customer’s requirements, and the process is smooth and hassle-free,” Nishant says.
The tech-driven unmanned retail startup has designed its platform for instant order delivery and a smooth retail experience. It offers different kinds of snacks and beverages.
The startup accepts a range of cashless payment methods, including Paytm, Bharat QR code, e-wallets, Sodexo, meal cards, credit cards, and debit cards. Users can view their transaction history, share feedback, avail interesting offers, and consume digital content on the app.
Tapping tech for unmanned retail outlets
The founders began by meeting various members of the food industry and foodtech space to understand logistics. The need for unmanned retail outlets meant working on different modules and vendor systems, both in terms of ops and hardware.
The startup is powered by in-house proprietary real-time technology. It allows queue management, personalised product listing, and real-time supply chain decisions.
The use of this disruptive technology allows GruBoxes to be placed at geographically diverse locations while maintaining real-time controls for managing processes, including merchandise procurement and order delivery, even in patchy network conditions. This minimises stock-outs and food wastage, while maintaining premium service standards.
Currently, GruBox is a team of 15 people, many of who have worked in companies like Keventers and Grofers and have skills across machine learning and business.
The numbers and business model
The team works on a B2B model, and charges the clients a percentage as margin. However, the founders refused to disclose any numbers.
GruBox claims KPMG, PWC, American Express, Canon, Panasonic, Valvoline, Zara, and Garage Society as clients. As of October 2019, GruBox had over 200,000 users and was growing at about 15 percent month on month. The team claims to have an annual revenue rate of $1.5 million.
“We are operationally profitable. Operations depend on how efficiently the supply chain is managed and how lean the inventory is. The filling centres and operators are driven by real-time dashboards, minimising wastage and stock-out losses. Deliveries to the GruBoxes are also optimised for the route plan. The entire ecosystem is aligned to our real-time tech,” Nishant says.
The team has so far raised $1 million from Pravega Ventures and Beenext, and aims to scale up at double the rate of last year. The founders are at present in talks to raise up to $6 million growth funding to expand operations across six cities and “improve product features for a faster and smoother experience”.
Differentiator and future plans
GruBox at present works in the same space as Delhi-based DaalChini. It gets more than 7,000 orders per day, and is seeing more than 15 percent growth month on month. While DaalChini is focused on home-chef cooked food, GruBox brings in different kinds of snacks and beverages.
Nishant says his team is still developing the product as the startup gets more traction and users on to the platform. A variety of customisations are required, based on the client or locations.
“We aim to touch 100 million users, offering them tech-enabled access to healthy and tasty snacks on the go. We want to offer them a refreshing experience so that all office-goers love GruBox,” Nishant says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)