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ASK SANGRAM anything about Foodpreneurship!

As a part of our ASK RODINHOODERS series, it’s a great pleasure for me to introduce you all to Sangram Sawant. If you attended our Mumbai Open House in Dec. last year, you know exactly how dynamic, inspiring and down to earth Sangram is. He is what every young entrepreneur aspires to be :). 

After the Open House, Sangram said that he would love to stay connected with the community as he loved the energy. He even attended the next OH! And he’s excited about being connected with all of us right here!

About Sangram (Founder & CEO, Pescafresh)

Sangram has spent almost a decade in the seafood industry and built a ‘Shore to Door’ brand like Pescafresh. What started as a shoestring venture initially in central Mumbai, currently is delivering and servicing  fresh seafood to over 100,000 households  in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi  across formats with company owned stores and shop-in-shop models with major retailers across…

“The realization of absence of clean, safe, fresh seafood in a country obsessed with good food!!! This germ of an idea, led me to let go of a promising career at Northern Products – USA and take my passion for seafood to the next level, by setting up a bootstrapped venture in central Mumbai and called it Pescafresh!

Alas, if only giving arms and legs to an idea was that easy! Keeping all odds aside, Pescafresh now delivers and services fresh seafood to over 1lac households across 4 cities, across formats with organized retail, and can claim to have managed to provide organized service in a highly unorganized sector!

New businesses, start ups, early stage ventures are more like rivers flowing and taking shape of the terrain. There are no right answers when you start up, as this amazing breed called “Entrepreneurs” work constantly in the realm of uncertainty.

It’s not easy trying to get your feet wet in an industry that has over 60,000 Koli fisherwomen and gazillion wet fish markets as competition. When even the most bizarre things can be delivered home, why should anyone have to haggle over their choice of seafood in the fish market? Businesses can sustain themselves only if the customer believes in the product and only great experiences can win them over. It is no longer about just delighting the consumer, it only about the “WOW” factor.

But how does an idea swim against the tide to become a brand identity that delivers what it promises and how long can it take to get there? That’s something you could ask me!

I admire the entrepreneurial spirit, love the unknown, adore the craziness, marvel at the bravado of peers who take this plunge into the abyss. I have a long way to go and miles to traverse on this journey. I am very happy to be of any assistance to like-minded entrepreneurs. What better way then connect through TheRodinhoods?!

Delighted to share the experience that we have gathered at Perscafresh, I may not know all the answers but for sure, I will try my best to share my opinion.”

 

You can ask Sangram about…

  • Food!! Especially Seafood!!
  • If you want to know of places to go for a fishing trip… remote landing shores across India even abroad!
  • Entrepreneurship, start-ups,
  • Logistical pain points of India
  • Customer service benchmarks to keep
  • SURVIVAL (this deserves a separate bullet 🙂 )

 

******

Sangram is following this page – so pls ask him relevant questions in the comments below!

*****

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11 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Sangram Sawant

    hey , am live 🙂 , food never goes out of fashion, awesome business but equally tricky, branding a food /commodity play is always gong to be an uphill task. Off-course how do we play this without huge $$, how do we get to scale, how do we spread distribution..how do we challenge the food giants, how do we find a niche, what do modern food retailers look for,  Happy to share my views with Rodinhooders and learn several more , Lets talk Food and stay away from Fads… Will try my best to be as prompt as possible, look forward and cheers 🙂

  2. Profile photo of Rajat Agrawal

    Awesome journey Sangram…and wish u strength for years ahead…

    I’ve couple of queries:

    1. How much importance does the price point of a food item play for a startup venture? If the need of a specific customer base is 20 bucks, then he should get that…and,

    2. Incident like we recently witnessed in maggi’s case, would have been a shut down case for a early days startup. In your case, the product is nature’s creation, and you became a source of providing fresh quality product to the end user but then also you would have your own share of challenges. So isn’t it’ll become easier for someone to demolish a wannabe food brand especially if the food creation is not in his control?

    Cheers, Rajat

  3. Profile photo of Sangram Sawant

    Thanks Rajat for the best wishes

    1) Price does play an important role, but I would think we must always measure it as “VALUE” and not price. If you do have accurate info that customer needs a Rs 20 product then you would be super lucky to have that info at the start ( start ups grapple with the pricing , not knowing what to price, how to price, when to price ? )…for eg we have Sku’s that are sold for 89rs/kg upto 1995Rs/kg depending upon your distribution channel, your location, demographics that you are addressing… But to sell a food product @ 20rs will mean massive distribution to make any sense of that … question to ask :”Does your customer see value in paying for your product or service?”

    2 )Awesome question btw  An early day startup would never garner this kind of attention of food authorities, Because it’s a “Maggi” , its national news . Yes the food business has its risks and challenges but

    “Fear of demolition of your brand is not a good enough reason to not CREATE THE BRAND”

    A) For eg although our product /service is natural but it doesn’t come without standards. Traceability for eg is critical to any food brand. Even if you sell raw fish or processed foods, this is critical. HACCP principles is important too ( pls look it up, the real scalable and practical standard)

    B) Whether you sell Natures Creation or own creation , the food business is fraught with risks, its upto entrepreneurs to gradually along with scale continue investing in QC teams, processes, systems etc and make this more robust

    C) Quality is more cultural and intrinsic to an organization, akin to brand values where it needs to rank No 1 in all things that foodpreneurs do.

