The Indian food market presents ambitious businesses with immense untapped opportunities. The second most populous country in the world is likely to be the only major global economy to deliver double-digit growth in 2021, expanding a middle class with greater spending power and ever-evolving tastes.
One entrepreneur keen to capitalise on India’s potential, is Abhishek Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO of GoodDot. This food tech startup aims to bring plant-based proteins to India, in place of meat. This is a country with a long tradition of vegetarianism, but which has seen western eating habits seep into the national diet in recent years.
“More than 72% of Indians are meat eaters,” Sinha points out. “With a population in excess of 1.2 billion, this presents a huge opportunity for meat substitutes. If there is one thing that defines me, it is my love for animals. So, the possibility of developing a ‘meat’ product from non-animal origins seemed like the perfect solution for people like me.”
GoodDot was launched in 2017 as an innovative plant-based meat company, driven by the ethical and health benefits of plant-based food. Products include chunks of plant-based ‘mutton/lamb’ and ‘chicken’, as well as plant-based meals such as tikkas, biryanis and other ready-to-eat curry meals.
The firm was able to benefit from the country’s wide availability of agricultural raw materials, skilled manpower and low production costs. Within three years, the company has grown to become India’s leading plant-based ‘meat’ company.
“There were of course initial challenges to overcome,” he notes. “Product development was perhaps the most difficult for our team. It took us more than three years to finally come up with a product we felt would do well. Because of challenges in the frozen logistics and supply chain, we had to develop a solution that was shelf stable at ambient temperature.”
Sinha adds that there is still a need to create awareness across India about novel food categories. Regulatory frameworks are still evolving. However, he describes the current government as business-friendly, and keen to reduce bottlenecks for SMEs such as regulatory approval.
“We would certainly like the government to continue along this path, and to make it easier for startups to comply with multiple laws and government agencies,” he says.
Secrets of success
For Sinha, a key reason for his success in the Indian market has been his focus on the product and the pricing.
“Startups need to develop products that are in line with the dietary preference of Indians,” he says. “It is also important that these products are affordable. It is also important to take a long-term view. India can take time to unfurl its full potential, but when it does, there is no looking back. I think this is a land of immense possibilities and potential.”
Moving forward, Sinha, is keen to expand his company’s footprint to reach every corner of India. The firm is also focusing on online platforms, especially in a post-COVID world where more and more people are looking for online shopping.
In addition, a sister company called GoodDo was recently launched, named after Sinha’s rescue goat ‘Guddu’. In this venture, Sinha is rolling out plant-based fast-food outlets, cleverly tapping into this combination of ethical veganism and demand for western-style eating that reflects modern India.
“We have received some very positive responses,” he says. “We have plans to roll-out this concept across India, and perhaps even elsewhere.”
The company has even started exporting products to Canada, South Africa, Dubai and Nepal, and plans to begin exports to Singapore and New Zealand.
“We are also working on market entry to the USA, UK and Scandinavian countries,” adds Sinha.