In F&B, 'Grab And Go' Is The New Normal: Co-founder, Daalchini

According to Daalchini's Co-founder, Prerna Kalra, India has more than six million possible locations and the vending machine segment is a severely under-tapped market space

Quick commerce is a game changer in food retail with the potential to revolutionise the way people buy and consume perishable goods and eatables. In a country like India, volume and variety make it critical for inventories and supply chains to manage it up to the mark. 

Founded in 2017 by former Paytm colleagues Prerna Kalra and Vidya Bhushan. Daalchini Technologies is a retail-tech startup that offers snacks and home-style meals through automated kiosks, mobility retail, and smart vending machines. 

"Even before the pandemic began, the company's focus was on building smart vending machines with healthy food products. The pandemic gave this initiative a big push," Prerna Kalra, Co-founder, Daalchini states. 

While estimating the market opportunity and its depth Daalchini's Kalra put some of the figures to it. India has more than six million possible locations with around 40,000 hospitals, 5.55 lakh workplaces, 1.13 lakh public places (metro, railway stations, etc.), 2.49 lakh factories and 2.20 lakh ATM locations, among others, the vending machine segment is a severely under-tapped market space.

The Story Behind The Birth

Talking about the inception and the key thought behind the brand, Prerna Kalra, Co-founder of Daalchini Technologies candidly shared one of her personal stories. 

She said, "During one of my work visits to China, I came across vending machines dispensing almost every kind of fresh food item from fruits to momos. While vending machines-based retail was so deeply penetrated in China, I still saw my father owning a mom-n-pop store in a Tier 2 city and finding it challenging to expand it to more locations. Inspired by this and after coming face to face with this problem, it just clicked in my mind, hence, Daalchini was born."

Daalchini Technologies started by becoming a distributor of fresh food from home chefs and tiffin services. With Covid-19, it adapted the solution to not only provide fresh food from loud kitchens but also act as a platform for D2C brands to launch them through our network of phygital distribution points.

On a lighter note, Co-founder Prerna Kalra also talked about the 'behind the scenes' of fixing the name. "When I started Daalchini, we wanted to be associated with healthy and homely food. We thought of various names but something that chords were Daalchini," she shared.

Current Industry Drivers

Self–service kiosks/vending machines: ‘Grab and go' trend is the new normal. Self-service kiosks are the best in terms of hygiene and have become a great source of revenue at a marginal distribution cost.

Contactless and cashless: Going cashless and paying by scanning QR not only ensures zero contact but also saves time. 

IoT has changed the way we looked at the F&B industry: As a concept more than as a reality, the IoT (Internet of Things) is taking the world by storm.

What are the key challenges you encounter? How helpful are they for your business development?

Daalchini Technologies was started with a vision to turn thousands of women into entrepreneurs and create an unparalleled distribution channel, which is both physical and digital through a network of automated kiosks.

Initially, after setting up the vending machines, cloud kitchens and tiffin services were not prepared for food items specific to vending machines. So we started preparing our own checklist along with food consultants and food experts to find what it takes. 

As part of its commitment to serving 6-meals-a-day, Daalchini is creating a sub-99 food store to enable brands in all F&B categories. The growing awareness about food safety and hygiene helped us expand our business and acquire more clients in multiple sectors like manufacturing, colleges, schools, etc.

As an entrepreneur, my key learning would be to always focus on customer satisfaction from day one and build products and keep innovating as per customer’s demand and feedback.

Company's Next Big Plans 

We aim to establish our footprints at every 200 meters of habitable area with autonomous smart stores and vending machines. We also plan to expand to over 50 cities and grow from over 850 to more than 5,000 smart and autonomous retail points in the next 12–18 months.

Recently, we have raised $4 million, led by Mumbai-based early-stage investment firm Unicorn India Ventures. The round also saw participation from existing investors such as Artha Venture Fund; Ajay Kaul, former CEO of Dominos India, and VSS Investco, the investment vertical of Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder, and CEO of Indian fintech Paytm.

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