First Eat – A New Direction to Food Startups

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Written by BusinessAlligators Support

Support Staff at BusinessAlligators is a team of business experts led by Shilpi Singh Trusted by over 100K readers worldwide.

January 8, 2017

First Eat is a health, nutrition and food startup based in Gurgaon/ Gurugram. It is a collective venture of Shitiz Dogra, Rishabh Tickoo, Saikat Bagchi and Mannat Wadehra. First Eat is all about health, wellness, nutrition and not just food but educating people about consuming the right kind of food prepared according to individual’s body nutrition requirements. Every single food item on the First Eat app has been curated by a panel of nutritionists with a scientifically calorie counted approach and measured ingredients for the health of its consumers.

First Eat Founders

Rishabh Tickoo (BE – DCE, PGDM – MICA) is the go-getter of the team. He had an experience of leading the Operations Strategy for a restaurant aggregator. He has also worked with a VC firm and has also lead many Digital Marketing projects through formal experience. At First Eat, Rishabh looks after the Operations, ensuring that all the customers are delivered more than they are promised.

Mannat Wadehra (B.Tech – Punjabi Unversity, PGPM – GLIM, Chennai) is the connections guy in the team. Mannat came back from Johannesburg where he was leading a healthcare tech project for an IT firm. At First Eat, he takes care of all the alliances and strategic partnerships.

Shitiz Dogra (BE – NSIT, PGDM – MICA) is the writer, communicator with the sense of humour that every team needs. He was a Corporate Communications Officer at a PSU before taking over the marketing and communications duties at First Eat.

Saikat Bagchi (BE – Panjab University, PGDM – MICA) is the numbers guy in the team. He has an extensive experience in the field of Consumer Insights Behaviour, Analytics and Marketing Strategy. Saikat has also been a visiting faculty for GLIM, Gurugram in the field of Analytics. At First Eat, Saikat takes care of the Product and the Business strategy.

All four of them had been working in different geographies when they finally decided in November 2015 to kick start their own dream project. They raised $2,00,000 as seed round from an angel investor in February 2016 and have successfully demolished the commonly prevailing notion of only IIT-IIM tag startups raising investments at an early stage.

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First Eat Journey

Mannat tells us about his journey from a mere idea to infusing life and blood into an actual business. The venture began as a bootstrap initially and functions on both B2B and B2C models. The first and the biggest challenge, which eventually turned out to be quite smooth was the formation of a team with the amount of motivation a startup needs, and without the promise of matching up to income that all the core team members were otherwise earning. Formation of the required core team was a litmus test for the very idea and the business model of First Eat. With a team ready to roar, it was job half done, while the other half – the quest to build a product that can potentially benefit and change everyone’s life – is a healthy, beautiful journey, with the Everest being the destination. For team First Eat, holistic wellness and nutrition is the first step to good health was always the playing ground because these factors are often taken for granted in India.

Mannat shares with us the factors which should be seriously considered before starting a nutrition start-up.”The on-ground research will yield you crude insights that go on to form the nucleus of the business model. You need to know your target group, you need to walk in their shoes, get to know their preferences and lifestyle. The fancy might be sold but might fail to add value to your customer’s life.” He said. Secondly, technology, for any start-up, is a pivotal factor. An app helps you scale since it is a readymade platform to reach out to millions. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report, mobile internet penetration in rural India is growing at 58% YoY. Several reports also suggest these regions account for close to 40% of the country’s middle-class income group with increasing spending powers.

“Gaining funding,” says Mannat, “cannot be looked at as a yardstick for measuring success or failure since there are many start-ups out there who are making real positive change without raising enormous amounts of funding”. People should stick to the niche, execution and idea DNA. They must set realistic timelines and get in the minds of their consumers. The adoption of healthy eating is increasing and we are happy to be the frontrunners in carving out this market.”

First Eat tagline says, “For your health” and they practice it to the last letter. They recently entered into a strategic alliance with Phillips and carved out a ‘zero all snacks’ menu to propagate the concept of healthy eating in an otherwise oily stuff dominated category. What makes First Eat unique is the special consultancy services they provide, such as diet plans, nutrition programs workshops, and exclusive interaction sessions with the nutritionists. This also helps them in marketing along with brand integrations. First Eat has forged successful partnerships with brands like Medanta, Ola, Philips, Decathlon and many more.

When asked about putting steps in Delhi, Mannat was happy to tell us that Delhi would be the first priority to venture into in the expansion mode because the customer engagement level is high, the adoption of fitness as a lifestyle is extremely high, plus the target population is much more as compared to Gurgaon.

The founders of First Eat have concrete plans for investing judiciously in technology. They want to create a tech platform that enables the user to precisely know what kind of food their body needs to be supported by experiential marketing and operational fulfilment. Currently, a user can get his/her instant health report and an exclusive interaction with the nutritionist from First Eat just by filling out a simple health report form available on First Eat’s website and get instant recommendations created scientifically by a team of nutritionists, doctors and life coaches at First Eat.

The tough parts of running a nutrition start-up are the macroeconomic factors like demonetization, food inflation etc. Also, in India, food and culture go hand in hand so the business providers need to keep track of the pulse of the market and be in touch with trends. For example, an inclination towards a superfood like quinoa has really picked up of late. One cannot predict or change his business DNA; he can only adapt to the changes in the preferences of the society. Moreover, it is mandatory to get a regular personal consumer feedback because we have widely observed that as the company grows, close communication tends to decrease.

The nutritionists at First Eat understand that each and every body is different. So they prepare customised plans for every consumer. Extra diligence is paid to the medical history of each customer aided by exclusive engagement sessions and the response till now has been nothing short of amazing.

With a user base of over 15,000 downloads and daily website traffic, nearly 30,000 monthly interactions occur across the Tech Platforms and Corporate Retail Units. Three kitchens across Gurugram serve around 9,000 meals every month (including 52 Subscriptions for Disease Preventive Diet Plan & Goal Oriented Diet Plan). The average ticket size of on-demand calorie counted meals ranges between INR 100 -140, and the average ticket size for Diet Plans ranges from INR 12k to INR 15k for a plan.

First Eat consists of a Core Team with members from Technology, Sales & Marketing and Operations, First Eat Nutrition Panel (consulting team) which consists of Doctors and Life Coaches, Dietitians, and the Fulfillment Team, which consists of Chef’s Team and Support staff. The three basic functions make up the First Eat a 35 member strong team enabling fulfilment of a better health across Gurugram.

When talked about inspirations, Mannat mentioned a learning from theBlink by Malcolm Gladwell, on snap judgments, that you analyse the situation in the most rational manner possible and the first gut-wrenching decision that comes to your mind is probably your right decision. Another bit that he learned from reading is that people invest so much time in planning, that execution takes a backseat and later realise that there are hundreds of ways that business execution can happen. So instead of waiting, on should be always in action.

A piece of advice from the co-founders of First Eat

Be very true to technology. Every start-up that has made it big has been happily married to technology.

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