BENGALURU: Ola Foods, the ride hailing app’s food business, plans to scale up private brands across online marketplaces and physical outlets, starting with Khichdi Experiment, months after scaling down investments in its food delivery marketplace Foodpanda, a top executive told ET.

“We have taken the shift from a food delivery company to a food-first company. The focus now is to create a portfolio of own brands, which we believe is a prominent opportunity, and a long term asset,” Pranay Jivrajka, CEO, Ola’s food business told ET.

The move is in line with a shift in strategy to roll back investments in Foodpanda and become a largely cloud kitchen business that will incubate food brands.

“There are 7-8 brand pilots going on in parallel, and we are experimenting with different physical retail models, including corporate kiosk, presence in malls, food trucks etc, as well as listing on Swiggy, Dunzo and Ola,” Jivrajka said.

Ola Foods has opened its first physical store for Khichdi Experiment in Bengaluru. ET was the first to report this in May.

The company plans to scale up these brands from the current six cities (including Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai) to emerging tier 2 cities in the next year. “Presently, we have about 50 kitchens, and we want to take that to 150-200 kitchens in the next 12-18 months”, he said.

Barring Khichdi Experiment, other brands include its rice bowl brand Lovemade, North Indian food brand Grandma’s Kitchen and dessert brand FLRT.

“We will have something around everyday meals… biryani is an upcoming category, we may scale up our dessert brand and there is a strong focus around healthy food as a business as well,” Jivrajka said.

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Over the last nine months, the company has scaled down Foodpanda’s operations after it realised that the food delivery business was continuing to burn cash, with Swiggy and Zomato raising millions to capture customer wallets.

Ola’s move into food brands also comes at a time when internet majors Swiggy, Oyo, and Amazon are setting up virtual brands, while Zomato and Swiggy are setting up infrastructure to partner with restaurants for cloud kitchens.

UberEats runs the brand Home Cravings in collaboration with Cafe Coffee Day.

Other cloud kitchen brands include Freshmenu, Eat.fit, and the Rebel Foods-owned Faasos, Lunch Box, Oven Story and Behrouz.

Building restaurant supply is a huge opportunity in India, since the number as well as density of restaurants in India is limited, compared to other economies like China and the United States.

Ola acquired Berlin-based online food ordering and delivery marketplace Delivery Hero’s 95% stake in Foodpanda in December 2017 for 26.5 million euros (Rs 200.7 crore) in an all-stock deal.

In January, ET reported that Foodpanda was cutting its focus from marketplace and moving towards a cloud kitchen business as the cornerstone for growth.





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