Bengaluru-based Gourmet Garden, a food delivery startup founded by Arjun Balaji and Vishal Narayanaswamy is home to the purest, freshest, and finest tasting veggies, grown with great care in protected zero contamination environments. At Gourmet Garden, they promise to provide the freshest, zero contamination greens, veggies and more, that are full of flavour and nutrition.
We speak to Arjun Balaji, one of the founders of Gourmet Garden about his passion for organic farming and his journey to foray into agri-consumer fuelled by innovation, and of building Gourmet Garden as a pre-eminent brand of distinctive quality and zero-contamination food essentials.
1. Where did you study and where were you working earlier? How did the idea of Gourmet Garden come about?
After my MBA at IIM Lucknow, I worked at McKinsey & Company for over a decade, leading the tech and startup-consulting practice in India. Working with ambitious clients, some who were scale startups themselves, I connected strongly with the energy in pursuing innovation and new ideas. This was also the time I became more conscious about holistic wellness, and the significant role food and nutrition play in our overall well being. All of us desire high quality nutritious produce that is safe to consume, but this is highly compromised by existing age-old farming practices, overuse of pesticides, and harsh supply chain processes. As consumers become increasingly aware of food quality, I was convinced the next 2 decades will force a lot of innovation in agri, and found purpose in disrupting the farming & supply models in fresh produce to inspire better living. Meeting with Vishal (my co-founder) was the turning point as ideas quickly turned into a joint ambition to build Gourmet Garden (https://gourmetgarden.in/) as the most loved brand of food essentials, and a platform to educate consumers of the important choices they make in food.
2. What were the initial challenges and how did you overcome them?
While we were convinced of the quality of produce from our farming model, we knew that the Indian consumer is also price-conscious so the farmed produce needed to be meaningfully priced. Optimum environment farming is generally a very expensive way to farm, so a lot of effort was put in by Vishal to simplify the setup and design it to value so it can still be capex efficient and allow for relatable premiums. This breakthrough has now been patented, and along with the tribal knowledge of seed and nutrient combinations, is the bed-rock of our quality promise. There were other challenges with supply chain planning, portfolio, and go-to-market, which we solved over time. Educating the customer will be a longer agenda in our journey, and we are enjoying it more than the outcomes itself.
3. What have been the highpoints of your success journey so far?
The biggest high point is when a customer reaches out to us organically, and tells us why they loved our fresh produce. For very long, fruits and veggies have been commodities, and not many families pay attention to what they are eating. Infact, most households spend less than 2% of their monthly income on veggies & fruits, despite food quality being the single-largest determinant of health and life experience. So it’s very new and refreshing to see customers use positive superlatives to describe their experience of trying us. It is these same customers who have made us the brand with the highest repeat/loyalty rate in this space, in a very short span of time.
4. How’s Gourmet Garden unique and different from the others in this space?
The uniqueness comes from a disproportionate focus on delivering real freshness and safe-to-consume produce. Most offerings in the market solve for price or convenience only. Things like ‘order now and get in 30 minutes’, ‘lowest price offer’ etc are indicative of veggies that have been stocked for days and in excess. Invariably the quality, nutrition, and taste of stocked veggies is very poor. Our business model focuses on optimum environment farming and use of high quality seeds and inputs, which together yield the finest source quality. This is then delivered to customers with little degradation through our harvest-to-order approach. Both these are unique aspects of our brand that help us stand out in terms of quality and safety.
5. What are your future plans?
We are excited about expanding our patented Naturoponic farming model across cities. Strongly believe this is the future of farming perishables as farmers enjoy higher incomes and lesser complexities, and the environment benefits from a clean carbon-efficient model. We are also excited about making Gourmet Garden the brand-destination of choice for the conscious consumer when it comes to F&V and food essentials. Consumers have for very long been patient about the poor quality and its time for all of us to demand better and enjoy real goodness in our food.