[TechSparks 2020] Licious founder reveals how it ensured zero layoffs and 300 pc growth amidst the pandemic
Most businesses took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Bengaluru-headquartered Licious recorded a whopping 300 percent growth.
“People have to consume food, and that put us in the essential category. Apart from the initial glitches in the supply chain, there was nothing stopping us,” said Vivek Gupta, Co-founder of Licious, at a virtual fireside chat at YourStory’s TechSparks 2020.
Since then, Licious has been able to see growth amidst the increasing focus on safer and cleaner food.
Licious was launched in 2015 by Abhay Hanjura and Vivek Gupta to build a food brand offering prime quality meat products. It aimed to disrupt the unhygienic and unreliable wet market and the frozen meat options, an unpopular workaround for Indian consumers.
India consumes meat worth around $30 billion every year and the demand is only expected to grow. About 90 percent of this demand is addressed by the unorganised market.
“There is no trust and consistency when it comes to the meat market. There was a gap that needed to be addressed,” Vivek said.
He added that the good habits the team had inculcated since launch helped. Amidst the lockdown, the team knew they had to get the ball rolling and the founder detailed out what helped.
Focus on your people
“It is the people that matter. If you take care of them, everything else just falls in place,” said Vivek, offering several pointers.
- “You need to trust your people, and stand by them. Employee safety became the most critical thing. We knew if they were safe, we would be able to navigate everything. Think of processes that can help you scale. On day zero of the lockdown, Licious housed 600 people of the processing centre in hotels. It is important to create an environment where they feel safe.”
- “The people on the processing plant, the delivery staff, and everyone in the cold chain are part of the Licious payroll. If people are guaranteed their wages and work, they stay back and work.”
- “Lead by example. We have to be authentic enough that we are there for them. It is about all of us. Extend benefits for all to build a comfort level with all.”
- “We didn’t let go of a single person at Licious, and we had a proper appraisal cycle during the pandemic. We also hired a 2,000-strong workforce for our backend processes.”
Keeping supply intact
Vivek said that the company took care of their suppliers and supply was not affected because "we stood by them in times of crisis".
“Don’t squeeze the vendor for some temporary benefit in times of crisis. The price of chicken had dropped by close to 60 percent, but Licious continued to pay the right price. This helped keep the supply chain intact,” he said.
The startup, which is FSSC 22000 certified, also built contractual arrangements with large institutional meat vendors trained in managing livestock and meat handling techniques, according to international standards.
Focus on safety and hygiene
“The world is now talking about gloves and sanitisation; we have been doing that from day one. We haven’t had to worry about the quality, food safety, cleanliness of the supply chain etc,” Vivek said.
He added that when the duo started Licious, the idea was to make it India’s most loved meat brand. There wasn’t any focus on being the largest, “it was about building the brand”. “That happens when you focus on quality rather than just scale”.
The factory also has a laboratory that tests different elements like acidity, toxicity, shelf life, and other factors that determine the quality of the meat.
The founders are clear about one thing: “We will not sell anything which we can’t feed our own families.”
“This is what keeps us going,” Vivek said. The idea is to do the best even when nobody is looking; to bring quality meat to everyone’s tables. “When the core fundamentals remain in place, they help you sail through,” Vivek said.
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TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.