In the hectic times that we live in, health has become less of a priority and the repercussions felt are not quite pleasant. In an attempt to acknowledge the grim situation and take charge of it, Founders of Salad Days, Varun Madan and Kunal Gangwani embarked upon a journey to eat and serve healthy food. For the duo, investing in health is the biggest investment one can ever make. They talk to MarkUp about opening a food startup without any investors’ support. Read on to know their mantra for success.
What made you create Salad Days?
Primarily, it was the experience we had of living abroad. We developed an intense love for fresh food there; we never knew before how amazing vegetables tasted without any spices. So, we saw a wide space in the Indian market for healthy food. Also, we figured out why such an initiative was not started till now. What seemed challenging to everybody seemed like an opportunity to us and we started Salad Days. We sell what we’d like to buy ourselves.
Tell us about the USP of Salad Days.
Avery technical answer would be the tie-upwe did with a Japanese company to keep our products fresh when it’s delivered to our customers, but such things can be replicated so it will not remain a primary USP. However, we would say that it’sthe spirit of the founders that you can’t replicate. Salad Days is there because we believe in it;we have established that process, that honesty and we don’t have to make efforts for that. We have been able to make a happy ecosystem for ourselves, which I think customers understand. We wanted to keep everything as a reflection of ourselves.
Define your business model.
So, we procure from the best of placesand we largely import from Western Europeand Thailand. The olive oil comes from Spain, cheese is imported from Netherlands and Italy, our vinegars arrive from Italy, and we get white rice from California. When it comes to raw and fresh veggies– some fruits we import because they are not grown everywhere, but most of them arepurchased from India as it increases the freshness quotient, and the pricing is better too.We do not compromise on buying stuff that is substantial;so, we go across places in the country and procure at different times, in different areas likeMaharashtra belt,Bangalore belt Shivalik range of Himalayas and local areas; plus, we grow our own stuff too.
Then we make salads, which is a very tedious process.First we rinse all the veggies and then we submerge them in a solution to get rid of pesticides and fertilizers; post this, all veggies go through a cold-water bath just to chill up. Lastly we line up the salad bar as per the desired recipe.
How has the journey for Salad Days been so far?
The journey has been very good for us.Both of us did not have generation passing on richness to us; we built it from the scratch, without any investor’s money.We have been meeting good milestones on regular basis, whether it’s sales or new customer accusation. We have tried different channels of communication, and we have exclusive sales provide to Oberoi, Taj Maan Sing and Emporium.Largely, what gives us happiness is to establish ourselves as a great B2C brand. Starting in Delhi was a big milestone for us.We have great people working for us, and supporting us for branding, marketing, IT, delivery crew and others. So, all in all I think our brand is becoming stronger by every passing day.
You have created a specialized market segment. What hurdles did you face during the initial setting-up stage of your venture?
Convincing people that salad is a main course was our biggest challenge.So,we started at a very competitive price, just to get people to try our salads; itused to cost half of what it costs now, and that was a complete loss for the venture. India is not much of a cold food culture, so similarly you don’t find many garde manger chefs; to find the right people was very difficult. So, initially we had to train people ourselves, telling them how to make salads, what should be the hygiene,what should be the temperature—and we had to study all of this ourselves.Finding good people in this particular space was not easy.
As you are very selective about your marketing strategies? What means of marketing has been most beneficial for your brand?
We only do digital marketing primarily.Initially we did try ATL too but our idea is to focus on digital marketing to establish our CRM and we should at least get to know if the efforts are making any benefits to the company. And this is working well for us.We want to go vertically deep down rather than horizontally; our content is very respectful, and it reaches to the right people at right time.
Define real salad.
Just pluck something from the garden, toss it with extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Are you planning on executing any social media or digital media campaigns?
We already do digital campaigns.The kind of campaigns we do have very specific goals,so we have very definitive targeted marketing directed to a very specific customer base. We would send out a monthly e-mailer, because we don’t believe in spamming our customers. We don’t say happy hours are there orthere is a Diwali offer.So, if there is something interesting happening,we would like to share it with our customers.
How did you get your first 1000 customers?
The first idea we had was to gather a concentration of right set of people;so, we chose cyber city in Gurgaon. We contacted some of our friends, we wrote an email to them and asked them to come over and get their colleagues to try out our salads.We also took poster space in cyber city. And whoever tried our salads came back!
Are you planning to expand in different cities?
Yes, we are planning to expand but first we want to explore more in Delhi.
As entrepreneurs, what has been your greatest recipe for success?
One must always keep focusing on the goal and be very sensitive about the position that you create.Never mess it up!Plus, at the same time you should be very open, flexible in your head and be adaptable to feedbacks.