Doing the meat trade in corporate style, duo achieves Rs 1000 crore turnover in just six years
Updated On: 08-October-2021
Vol 8 | Issue 22
Friends turned business partners Abhay Hanjura and Vivek Gupta have defied convention, and done that in style.
They quit their high-income corporate positions to start Licious, a gourmet meat brand that has seen their company go from an annual turnover of Rs 3 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 1000 crore in 2020-21. For 2021-22, they are looking at touching Rs 1500 crore.
After the latest round of funding, Licious has attained the status of an unicorn and is valued at more than USD 1 billion.
A Kashmiri Pandit from Jammu, Abhay, 35, moved to Bengaluru to do his graduation in biotechnology in genetics in 2004. He also did a business management course and built a great career for himself in the insurance risk management and BFSI (Banking, Financial Services and Insurance) domain.
Vivek, 40, was born and brought up in Chandigarh, finished his chartered accountancy, and came to Bengaluru in 2004 for a job with Tavant Technologies, a software company. From Tavant, he eventually moved on to the VC firm Helion Ventures.
In our society, some businesses are considered ‘less suitable’ for young men like Abhay and Vivek, considering their solid middle-class backgrounds (both their fathers retired from senior positions in government jobs) and how well they were doing in their jobs.
Didn’t that worry them? “We never considered meat an inferior business, or anything like that,” says Abhay. “We were just driven by one aim: to provide quality, safe, hygienic meat to people like myself who love their meat.”
Run by their company Delightful Gourmet Pvt. Ltd., Licious began its delicious journey in July 2015, in Bengaluru. From 1,300 orders in October that year, Licious has climbed the ladder of success pretty fast and is currently delivering around 1.5 million orders per month with a repeat purchase rate of 90%.
Licious sells more than 300 SKUs of fresh meat, seafood, and eggs under three categories, namely raw and fresh products, ready-to-cook products, and ready-to-eat-products.
The products are customized on the basis of geography and ethnicity to suit customer prefer preference. For instance, in raw and fresh product category, it could be thinly sliced seer fish for Chennai, and curated selection of fresh water as well as seafood for Mumbai/Kolkata.
Being an ardent meat lover, it was Abhay who came up with the idea of starting the business. “I was with Futurisk Insurance Broking in Chennai, in 2010, and Helion was our client; that’s how I met Vivek,” he explains.
“We used to meet for meals and discuss all sorts of things. I discovered that, like me, Vivek, too, wasn’t inclined to continue in his job. Both of us were itching to do something different, something of our own, and Vivek agreed to my idea of starting a meat business,” says Abhay.
In early 2015, when Abhay suggested that they do something in the meat industry, Vivek didn’t know much about it.
“In fact, I even learnt how to judge the quality of meat from Abhay,” he says. It sure wasn’t easy for their respective families to digest the duo’s decision to quit well-paying jobs and start a business.
“Even I was a bit scared, initially,” says Vivek who has a wife and two children, “but a little tinge of fear pushes you to work harder to succeed.”
“My parents were startled when they heard this idea,” says Abhay, “Kashmiri Pandits generally don’t go the entrepreneurial way, and I was leading a comfortable life with a good job.” He adds: “But I could clearly see that people really loved their meat and were willing to pay for good quality.”
They decided to begin but didn’t know where to start. “Initially, we tried to understand the problems in this space – whether it was the quality of meat, storage or delivery,” says Vivek. “While a few companies had started selling meat online, the quality was under par – either it was frozen or not hygienic enough,” he explains.
“One of our friends from the US told us that he would turn vegetarian whenever he came to India! During our research we understood that the main solution to the problem was in improving the quality of the meat, not just delivery systems,” adds Vivek.
They put in time and effort in understanding the basics: what is good meat? How does one know if the chicken is right? What should be the weight of the bird?
“We learnt that chicken must be antibiotic free,” says Vivek, “and that there is a lot of scare about that but people don’t have an alternative.”
After researching and studying all the aspects of the industry for couple of months, Abhay and Vivek were ready to begin the delivery of quality meat online. And thus, Licious was born.
“We wanted to do something that leaves a long-term impact, makes a difference to the industry,” says Vivek. “We want Licious to outlive us,” he adds.
The initial team of five members at Licious did their first sale in Bengaluru in the Whitefield area. Around this time, the company did a formal fund-raise of half a million dollars from marquee investors such as Helion Ventures founder Kanwaljit Singh, former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai, and Amadeus Capital founder Kaushal Agarwal.
As part of their marketing initiatives, they did tasting sessions and events at apartment complexes, getting friends and families involved. This worked a lot in their favour: Around 70-75 percent of new customer acquisition happened through word of mouth.
About the challenges faced, Vivek says that different meats had different problems. “Chicken as a category was slightly organised with a few large players in the game, but we had quite a tough time with the lamb,” he explains.
“We went to villages and farms around Bengaluru to understand the quality of the lamb and had to directly work with farmers. People did not even know the difference between lamb and goat. It was all mutton for them!”
Licious has raised total funding to the tune of $334 million so far and has emerged as India’s first D2C Unicorn after it achieved a billion dollars valuation post receipt of funding worth $52mn led by IIFL AMC’s Late Stage Tech Fund.
"Even though the funding for D2C sector has grown significantly, FMCG is still not considered the most attractive category. We expect that Licious' Unicorn status will change that,” say Vivek and Abhay.
“The fresh meats & seafood sector is still largely underserved and unorganised that holds a vast opportunity of $40 billion. As the category leader, we aim at paving the way for a second wave of young start-ups that can join hands in fully harnessing the potential that the industry has to offer.
“We will continue to build the category through investments in technology for supply chain excellence, product innovation, talent, and vendor partner upgrades.”
At present, Licious has a presence in 14 Indian cities - Bengaluru, Hyderabad, NCR, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kochi, Puducherry, Vizag, Vijayawada and Kolkata.
“At the moment, we work with hundreds of vendors, across markets. Our quest for hygiene and quality starts with the sourcing of our products,” says Vivek.
“We work closely with livestock farmers and fishermen and currently have a network of independent farmers and related workforce thereby ensuring that all our products are procured from company-curated farms and hand-picked boats for seafood.”
They have five processing units – two in Bengaluru and one each in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.
Starting with five people on board, today Licious has a huge workforce of more than 3500 people.
“Currently, in our sixth year of operations, we are looking to consolidate our presence across India, strengthen the omnichannel business model, expand to global markets, as well as provide innovative solutions to our rapidly growing customer base,” say Vivek and Abhay, sharing their plans for the future.