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How this idli-dosa batter maker became a household name

Updated : November 29, 2018 05:28 PM IST

From a school dropout to an engineering graduate from an IIM, PC Musthafa’s temerity and focus has always been the backbone of iDFresh. One of his cousin’s regular complaints falling on deaf ears indebted Musthafa to fix the problem himself and led to the inception of iDFresh.

With families growing increasingly nuclear, mastering the generations-old combination of rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds to produce hygienic and perfect batter for soft, fluffy white idlis was long gone. Thus, with the ideology of keeping things 100 percent natural, using fresh ingredients, preparing the food traditionally and using RO-purified water, the revolution in the fresh food industry began in a 50 square feet kitchen.

The journey wasn’t easy and iDFresh soon learnt it would have to invent a unique business model that fit their brand philosophy of being preservative-free.

Also, Musthafa realised around one-fourth of all the idli and dosa batter was being wasted as it was challenging to predict the demand accurately. Moreover, the batter couldn’t last for more than a couple of days. This needed a solution.

iDFresh now sells parota, paneer, curd and filter coffee at various stores across major cities pan India. Due to rising demand, the company today uses more than 350 vehicles to deliver 55,000 kg of batter every day within the city, and grind around 25,000 kg of rice and dal to make this batter. Technology and innovation have helped them take a leap in the fresh-food business, and now they have 1,600 employees and supply around 14 products in the market including Dubai. Musthafa targets around Rs 1,000 crore in sales in four years, last year the company reported  Rs 197 crore in revenues.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Nithya: How did you decide on this business?

Musthafa: There was a batter supplier supplying batter in a pouch. The batter had quality complaints, service issues and cockroaches. The problem wasn’t fixed at the vendor level and then we decided to fix it ourselves.

Nithya: When did the first influx of big-ticket investment come in and how did it boost the operations at iD?

Musthafa: We started with a capital of Rs 50,000 and reinvested every penny we made back in the company. We are a zero debt company and in 2014 we got an investment from Hidden Adventure, worth Rs 35 crore. That gave us wings to expand across India.

Nithya: What is the value you carry for this brand?

Musthafa: We will keep our foods 100 percent natural, no chemicals and no preservatives. It is not an easy journey. When the world was moving to extend the shelf life of the product we were here to change the business model, to serve fresh food. That’s when we learned the only way to make this work is to build our own traditional network.

Nithya: So you are driven by a whole lot of technology which gives you data for you to be adopting that zero inventory in a certain sense, right?

Musthafa: Yes right, iD runs on IT. Every store is geo-tagged and geo-fenced. Last eight years of data is used to predict demand. And that data is used to supply the right quantity to the right store. And then that data is used to predict the orders for tomorrow.

Nithya: What were the key challenges you faced when you were making this brand?

Musthafa: I was a techie, my cousins were running a kirana shop. We had no idea of technology.

Nithya: How have you identified your products?

Musthafa: We gradually expanded to newer products. Some of them worked, some of them failed. Paratha is just one example. We are selling close to around 8 lakh parathas a day.

Watch the complete episode here to find out more about iDFresh's successful journey as CNBCTV18's disruptors
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