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This article is more than 11 month old.

Pandemic opportunities: New challenges help startups grow; here are some success stories

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Understanding the needs and challenges of work from home, managing both home and work, helped us switch to a lot of alternatives, which existed but we never used those options.

Pandemic opportunities: New challenges help startups grow; here are some success stories
The pandemic definitely crippled our lives but in some cases, it opened up new opportunities. Understanding the needs and challenges of work from home, managing both home and work, helped us switch to a lot of alternatives, which existed but we never used those options.
For instance, home delivery of essentials proved to be a boon for all during the pandemic. The dynamic start-up ecosystem of India took advantage of these challenges and discovered that they could ease the lives of people much more.
Sprig
Sample this, working on the concept of eating healthy and right -- Sprig, a premium gourmet food brand, which is part of Intergrow Brands Private Ltd, a start-up based in Kerala, delivers an array of products from sauces to spices and almost all that what one needs in cooking.
"A lot of people were experimenting with cooking at home during the pandemic. Based on our experience in the F&B space, we found a glaring gap in terms of what the Indian market offers when it comes to gourmet foods. It was really hard to locate quality products that deliver the same experience as one experiences in Spinneys/Waitrose and other such gourmet stores across the globe," said Ashok Mani, managing director and CEO of Sprig gourmet food parent company Intergrow Brands Private Ltd.
"Key insight also was that with the well-traveled younger population, the Indian market was ready for such offerings. With more and more digital consumption of content on international cuisine, the aspirations of customers have been developing over time as well. Quality of products and packaging are two key aspects that customers look for in this space. Our attempt was in terms of figuring how we can deliver this at a reasonable price-point, Sprig offers a wide range from Natural Bourbon Vanilla Extract from Madagascar, Imbued Honeys, cold-crafted green tea, and Lacto fermented sauces to name a few," Mani said.
The journey of Sprig started with Intergrow Brands, which is a subsidiary of Synthite Industries (the world's largest exporter of spice Oleoresins). Established in 1972, Synthite has been a partner of choice to global MNCs in FMCG and food manufacturing.
Intergrow’s aim is to develop a deep understanding of consumer needs in food and related products, develop the same, and deliver to the customers. Sprig is the gourmet food brand under Intergrow. And this is how Sprig was launched six years back and the pandemic gave them a much wider market.
"We have grown at a healthy rate ever since inception and is one of the key gourmet brands in Foodhall and Godrej Nature's basket. We have a considerably large digital following and it has been growing owing to positive product experiences we have been able to drive. We have developed 45 SKUs over the last six years and each of it has been very received in the market and a testament to our success is in the high retention base of customers whom we have," Mani said.
When it comes to the revenues, well initial hiccups of essentials only, during the pandemic did halt the revenues, but as Mani said, "Sprig is expecting food industry to be the first to bounce back from the shock by virtue of it being an essential purchase for the customers. The shock experienced was not in terms of reduced demand but in terms of serviceability being affected due to staffing concerns and channels going into lock-down."
Sprig, currently, has clients such as Amazon, Bigbasket, Reliance Retail, Foodhall, Nature's Basket, Lulu, Spinneys/Waitrose, Spencers, Star Bazar, Flipkart, Tata CliQ to name a few.
Sprig now aspires to expand its market access through both offline and online channels in India, "We currently operate through 3,000 outlets and all major online channels. In the International market, it has been a year since we started operating in the UAE. We are in the process of expanding presence to the UK, North America, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. We also hope to come out with over 200 products over the next year covering gourmet sauces, oils, baking ingredients, etc." Mani added.
Fokuz
Another challenge during the pandemic, which got eased was through video calls. Attending video meetings is something that everyone did to keep the business and work cycle going.
Fokuz, a start-up by Manodh Mohan, integrates smart working into a video-conferencing application. It enables organisations to restructure the workflow and automate manual chores intelligently amid their video conferences.
The journey of Fokuz started in June 2020. "It enables people working from different locations to establish secure communication and have face-to-face interactions with numerous added features to assistance," Fokuz, the video conferencing platform, designed by Skyislimit Technologies, founded by Manodh Mohan, who is also the CEO of the company said.
Within a few months, Fokuz now has 15,000 plus downloads. Fokuz is currently in its beta version and has secured a $2 million foreign investment amid the economic crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mohan aims to launch the paid version will be launched by the end of October 2020 and with updated versions.
So what will the updated version look like?
"We are planning to introduce features like the recording. The recording captures video feeds of the meeting with a built-in recording feature. Stores the minutes securely for future references. Document sharing - which will save time by instantly sharing documents and files related to the projects during the meeting. Enhances team collaboration and helps execute results promptly. WhiteBoard - This feature enables users to enter and edit text on a whiteboard in real-time and collaborate with the team. The option of detailed reports - Reports with details of groups created, recordings, documents shared, no., of participants, duration of the meeting, etc., will be generated," explained Mohan.
When it comes to revenues, Fokuz is currently in its beta version and it’s free for the customers to use so no revenue generation so far. During COVID-19, Fokuz has associated with the Stock Market Institute as its technology partner for a mega online job fair in the BFSI sector.
Fokuz has received an outstanding testimonial from the Stock Market Institute for proving to be exceptional support held with 50+ fortune companies and 3,000+ participants participating from different parts of the country. Currently, Fokuz does not have any paid customers as it is yet to launch the paid version. But, definitely, it looks at a bright future ahead.
Mohan said, "As Fokuz has secured a $2 million foreign investment and the fund will be utilised to strengthen areas like research and development (R&D), support, and business development. Our team is brainstorming on developing a virtual business centre application. Virtual workspace enables businesses to purchase virtual spaces to conduct their business activities."
"Fokuz Smart Assistant feature of this virtual business center is a smart integration of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into a video-conferencing application. It enables organisations to restructure the workflow and automate manual chores intelligently amid their video conferences. This AI-driven application makes conference rooms smarter and meetings run more efficiently. The concept has been applied for the patent," he added.