In an interview with BW Disrupt, Deb Mukherjee, Founder and CEO, Moi Soi – a Ceres Foods brand, talks about the business, funding and more
Btell us about your business model. How did you get the ideas for this company?
It all started in 2014, we started running our own restaurants and then moved to the cloud kitchens format at one point, we were operating over 45 locations. Today, we facilitate and work with chefs and restaurateurs across India and countries beyond. The goal is to minimize effort and eliminate repetitive and mundane processes. The Moi Soi product line brings consistency, cost control and increased efficiency to day-to-day kitchen operations. It allows chefs to further improve the offer or other innovations, which allows their cuisine to stand out.
The “India Ready-to-Cook Products Market Outlook, 2021” suggests that the total ready-to-cook products market has grown at a CAGR of 15-20% over the past five years. And there does not appear to be any ebbing of this trend. Rather, the pandemic was another trigger for this segment. Ceres Foods distills our accumulated experience as foodies, restaurateurs and serving the hospitality industry and offers the consumer a range of Ceres liquid masalas and Moi Soi oriental sauces that guarantee the authenticity of the cuisine while simplifying the process of cooking. cooking. Making it fast and convenient.
How are you different from existing competitors?
If you look at the product portfolios of companies operating in this segment, they seem to have 70-80% overlapping products.
We decided from day one that the only way to set ourselves apart was in two ways:
1. Innovating products on two fronts – uncompromising taste and quality – our products are sometimes expensive compared to the competition but when consumers use them they realize they save a lot more with our products because they are more complete. Our products have stood the test of restaurants and hotels. You can call them Chief-rank because many chiefs use them. And these same chefs and restaurateurs have been involved in their development or innovation at Ceres Foods.
2. Focus on products that are not supported by the competition – we started to focus on products that no one actually makes. For example, everyone in this country uses this product called schzwan sauce – we do that too, although it is a far superior product that even Chinese consumers will appreciate, but we have also expanded the portfolio to include 8 more specialized sauces. Likewise, in Indian curries, we’ve looked at some hard-to-perform dishes, especially focusing on the non-vegetarian curries that big players rarely make beyond butter chicken – our Laal Maas compares well or better to any Laal maas available in Rajasthan and we are not saying it, but the market does.
We aim to consolidate all our products into the Moi Soi brand which we aim to generalize. It will be the first brand outside of India, in the segment, which will be aimed at both global and Indian consumers.
What is the funding status and monetization model?
Right now, we are seeded and self-funded by our own internal resources and charges. And we are currently looking for funding. Either way, you can expect a wider product line. We will soon have Mughlai, Thai and even Vegetarian offerings in the product portfolio. We already have a ready range of 150 products that are offered to the hospitality industry. We would selectively add them to our retail offering. It will cater to a wider and varied Indian and International palate. And as we move forward, special products developed exclusively for the retail segment will also be introduced.
What challenges do you face in running your business?
The experience of serving the hospitality industry has proven to be very useful! In an effort to bring restaurant-class foods to home kitchens, we had to make some basic SKU adjustments and select products from our ready-made repository of 150 products and bring them to retail markets. . The product part has been taken care of but distribution, logistics and marketing are key and they are very different from the segment in which we operate. Moi Soi is modeled on a first digital strategy, direct to the consumer. We have had a very favorable response to date, with a repeat customer rate of 80%. Our instant liquid masala sauces and sautéed oriental sauces are currently available on several grocery platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon Pantry, Instamart, Jio, Big Basket, etc.
The winning strategy is to have the right product portfolio in the right place – that is, to offer what the consumer wants and to be where the consumer is. The winning strategy is therefore omnichannel. We will make our products available to more regions in India and around the world. We will increase product penetration through offline retail formats. The distribution process for individual territories is already underway. We are also working to make the product available through offline channels viz. retail chains, mom and pop stores, select meat stores, etc. In short, you will see more Ceres products available in more places!
