An entrepreneur and hands-on leader, Shan Kadavil co-founded FrestoHome with Matthew Joseph in 2015, mainly to satiate his craving for fresh sardine along with the aim to make fresh and chemical-free meat and seafood accessible to the masses.
Touted as a serial entrepreneur Shan has dabbled in several tech-based ventures before FreshtoHome. He is also the Founder and CEO of Cloud & Appliance based solutions for Security, Dbaux.com in 2009. Being the country manager for Zynga from 2010 to 2015, he was responsible for building the first and largest center outside the US for Zygna, where he was the creator of Farmville, which once ruled the roost. He co-founded SupportSoft India and was responsible for all aspects of starting the company.
Shan Kadavil, CEO and Founder, Freshtohome in an exclusive interview with Suman Prasad spoke in length about the story behind starting Freshtohome, the initial challenges, his entrepreneurial journey and other interesting facets of Freshtohome.
Excerpts from the interview:
The story behind Freshtohome
When Shan first moved to Bengaluru with his family, being the foodie that he is, went looking for places where he could buy fresh fish. Most of the fish that he got from the wet market did not have the freshness as compared to ones found at home. This made him dive into the matter. That’s when he discovered that most of the fish available in the market was laced with Ammonia and Formalin.
Occasionally, it would taste and smell of these harmful elements and that really worried him because of its impact on his health. SeatoHome, an online seafood delivery store managed by Mathew Joseph, solved all his problems. The downside to this solution was that they were shutting shop. So, he wrote to Mathew and told him that he could help him fix the issue of supply-demand using technology. Together, they started Freshtohome.com. From the get-go, they had one mission and that was making fresh, chemical-free food accessible to the masses at large.
Challenges encountered before starting Freshtohome
There is only one strategy that they focused on – prioritizing the consumer, everything else will follow. It was about offering top quality chemical-free food at a value price. Initially, it was tough, as premium products also had a premium price tag to it. However, as they started getting the trust of consumers and increased their volume, the strategy started paying rich dividends.
Shan attributes their success in focusing on the consumers and solving their pain point of getting unadulterated food.
Shan’s entrepreneurial journey and balancing the dual role
What Shan likes about his entrepreneurial journey is the opportunity to work with people from different walks of life, right from his Silicon Valley days to his stint with Zynga, Dbaux and subsequently FreshToHome – there has been a constant evolution.
He doesn’t look at it as two roles [Freshtohome’s CEO and MD at Dbaux Technologies]. Shan believes that he is a tech guy and that’s where his entrepreneurial journey began, it’s his first love and Dbaux is an extension of that, while Freshtohome is a passion turned profession.
He started this venture after a lot of soul-searching. His father used to farm and food has been a passion for the family. The Food industry in India is massive and he sees Freshtohome as an opportunity where he can provide some value to the society at large.
Freshtohome’s edge over its competitors
100% Fresh and 0% Chemicals – This has been Freshtohome’s USP. All their products are chemical-free and they have them tested by Asia’s top lab. They also have certificates on their website for the customers to verify.
When it comes to freshness, they don’t freeze their seafood but ensure it’s always maintained at 0-4 degrees centigrade in a chilled state to avoid bacterial contamination. When you freeze a fish especially slow freezing, the taste isn’t quite the same due to rupture of the cell wall leading to loss of the natural flavor, that results in a tasteless fish.
Role of technology at Freshtohome
They started Freshtohome with the intention of selling fresh and chemical-free food. Their belief of not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of fishermen led to collaborating with tribe across coasts, who work with country boats. This allowed them to grow together. They developed a tech-based solution called the ‘Commodities Exchange Platform’. This patent-pending app allowed fishermen from various coasts to bid with Freshtohome by tapping pictures on their mobile phones. This unique technology has given them the opportunity to buy products from fishermen for a fair price, the benefit that they pass on to consumers, leading to growth eventually. Additionally, they use IoT based technology for their cold chain preservation along with artificial intelligence and machine learning for predicting patterns of growth.
Measures and processes to ensure the hygiene and safety of the food
Freshtohome follow some of the most stringent quality checks in the world with regard to the fish, meat and Poultry – it all starts with sourcing right, without added chemicals. They have routine checks for various contaminants, preservatives and other harmful chemicals such as Ammonia and Formalin. Next step is the preservation of temperature – preserving their fish and meat between 0-4 degrees centigrade. This goes all the way from the time of sourcing, during transport in trucks to their factory, during the factor processing and finally to the doorstep of customers in ice boxes. They also use a lot of technology including IoT to manage the cold chain. Lastly, all of their processes are compliant with the most modern food safety standards and their staff is expertly trained in handling food in a safe manner in the state of the art facilities.
They started the company with a vision of giving people food without added chemicals that are harmful, through sustainable sourcing. Food without chemicals require the farmer or fisher to farm or catch fish responsibly and ensure certain food safety practices are met while supplying to customers. This, in turn, requires the retailer to go all the way to the farmers or fishermen and train them to ensure that they can stand by the authenticity of the supply chain. They source fish directly from fishermen at coasts, eliminating middlemen out of the supply chain by giving fishermen a fair price.
Furthermore, they empower the fishermen by giving them technology access to sell their products and eventually bringing them to the organized fold. They also practice sustainable fishing practices like not sourcing fish from coasts which have a trawling ban during the breeding season.
They do a lot of cooperating farming where they are micro financiers for small farmers, giving them both capital and technology.
Freshtohome serves 12,000 customers every day and is currently present in 6 cities: Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Kochi. They have 16 delivery hubs in Bengaluru.
Challenges and Myths associated with online delivery of meat and seafood
The biggest challenge is to educate consumers regarding safety issues in today’s food supply chain and raise awareness. This will in turn force vendors to invest in robust cold chains, proper storage mechanisms and responsible sourcing of Fish and Meat. For example, they make that meat product is always preserved between 0°C to 4°C. However, if you were to look at standard Mutton shops across India, you will see mutton carcasses being handled without any cold chain or temperature protection which leads to bacterial multiplication. It happens in a very short period of time and only low temperature can suspend bacterial growth. Additionally, there are added chemicals in seafood that is bought from wet markets since most vendors optimize on the cost of ice.
The other key challenge is busting myths about meat and seafood, that have no scientific basis whatsoever, the most common being ‘if the meat is cut in front of me, it is fresh’. This is not necessarily true when it comes to meat or seafood. The biggest challenge is to educate consumers responsibly while continuing to give fishermen and farmers, a fair price and take them along on the journey of reinventing India’s food supply chain.
Freshtohome’s expansion plans
They are soon planning to add more products to their inventory, such as fruits and vegetables, cold-pressed oils, A2 milk, organic cow & buffalo milk, dairy products, flour, etc. The idea is to push the distribution across e-commerce platforms, retail stores and other channels across geographies.