Two ISB alumnis, Raghu Babu Gunturu and Sekhar Chebolu, along with Madhu Chebolu (Sekhar’s wife) got together and came up with a unique concept, FreshChops. This is a hyperlocal startup that delivers quality fresh meat (chicken, mutton, fish and prawns) in a timely manner. FreshChops has its own packaging and sources from FreshChops certified outlets in the local area. The customers get quality product in a time that is less than what it will take them to get if they go to the outlet, along with assurance of FreshChops quality.
Raghu Babu Gunturu is a TIE Charter member. He is an angel investor and closely works with the startup eco system in Hyderabad. Sekhar Chebolu has a Masters’ Degree in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, a Masters’ in Computer Engineering from SUNY at Buffalo and an Executive MBA from Indian School of Business. Madhu Chebolu is the CEO of the company. She is an experienced hand in the operations.
Raghu and Sekhar used to go for walks over the weekend in KBR Park. Over the four hours they spent together every week they wanted to solve all sorts of problems in the un-organised hyperlocal space. They looked at various categories including meat delivery, transactions of a household with milk vendors, dhobis etc. They in fact created prototype apps for all of these. While discussing these ideas with their friends (primarily ISB alumni), they received feedback that their ideas were not focused and that they were trying to do too many things.
This prompted them to go after a market where they could excel, and thus the e-meat category was finalised. They saw an opportunity to launch quickly in a category which did not yet have any big player, giving them a chance to make a huge difference. A dear friend of theirs’ from ISB suggested that he knew of someone in meat category who was looking to try something in the online meat. Raghu and Sekhar met with this meat vendor, launched within three months of talking to their current meat partner.
Initial hurdles are a part and parcel of any startup and the trio was no exception to this. Their primary hiccup was in forming the right team.
“It is also difficult to recruit when you just start because people do not know if you will really run the business or whether this is just a fancy idea on paper. Now that we have shown people the investment we do in terms of time, effort and money, we have people coming and asking if they can be part of our team,” says Raghu.
“The customers expect a very high level of quality and timeliness of deliveries. For us to convince our vendors to follow FreshChops SOPs was another hurdle. The vendors will not invest unless they see a value for themselves. Luckily in 3 months we have been able to show how much new business we can drive to our partner outlets. Now we have outlets coming and talking to us, rather than us going and trying to convince them to partner with us and support us,” adds Sekhar.
At the moment they are bootstrapping this startup themselves, but are in discussions with a few angel investors and expect to close this funding round in the next 1-2 months.
Raghu and Sekhar admit that ISB has been the key part of their venture. Without ISB, both of them would have never met with each other and gotten to know each other well enough to start a venture together. Moreover many of the alumni have advised large national e-commerce players, and they are fortunate to be able to access the large players. A number of their friends have helped promote their venture within their communities.
“Of course the ISB tag will probably help when we go for larger rounds of fund-raising, but we think being part of ISB community has already given us a great advantage over other players because of the support and help that is available for us over a phone call or email,” muses Raghu.
FreshChops has an extraordinary app too which is the highlight of the business.
“Raghu was always insisting that we should be a mobile first company. In fact we so strongly believed that we should have an App, that in our initial plan we did not even have an online website ordering planned. We decided to do the website about 3 weeks before launch,” reveals Sekhar.
“We went through a number of designs. It is very tough to get an app developed which is great looking and working and at the same time not spend too much money. You can land up spending a lot of money on technology and design. We had to learn lot of design tools so that we can communicate clearly to the app developer. We created lots of mockups and played around with the interactions. Two of our friends from ISB helped with reviewing the design and helping us make some design decisions,” admits Raghu
“Today consumers are so used to high-quality apps like Uber and Ola, that they demand similar quality from all apps. Luckily our category lends itself well to an app as there are limited number of items and customer can order quickly,” Raghu and Sekhar say together.
FreshChops currently operates in the Tech Zone of Hyderabad. The plan is to cover entire Hyderabad in the next couple of months. Next year they plan to expand to a couple more cities in South India.
“We expect to tweak our model and SOPs in next couple of months, so we can replicate our model and hopefully success everywhere,” says Raghu.
Their biggest challenge today is to be able to make 100% deliveries with quality and timeliness. This means they have to professionalise all parts of their eco-system; be it delivery boys, butchers or partner outlets.
“Every touch point of the customer is in a way the reflection of Madhu, Raghu and Sekhar. So how do we make all of them professional? That’s our biggest challenge everyday!” opines Sekhar.
“But we are excited to transform this entire sector. We see lot of interest from the second generation of our partners. They want to work with technology and not be known only as a chicken outlet owner. They would like to be playing in e-commerce,” concludes Raghu.