    D) Important to understand the nuances of the market you are addressing, for eg if I had the capital , then I would maybe have invested in process lines, modern machinery and started a shelf ready frozen pack, or ready to cook but would the market accept this, maybe not, do we morph going forward as market catches upo, maybe., .with scale, the jury is still out

    E) Bottomline remains whether its Dairy Milk/Mondelez , Maggi/Nestle or younger company’s like ours , or processed foods or fresh, we need to be on our toes always Some tough decisions and specific directions need to be taken when you open a food focused business.Stay Flexible 🙂

    Hope this helps Rajat cheers

  4. Profile photo of Perzen Darukhanawalla

    Hey Sangram,

    I have a question that I believe quite a few food startups struggle with and that is hiring. Having grown Bawi Bride Kitchen to a certain level now, I now feel that for me to be able to scale I need to hire another person – like an Operations Associate – to hand the day to day operations of ordering, quality control, customer service etc so that I can focus on developing the business further and getting more sales. 

    However, I’ve found it very hard to secure even good applications for this role – despite advertising on social media, sending it out to my networks, even emailing the vacancy to my clients. So my question to you is, how did you hire your first few employees especially given in mind that the salary you offer is typically below market rate. Do you offer equity? Do you offer flexible working hours? How do you make the job more appealing to applicants especially given we still work from a home based kitchen? 

    I can send across the JD I’ve developed too if you feel that it has something to do with how the job has been structured. look forward to your inputs!

  5. Profile photo of Sangram Sawant

    Hi Perzen

    Apologies for the delayed response….Congrats for the important moment when you feel you have grown the business to a level where you need to hire a substitute for you for the daily ops. ,

    So day to day ops that you mentioned are actually very specific jobs, QC is very different from Customer Service and again different from Operations . So i figure that you need someone typically to be your clone who can multitask and do lot of things at one time unless you have the resources to hire specific team for specific skillsets

    You are correct, very difficult hire to find ., a clear and present problem for all young startups and growing companies too

    So there are a few unknowns , Whats the scale?, Whats your personal vision?, Are you ready to make a significant investment now ?, Would you be able to sustain or willing to burn cash now for a bit ? However, will attempt the question without knowing this

    1) I wouldn’t advise you so early on to offer equity at this stage unless its a seriously networked resource, putting in some hard cash in the business. The thing about equity is once you offer equity then its for good and if your choice turns out wrong, then you are saddled with a decision of a lifetime  (depending on how the cap table moves eventually), pointless to corrupt the table so early on unless you have visibility of raising some serious cash to scale or it is a breakout individual who has clearly  demonstrated success in the past and is known for his integrity, and can be more of your partner then an employee.. ( gauging integrity of the person is tricky)

    Our initial employees came  through some word of mouth, some agency placements but believe me the first crop that lasted was probably only 10-15% of what we originally hired, so we had lot of misses and few hits when it comes to hiring.

    2) Flexible working hours – Not sure how many have succeeded to manage the ops well when they work on flexible hours. you might get someone but can they manage it on flexi hours, 

    Food businesses with a service component is an on the toes , just in time business.

    3) My sense is that there could be a current team member who could take on lot of your responsibilities so that you could focus more on your business development function. More so somebody who understands the ground level ops of the kitchen, and ordering etc. My experience has been that in specific ops driven businesses, the highly educated degree boys or girls just don’t quite make the cut. At Pescafresh , initial teams have graduated to take on more responsibilities. Or the new senior guys who joined us in operations have all been working from scratch in other organizations. The nuances are mammoth for a polished educated degree holding book worm to be of any value in operations.

    Well , if its an early stage venture then you need hardworking, passionate, trench level experienced person. You should look at some resumes from Dominos assistant  store manager or lower , or some other Foodchain asst store managers who bring a new perspective with setting up systems + have managed at the ground level. It is these guys who could help you set processes based on their understanding + manage people at that level + plus they are used to long hours of working … There are some people who would like to move up the ladder quickly and can scale with your company… It will eventually be dependent on how well you can inspire them with your vision about the business.

    THEY WILL JOIN, THEY NEED LEADERSHIP AND INSPIRATION. Valuable will be the candidate that works for something more and beyond salaries and flexi hours.

    Happy to receive your JD and provide inputs, in fact if you prefer, can ask Pescafresh HR to share with you some agencies who specialize in these positions if it helps. 

    hope this helps , all the best :)))

    regards

    Sangram

  6. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    happy b’day sangram!

    here’s wishing more power to you and pescafresh!!

  7. Profile photo of Mubaid Syed

    Hi Sangram..

    Great story!

    A quick question. Do online food startups need to take permission from any govn. authorities similar to like opening a restaurant? Not for food delivery startups like Grofers etc but for startups like FreshMenu who cook food at their kitchen and deliver to customers?

  8. Profile photo of Sangram Sawant

    thanks Asha

  9. Profile photo of Sangram Sawant

    thanks Mubaid

    Will assume that the rules may be similar to a restaurant as a kitchen is involved for serving to public and hence FSSAI and other licences . Have never explored this indepth. found this link

    licensingrestaurant licenseFood safety licenseHealth/Trade licenseEating house licenseLiquor licenseFire Departmentfire safety guidelinesPollution certificate,Committee(DPCC)Lift clearanceMusic licenselicense – See more at: http://www.restaurantindia.in/article/starting-up/legal-structure/Licenses-for-Opening-New-Restaurant.a5/#sthash.G6zFh3fU.dpuf

    maybe the right person to guide you will be Perzen from Bawibride another Rodinhood who runs a similar central kitchen style business…  perzen@bawibride.com

    thanks and regards

    Sangram

  10. Profile photo of Atul Pawar

    Can i have your contact details/ email id Mr.sawant ?

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