Fish and meat startups are finding favour with consumers who want their non-veg with no smell, and better hygiene
An Indian fish market is synonymous with jostling crowds, bloody water sloshing on your sandals and really strong smells. Vendors sell shiny fish displayed on ice slabs, their eyes glinting in the harsh sunlight while customers examine gills to check freshness and haggle loudly over prices. While the older generation still finds romance in this chaos, younger buyers are moving towards the virtual fish and meat market.
Rumman Ahmed, a content writer with a pharma corporation in Bengaluru, does all his non-veg shopping online. “My father and uncles love to visit the fish market, haggle and stand in its smell but my rohu comes clean, cut and quickly,” says the 36-year-old. He doesn’t mind shelling out an extra Rs 60-70 per kg of rohu for the sake of convenience. Like Ahmed, many others are moving away from the local butcher shop with its flies, unwashed tools and questionable hygiene to online meat markets that deliver non-veg in sanitised ice boxes at the doorstep.
Started in 2015, Freshtohome now sells around six tonnes of produce per day, according to Shan Kadavil, its CEO. Currently operating in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Delhi-NCR, and several cities in Kerala, the startup claims to deliver seafood, caught off Kochi, within 36 hours. “In a regular fish market, the produce reaches the customer at least three to four days after it’s caught. Vendors keep fish outside for long and add chemicals like ammonia and formalin to keep it looking fresh. A fish starts putrefying within 30 minutes if kept outside at room temperature,” says Kadavil. His startup, which secured angel funding last year, has also cut out the middleman and buys directly from fishermen.
Nishanth Chandran, CEO and founder of Tendercuts.in that delivers in Chennai, adds that vendors need several kilos of ice, which is expensive, to keep their produce fresh. “To cut costs, they use chemicals to keep fish looking fresh for longer. We ensure cold preservation from shore/farm to last-mile delivery. The produce is kept between 0-4 degrees Celsius,” says Chandran who launched Tendercuts in January 2016 and now gets 700 orders on weekdays and up to 1,500 orders over the weekend.
To wean folks away from the local butcher, online sellers have taken pains to offer a choice of cuts according to customer preference. One can buy lamb and chicken in curry-cut, curry-cut (medium), biryani-cut, or piece-wise like ribs, wings, thighs, legs etc.
There are other pros. D Dastidar, a Delhi resident, points out that at local fish markets like the one at CR Park, vendors first weigh the fish and then cut it. “They weigh it with scales and entrails that are later removed. So what you get is less than 1kg. On Freshtohome the fish is first cut and then weighed,” says Dastidar, who usually orders twice a month from the Bengaluru-based startup and has also experimented with exotic meats like shark meat. “Once I made shark vindaloo and the other time just marinated it with vinegar and then grilled it using olive oil, lemon juice and served it with mashed potatoes,” says Dastidar.
The online avatar of the butcher is also popular with the health conscious who want their chicken free-range (reared with constant access to outdoors and exercise), as well as free of hormones and antibiotics. Pune resident Radhika Naikawadi finds mutton ordered online fresher than what she buys from the local market. “The first time I ordered it, I overcooked it because I was used to the quality of mutton available at the local butcher,” says Naikawadi who orders regularly from Meatroot.in. Bengaluru-based Licious, which raised $10m of funding in March this year, also emphasises the freshness of its produce with taglines like ‘day’s cut’ and ‘day’s catch’.
These startups may not meat everyone’s expectations but they are scoring with a time-strapped population that is consuming more protein.
On the delivery menu
Freshtohome | Bengaluru
Where it delivers: Bengaluru, Mysuru, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Delhi-NCR
USP: 86 items including exotic seafood like shark and stingray as well as chemical-free fish; hormone and antibiotic-free poultry
Licious | Bengaluru
Where it delivers: Bengaluru and Hyderabad
USP: Close to 80 items including Japanese quail, rabbit, blue crab and duck. Poultry is reared on non-GMO feed and steroid-hormone free
Tendercuts | Chennai
Where it delivers: Chennai
USP: Around 90 items on offer, including lamb, goat, poultry, seafood and marinades. Chemical-free meat
Lionfresh | Delhi
Where it delivers: Delhi-NCR
USP: 82 items, including pork imported from Germany, basa fish imported from Vietnam and salmon from Norway
Meatroot | Pune
Where it delivers: Pune
USP: Around 140 items including pork and turkey, and add-ons like ham, goat liver and sausages