Turning vegan: why this Bengaluru entrepreneur started a curated ecommerce startup Vegandukan
Sagar N Mehta has been a vegan for six years now. But he realised one thing — even though there were choices and variety in almost every segment, an emerging base of vegan consumers in India didn’t have a curated marketplace in 2019.
“I was following global trends since I turned vegan. I strongly felt it was going to revolutionise the way we consume and think about our food and other animal-sourced products. After about 12 months of research, I decided a marketplace will make a lot of sense that caters to plant-based and animal alternate products,” Sagar tells.
This thought led him to start Vegandukan in January 2019. Bengaluru-based Vegandukan is an ecommerce/aggregator model that offers plant-based food, mock meats, and dairy alternatives to vegan consumers.
“We are an ecommerce aggregator, and we enjoy bringing all the vegan and plant-based products together on the same platform. Giving people vast choices will move them to healthy choices. We focus on customer comfort, and we have seen they are extremely comfortable with the choices of brands they find on our platform,” the co-founder adds.
Sagar started by picking up the products from a passenger bus coming from Pune. And, since they were cold chain products, they needed to distribute them the same day. For this, he rented out a flat that worked as the office and a refrigerator was set up in the spare room to store products.
Sagar N Mehta
Setting up Vegandukan
“Around this time, we had about 50 products to sell, which gradually went up. It was a time where almost all the work — from marketing, logistics, packaging, and accounting — was done by me. As we are a high tech-driven business, a complex web solution was required similar to Flipkart and Amazon to provide to sellers, but at our stage and budget, we had to look and evaluate many options, and finally, got something that can let us start the basic level of the marketplace,” explains Sagar, who has seven years of work experience in the ecommerce industry.
In fact, one of Sagar’s family members pitched in to become the startup’s tech support through his web development and outsourcing firm and supported Vegandukan so it could focus on scaling the business.
Around the same time, Sagar’s ex-colleague, Vimlesh Dixit, joined Vegandukan to solely focus on driving sales and figuring out the right strategy to scale the business. Soon after, the startup started seeing a surge in sales month-on-month. One of Sagar’s friend Nirav Bhavsar, who comes with 20 years of experience in technology — having served in senior positions in several MNCs — also joined the startup as a co-founder.
“After some considerable increase in our order volumes and movement, we left the flat before it became a source of disturbance for other residents. We have now rented a 2,000 sqft office and warehouse where we store and work as well,” says Sagar.
It took the startup two months to put together a catalogue of all its offerings and understand the customer pain points. The startup was bootstrapped with Rs 35,000, and presently has a five-member team.
Model and market
Vegandukan’s trade margins are in the range of 20 to 25 percent. The platform stocks up and sells a range of products for a better customer experience, and many sellers work on a drop-shipment model as well.
Vegandukan has over 50 percent of clients who are flexitarians and consume meat/dairy regularly. Its products — which include butter, almond milk, frozen mock meat, and more — are priced between Rs 169 and Rs 600 on its website. “We try to charge customers as competitively as possible in comparison to large players,” Sagar adds.
According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the global protein alternatives market is estimated to record a CAGR of 7.4 percent during 2020 - 2025, with the Asia-Pacific region projected to be the fastest-growing as consumers in these regions are expected to incorporate more protein in their diet.
The Bengaluru startup competes with other aggregators in the space. There are other startups like US-based Beyond Meat and Indian brands like Good Dot and Wegan Foods, which offer a variety of mock meats to vegan consumers. However, Vegan Dukan is an aggregator and products of these brands are available on Vegan Dukan.
“We probably have the largest collection of vegan/plant-based products in India, especially mock meat and dairy alternatives. We strive to simplify the need for plant-based and flexitarians as much as possible by not limiting ourselves to only a city but by keeping ourselves accessible to pan-India,” Sagar says.
Vegandukan plans to reach out to more people, and parallelly wants to make the service formidable.
Speaking about future plans, Sagar says, “Giving them choices and giving them the best deal is our core plan at a strategic level. Delivery centres in Delhi and Mumbai are surely on the cards to stay closer to the customers.”