Sprink.Online is an easy-to-use meal subscription platform that offers affordable, daily, personalized meals to people wherever they are – at their homes or workplaces. Founded by IIT alumnus Ritesh Dwivedy, Kumar Setu and Abhishek Mandal (IHM), Sprink was created with the vision of “making food effortless and empowering people to live better.”
Sprink offers a variety of daily meals based on the customer’s food preferences and eating choices with the help of sophisticated AIML technology (Ascent AI) backend, which helps people get the best meal plan of their choice delivered to their doorstep every day.
This seemingly simple problem becomes daunting as startups strive to deliver hygienic, healthy, delicious, freshly cooked meals at affordable prices. It can only be achieved by building a vertically integrated platform using science and technology to optimize every aspect of menu planning, food production, packaging and logistics. Kumar Setu, Co-Founder and CCO, Sprink exclusively spoke to India Tech Desk to deliberate on the challenges in the sector.
Would you please briefly inform us of the specifics of the client base?
We serve a variety of clients. Our clientele includes end consumers – students, working singles and double-income families – who subscribe to these meals through our online subscription platform. We also serve many companies through corporate partnerships.
It covers hospitals, IT companies like Wipro, Capgemini and US Technology, Coliving spaces like Colive and Helloworld, Manufacturing companies like Carl Zeiss and Maini Precisions.
How are your clients benefiting from your services? Would you please explain with an example?
We bring unparalleled convenience and daily changing meals and menus to our clients.
For instance, corporate clients need three things, namely hygienic quality food, super affordable prices and ease of managing food vendors. We bring all these to our partner clients with our audit-friendly kitchens, large-scale production to reduce food costs, and digitalized ordering and feedback management experience.
With our Sprink@office service, one can choose from multiple menu options, suggest the quantity range, and take care of the rest with minimal daily involvement. Our flexible solution also allows them to change food count daily without worrying about committing fixed numbers daily. In covid times when people sometimes work from the office and occasionally from home, this is very useful.
On the other hand, for our direct customers/subscribers, the need is to access daily, homely meals of their choice without the daily hassles of choosing dishes or ordering food and all this without burning holes in the pocket on hefty delivery fees.
We take care of these issues by providing meals of their choice, and we prepare fresh meals daily with less oil and spice. And most importantly, these are wholly personalized based on one’s smart food profile that one can set on our platform.
So whether you love to eat a variety of cuisines or eat Jain meals, or just North Indian meals, whether you are a light eater or heavy eater, whether you eat non-veg on all days or only a few days – all these can be customized and personalized.
We want to understand our customer’s preferences to a detailed level, just like how a mother understands our food preferences and cooks it for us just as we like it.
We believe in a simple philosophy – if you don’t love to cook, you shouldn’t be forced to do so. And Sprink takes care of that. There is no planning required, not much time involvement and there’s no daily responsibility. We have a simple web/mobile-based subscription platform designed to eliminate ordering daily or plan what to order. You get your food delivered at a predefined time every day so that there are zero cognitive overloads.
What are your expansion plans and how do you plan in India?
We would go deep rather than go wide and thin. This is important to deliver affordable and great experiences to our customers, and that’s why our current focus is on Bangalore. But we plan to add ten more cities by next year and follow that up with expansion to tier 1-2 cities. While in bigger cities, it’s the younger working population who will be our prime target, it’ll be more geared towards the aging population who need better food support in other cities.
What challenges did you face during the pandemic from an industry perspective and company perspective?
Covid brought its challenges and the biggest one was the complete pivot that we had to take from an offline QSR brand to a delivery-only subscription brand. Covid forced us to look at our strengths of doing large-scale food production coupled with tech capabilities and made us think about how we can leverage it better in the new contactless world. This was the biggest impact.
There were other operational issues which we had to overcome like suddenly we were not left with any packaging stocks, our deliveries were delayed due to multiple roadblocks and checks, we had to rebuild our facilities to accommodate the new covid protocols and we had to restructure the team for the new business completely.
But that also meant that our focus on hygiene from the get-go started paying us back as customers suddenly became very conscious regarding food hygiene, which used to be a secondary thought earlier. Also, as we are part of essential services, our business continued during this time. It has grown much fold and covid has definitely accelerated the adoption of a meal as a subscription service. There was always a big void in daily meal space and covid accelerated the need to fill that gap faster.
Would you please elaborate on how Sprink caters the food with a broad range of varieties to meet the culinary expectations of people from different regions?
That’s our true moat. It’s done through a combination of Tech and Manufacturing capabilities that we have developed. The challenge isn’t only people eating regional cuisines, but the reality is that people nowadays eat mixed regional cuisines because of their exposure to various cuisines.
So a North Indian person loves to devour Idli and Dosa a few days of the week, a Bengali person can enjoy Andhra meals for a few days, a Kannadiga person might enjoy Punjabi dishes sometimes and so on. This adds to the complexity of solving this problem.
Now on top of this, if you add the concept of people being non-vegetarian only certain days of the week, non-vegetarians not eating muttons or fishes, some people eating fewer portions and some eating more – you will end up looking at hundreds of thousands of variations. A traditional food company can never solve this problem, and that’s where our tech-led approach has helped us stand out.
We have developed a vertically integrated solution where customers set food preferences based on their likings. A curated menu is assigned to them based on their smart food profile (which becomes more intelligent with the help of AI as you use it more). Then this menu is broken down into dishes and ingredients based on their preset recipes by our backend tech engine.
The same engine triggers a workflow where the production team receives the details of which dishes they have to cook, store managers receive what inventory they have to release and the packaging team gets to know what dishes they have to pack. It’s all seamlessly integrated even with Ascent AI – our route optimization engine which plans the most cost-effective rider and route for each order.
Would you please talk with data about the demand of your services and their performance?
Since the conception of Sprink in 2020, we have grown 10X and currently, we are at almost 3X revenue levels compared to our pre-covid levels.
What are some of your current focus areas?
We want to build India’s largest food brand. Indian cuisine is probably the most flavorful and one of the most popular cuisines worldwide. However, we do not have a single international or nationally recognized brand. Building a global, lovable brand in Indian food has remained a pipe dream for many entrepreneurs because of the complexity of our cuisines and dishes. It can be solved at scale only by the usage of food science and technology. This is what we at Sprink strive to achieve, and we have spent years building processes that can help us present the variety of Indian food to consumers.
We also believe that a large Indian food brand cannot be built over a hero dish or Indian cuisine. For eons, harmony despite cultural diversity has been India’s strength and this is what is our USP as well, i.e., bringing this diversity on your plate seamlessly.
With changing Indian family structure, our food needs have continued to evolve over decades and we are now starting to depend more and more on outside food. As more and more households increasingly become double income, the time people spend every day in their kitchens will continue to reduce.
However, the current restaurant business models do not enable us to consume our essential daily food outside our kitchen. This is not just due to high cost but also because daily consumption of outside food continues to remain a not-so-healthy option. We are not just investing heavily in creating state of the art factory kitchens and hygienic processes but also an AI-driven backend to optimize deliveries and a system that can make the menus personalized at scale based on a user’s likes and dislikes, unlike most other restaurant brands who are forced to reducing offerings for everyone as they scale.
But most importantly, our mission is to make great affordable food accessible to consumers across geographies by enabling them to pre-order/subscribe for either ready-to-eat meals or ready-to-cook products which would help them drastically cut down the time they are forced to spend in the kitchen.