InnerChef to float more kitchens and brands, leverage artificial intelligence

Cloud kitchen startup InnerChef plans to launch more kitchens alongside fresh food brands as it looks to leverage artificial intelligence and data analytics in 2018.

"We will launch additional kitchens alongside more food brands under our 'multi-city and multi-brand' strategy. We will add Pune and Ahmedabad under our operations in 2018 as we start five more kitchens in addition to the existing 13 operating out of Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bengaluru. By the end of the year, we are looking to have nearly 40 kitchens. We are also looking to leverage data analytics to improve customer experience," Rajesh Sawhney, founder and CEO of InnerChef, told VCCircle.

Sawhney said the company is looking to offer more food choices under specific curated cuisines. "We have already launched two food brands named Healthie.in and Yum Yum South. While Healthie.in was founded in August this year with the objective of promoting healthy food and lifestyle, Yum Yum South looks to popularise South Indian dishes—for instance, we want to make Chettinad Chicken as popular as Butter Chicken," Sawhney said.

Healthie, which processes direct orders for delivery, is also listed on food delivery platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy and offers all-day breakfast, salads, soups, juices, smoothies and desserts. Sawhney said Yum Yum South has also gone live on food delivery platforms.

He said the firm is also working on artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to enhance customer experiences and offer broader food choices. "We have a data scientist onboard and are working with deep-learning tech startup Silversparro to understand customer data better," Sawhney said, adding he is unhappy with the amount of data shared by food delivery platforms such as Zomato, Foodpanda and Swiggy.

"There is a need for these platforms to share more data with cloud kitchen companies to help them understand their customers," he said.

Several domestic firms have started using AI and data analysis to scale up operations. After launching its data analytics-driven brand Billion, e-commerce major Flipkart plans to create an AI unit called AIforIndia to strengthen its business offerings. Fashion e-tailer Myntra, a subsidiary of Flipkart, also has shared plans to turn its AI and machine learning platfrom called Rapid into a separate business vertical.

Sawhney said there will be consolidation in the food-tech space in 2018. "It is going to be a four-legged race in the cloud kitchen and food delivery segment. While we will fight with the types of FreshMenu, Zomato, Swiggy; UberEats and Ola-acquired Foodpanda will try to take a lead over one another," he said.

Sawhney, who is also founder of Gurgaon-based mentorship-driven incubator GSF, said the accelerator is moving its base to Bengaluru. "GSF Accelerator's base is being moved to Bengaluru but I will continue to stay in Delhi," Sawhney said.

In November, GSF had announced that it will invest $200,000 in startups under its accelerator programme. The entity, which has just finished its sixth edition investing in five startups, offers a 13-week programme under which it provides mentorship and takes startups to Silicon Valley, China and Japan.

Sawhney said GSF has mentored 45 startups to date and exited eight companies. "Our well-known exits include Little Eye Labs (which was acquired by Facebook in 2014), Zapr, which got funded by Fox and Hotstar, Pokkt, HackerEarth, SilverPush and Whatfix," Sawhney said.

According to him, exits through IPOs are a challenge in India. "Most exits we see are in the form of acquisition or large Series A or secondary Series B investments," he said.

He said he is looking to invest in more companies in his personal capacity. "While GSF writes bigger cheques, I invest somewhere between $10,000 and $40,000 in early-stage firms," Sawhney said, adding he has already invested in 50 companies via GSF and on his own.

Sawhney, a serial entrepreneur, founded Times Internet in 1999 and acted as its COO till 2005. He was also the founding president of Reliance Entertainment. After his stint with Reliance, he founded early stage mentorship-driven incubators GSF Accelerator and Global SuperAngels. Sawhney founded InnerChef in May 2015.

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