How do you see the expansion?
We are looking at expansion on 3 fronts. A range of products, a second online availability and a third geographic offline availability (in India and abroad) We are working tirelessly on all 3 fronts.
On the product side, you can certainly expect a wider product line. You will soon see more mughlai, Thai and even vegetarian offerings in the Moi Soi portfolio. We have developed more than 150 products for the hospitality industry and want to roll out selected products in the retail segment on a gradual basis. Our aim is to respond to a wider and varied Indian and international palate. And as we move forward, special products developed exclusively for the retail segment will also be introduced.
What are your marketing plans?
I have already explained the product and placement part of our strategy. Now let’s come to communication and customer engagement. To reach the target consumer, we use social media, email, direct contacts and our network. We will participate in offline events to showcase our offerings. Also, place the product in modern / general trade stores in Mumbai / Pune / Goa / Delhi. Influencer marketing has also been key. The high repeat purchases generated a lot of positive word of mouth among our customers. We believe that with a wider range and availability this would only increase as we are very confident in our offerings. Another tool that we are deploying and with increased vigor is the visual cookbook. Content is a great game; there will therefore be a series of videos with real cooking made using the Moi Soi range of products. And we will also continue to add value, providing users with useful tips and additions to improve the kitchen. We believe this would attract food enthusiasts and initiate discussions among consumers, keep them engaged, triggering a virtuous circle that would dramatically increase our brand equity.
What has been the biggest learning so far?
Consumers appreciate restaurant-style food, but don’t necessarily appreciate the complex and time-consuming cooking process. They want a quick fix from a brand they can count on and identify with to make their life easier. A brand that can turn them into heroes while creating that WOW factor.
Our greatest learnings have been:
We cannot satisfy everyone!
And food is an underlying requirement of life and therefore everyone has an opinion about it.
We want to play in the already crowded space of Dal Makhani, Butter Chicken. We want to stick to our heart to create and simplify complicated dishes that consumers typically won’t prepare at home. And do a good job of it!
What is the size and opportunity of the market?
We are part of Ready to Cook, a new growing segment. The Indian market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% over the period 2019-2024, to generate revenues of INR 70 billion by 2024. However, our liquid masalas are potentially targeting the much larger Masala market which is almost 5 times the size.
Oriental products under Moi Soi have been a big hit with consumers because we are playing a gap in the market. For these sauces like Ceres Liquid Masalas are fully equipped to deliver the final dish, just add the main ingredients and follow the instructions in the “Little Moi Soi Cookbook”. packages per month (in retail) with a projection of reaching 100,000 units in 6 months.
Both product categories have also found a high level of institutional market acceptance and we are in discussions with several 5 star chains and gourmet restaurants to introduce our products to their restaurants. The low dependence on skills is becoming the main attraction of our entire product line. As we speak, we are working overtime to manufacture and deliver special product batches to serve some of the cities experiencing huge increase in demand. Our aggregator partners have asked to increase production because they risk out of stock.
How did you manage your services during the lockdown? How has your business adapted to the new normal? Have you witnessed any major changes in the business / industry in the post-Covid scenario?
Ceres Foods is one of the few companies to have seen increased sales during the pandemic. This may have restricted the movement of the consumer, that is, going to a restaurant, but not the desire to consume restaurant food. And that’s exactly what we offer at Moi Soi – restaurant-style dishes prepared at home in a quick and hassle-free way. This is exactly what the consumer is looking for: to enjoy restaurant-style cuisine in complete safety at home. As I mentioned in my previous answer, our aggregators are experiencing stockouts and have urged us to increase production. Even in the hotel space, we are surprisingly experiencing a sharp increase. Due to the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly difficult for hotels and restaurants to retain their staff. Many of those who left for their hometown have not returned or have been inactive due to the virus. And Moi Soi products offered only the cost-effective, easy-to-deploy, secure, and excellent dining experience solution for customers.