- A Foodesto gourmet crate.
Not satisfied with the seafood in your city? Are you in the mood for freshly-roasted coffee with cranberry biscuits but don’t have a clue where to start?
An increasing number of online stores are delivering gourmet food around the country to cater to discriminating palates in places where such items are not easily available.
Take Delhi-based Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters, started by Namrata Asthana and Matt Chitharanjan, which delivers freshly roasted coffee beans sourced from plantations in Karnataka. They started the company this month after realizing, they said, that it was hard find a good cup of coffee in the capital.
“Coffee shops use coffee that has been sitting on the shelves for months” and the packaged coffee available in supermarkets isn’t fresh, claimed Ms. Asthana. The next step they anticipate is selling coffee-brewing equipment and selling wholesale to restaurants and cafes. (For details, see the index at the end of this post.)
- Namrata Asthana
- Blue Tokai Coffee packets.
As with any market, it’s all about filling a perceived unmet need. That’s what Tarun Khanna (yes that is his real name as well as sounding like Hindi for food) sought to do when he established Foodesto.com in August. He and two friends realized that “consumers for unique brands, like Fabindia, Indigo or Moshe’s” – the clothes and housewares store and two well-known Mumbai restaurants — are growing. At the same time, more people are open to shopping online. They decided put these brands together on one site for consumers – much like an online supermarket.
Another website, Gourmet Company, sells gourmet food from brands around the world. It recently added kitchenware to its inventory of goods. The company began with two people – Neerja Mittersain and her mother – taking orders for gourmet food baskets.
A big advantage for these companies has been that social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, which have helped them save money on advertising and marketing. They have built their clientele through these sites and through word of mouth, proprietors say.
The reach of these online companies is expanding.
Blue Tokai has received orders from Bikaner in Rajasthan, Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, and Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh; Foodesto from Nasik in Maharashtra and Gourmet Company from Dimapur in the northeastern state of Nagaland.
But many online stores find delivery a challenge.
- A Black Pomfret from seatohome.com.
Kochi-based Seatohome.com depends on flights to deliver fishes and if a flight is delayed or cancelled, the supply is affected, says Priya Solomon, director. And packing the fish in ice and cool boxes to survive the journey adds to the cost.
Ms. Solomon and her brother-in-law, Matthew Joseph, started seatohome.com last year to deliver chemical-free fish collected from small trawlers or boats. They already had a business exporting seafood to countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and decided to set up a company for delivering only to homes in India.
Another challenge for these companies is convincing consumers of the advantages of paying a higher price for fresh food.
Ms. Solomon of seatohome.com says even if people understand that their fish is fresh and organic, “they don’t want to pay that extra buck” for it. For instance, the minimum order amount for Delhi is 1,000 rupees ( around $18) and for Bangalore 500 rupees ($9.)
The founders of Blue Tokai say the toughest thing is convincing coffee drinkers why they should buy freshly roasted coffee. If you were ordering 250 grams of Attikan estate Arabica coffee that come from the Bilgiri Hills in Karnataka, roasted after ordering, it would cost 350 rupees ($6.)
- Gourmet Company
- A Sushi making kit from Gourmet Company.
Then there is how to pay.
“Many people don’t complete the purchase after reaching the check-out page,” says Mr. Chitharanjan of Blue Tokai. The reason for this, he says, is the many steps to complete payment. Though these steps are necessary for credit card security, consumers find it tedious.
Other companies have a “cash on delivery” system.
But many consumers are not satisfied with that, either. Ms. Solomon of seatohome.com says their customers want them to start online payments because they find them more convenient.
A sampling of online food retailers:
Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters: freshly roasted coffee delivered all over India.
Foodesto.com: online food market. Packaged food delivered all over India. Cheese, meat and vegetables delivered only in Mumbai.
Gourmet Company: global gourmet brands delivered all over India.
Seatohome.com: fresh fish and seafood delivery in Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
Pescafresh: fresh fish and seafood delivery in Mumbai.
Farm 2 Kitchen: organic-food delivery in 262 cities in India.