The week that was –from foodtech sector tiding over COVID-19 crisis to a startup making a splash in the dairy industry

As the nation continues to battle the coronavirus, here’s how Indian startups are dealing with the unprecedented crisis.

The nationwide lockdown imposed by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus brought economic activity to a standstill for two months, impacting businesses across the country.

Even foodtech startups were not spared, as they battled the ban on delivery of cooked meals during the initial phase of the lockdown.

In India’s smaller towns and cities, where the concept of food delivery is still in its infancy, the challenges were even more. Still, foodtech startups in different corners of the country adopted a range of measures, starting with more diversified offerings, cashing in on the demand for healthy home-cooked meals, and leveraging tech to optimise operations.

To tide over the crisis, Bengaluru and Kochi-based MasalaBox introduced a special menu during the festivals of Vishu, Ramadan, and Easter that took place over the two months of the lockdown.

“We received many orders from families during the festivals as they had limited access to prepare a traditional homemade food. These orders were comparatively higher than our usual orders,” says Harsha Thachery, Founder of MasalaBox.

Sikkim-based HungerBay also launched ‘HungerBay Needs’ – a service that allows users to create a list of supplies they need, and then assigns delivery partners to shop on their behalf.

While foodtech has its challenges, the dairy sector was a different ball game altogether.

Manish Piyush, an IIM graduate, who worked in 14 countries in senior positions, came back to his home state, Jharkhand, to solve a basic problem - access to chemical-free milk.

“People are craving to solve urban problems, but not many are solving some basic problems in India,” says Manish.

Manish joined hands with his childhood friend Aditya Kumar to start milk-subscription app Puresh Daily Foods in 2019. The Ranchi-based startup provides organic cow milk and chemical-free dairy products. In the journey of starting the company, the co-founders left cushy jobs, learnt coding, sold software, and also became milkmen to understand the dairy business.

After foodtech and dairy sector, we now move on to talk about techies who build great companies.

It was love at first sight for Riddhi Mittal when she first saw a computer at the age of five. At 10, she got her first taste for programming and coding, and since then, it has been hard for her to take her finger off the keyboard. Over the years, Riddhi has donned many hats: she has worked as a coder with Facebook and Microsoft, and as an investment banker. She then built a disaster-management platform to help with the 2014 Kashmir floods, and then co-founded fintech startup Finomena.

Riddhi Mittal

The 29-year-old’s latest project is CovidIndia Taskforce, a platform that brings tech, data, funding, and distribution, in one place. She aims to deploy tech to unearth infection-related trends, and ensure all information to prevent further spread of the coronavirus is readily available on a single platform.

“For me, I always look at the big hairy problems that haven’t used technology. I like the challenge of using technology to change something,” says Riddhi.

Born in Agra to a business family, Riddhi’s father believed education and technology were not important skills, or needed in the ‘real world’, but her academically inclined mother, Urvashi Mittal, kept encouraging her to pursue her passion – computers and coding.

Edited by Megha Reddy