Pc Mustafa Curated

The Founder of ID Fresh Food

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Pc Mustafa have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Pc Mustafa's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Has the company’s approach towards the upskilling changes due to Covid-19?

    There’s a saying in Africa that smooth seas do not make skilful sailors. And I couldn’t agree more. The last two months have taught us valuable lessons in doing more with less. There has been a surge in online training, encouraging staff to participate in cross-functional tasks and assignments. This break from the routine has led to a palpable sense of reinvigoration across teams in the organisation.

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  • What are the key human resource policies that you have introduced amid Covid-19?

    We have introduced comprehensive insurance, covering pandemics like Covid-19, for all our employees. Training regarding workplace etiquette and safety measures have helped ensure that we understand and are ready for the “new normal.”Given iD’s agile work culture, the transition to work-from-home was not very challenging. However, we have made conscious efforts to facilitate regular employee communication to keep the team’s morale high. Similarly, new functional online training has been instrumental in the reskilling of employees. Going forward, I see a more adaptive work environment.

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  • Will you be offering promotions and appraisals this year?

    The current crisis has not affected promotions and appraisals are on track, too. We need a motivated workforce to recover from this global predicament. Socio-economically, I believe, things will get back on track in the coming months. Financial losses will be recovered, it may take longer, but it will happen.

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  • Is your company facing any pressure to cut jobs?

    Just like doctors, nurses, and public health officials, iD employees have been doing an amazing job of providing essential service during the pandemic. We worked hard to ensure that people have easy access to fresh, healthy, and home-made food in these trying times. So far, we have managed to weather the storm. Although we have scaled down the operations to limited products until the situation gets back to normal, we haven’t imposed any pay cuts or job cuts. There are a lot of youngsters from rural India who work with iD, most of whom have been with us for several years. As a family of over 1,500 members, our unity is our biggest strength. We are in this together.

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  • In what ways is your hiring policy going to change amid the pandemic?

    Given the uncertain and evolving nature of the Covid-19 crisis, it is difficult to make long-term business plans at the moment. But I anticipate that we will be minimising lateral hiring in the coming months and focussing more on developing internal talents. There’s nothing like learning through doing. This crisis presents companies with an opportunity to maximise the potential of internal talents. With a disciplined and comprehensive approach, this can become a successful and sustainable growth plan.

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  • How do you plan to make iD’s packaging more environment-friendly?

    We're guilty of generating plastic waste on a daily basis. We're however working on various options to minimise this. We encourage our consumers to reuse the packs for storage, growing plants etc through our on-pack communication.

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  • In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of packaging?

    The packaging must perform at three levels. It has to be distinct and showcase disruption in the category. It has to enable ease-of-use for the consumer. And most importantly, it must have great shelf throw, since most of our products go into the chiller in a retail environment.

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  • What are you doing differently from other players in the market when it comes to packaging and branding?

    We use common sense to solve consumer problems. Our consumers love our ergonomic and innovative packaging and, of course, the products too. One of your innovative products is iD Traditional Filter Coffee Decoction. iD is known for its authentic home-style fresh food products which are natural, preservative and chemical-free. Taking forward the company philosophy of using only natural and premium ingredients, iD Fresh’s traditional filter coffee decoction was launched which is made of single origin coffee and has the right blend of coffee and chicory (80% coffee, 20% chicory), zero sugar, and no preservatives. The filter coffee comes in the form of ready-to-use liquid (decoction) rather than the conventional powder form available in the market. The brief to the agency was simple. We wanted a disruptive packaging which is traditional yet progressive and gives an authentic feel of filter coffee.

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  • Do you believe packaging can be a strategic touch point to solve business problems?

    While the packaging is a critical part of our marketing mix, we believe that half of the marketing is done right with the right product. Change is constant and we at iD are constantly working on packaging innovations and solutions. iD Batter pack was first of its kind with a zipper, boat-shaped, self-standing pack which doubled up as a vessel. We've patented this pack. The famed iD Vada Batter pack effortlessly helps shapes the batter into vadas through a unique spout with a hole in the centre, without causing any mess or stress. This pack is patented, too, and has received accolades across the globe.

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  • Is ready-to-cook food an exciting space to be in at the moment?

    Yes, most definitely. To balance the equilibrium in today’s seesaw of time and health, people are opting for ready-to-cook food products that are natural and chemical-free. We started iD Fresh at a time when home-made idli and dosa batter was sold in unhygienic plastic covers. It took a lot of hard work, innovation and adoption of advanced technologies to help us provide the best quality products and gain the trust of millions of consumers. We acknowledge that making South Indian items from scratch can be a challenge; therefore, we strived to identify gaps in the industry and through technology and innovation serve people with easy-to-cook, tasty and preservative-free food.

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  • What was your vision while starting the brand?

    The main reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur, with the help and support of my cousins (the co-founders), was to provide rural employment opportunities. We saw a lot of talented and smart youngsters in my village who were unemployed and never got a break in life because of the requirement of formal education. We knew if we chose the entrepreneurial route and started a company of our own, we could provide employment opportunities to thousands of rural youths either directly or indirectly. The reason to venture into the ready-to- cook category was to give back to society by providing healthy, nutritious and fresh food every single day; and as an extension touch the lives of millions of people to fulfil their basic food needs.

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  • Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

    Listen to your heart – may be completely against the existing eco-system but that works. Stay true to your values and principles even if the going gets tough. Treat your team as family – respect their needs. Take help from anybody who is better than you in any field. There is no shortcut to success, hard work is the key. Trust your gut & take the leap of faith. Don’t let anybody bully you trusting their ideologies. Use technology – interpret it to suit your needs. Involve all trusted people in decision making. Reply to mails from anyone in 10 to 15 mins – plays a huge role in building your credibility & trust.

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  • In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

    Being honest in the way we make our products (i.e.) make it the way a home-maker would make it Trust & the faith in the capability of the team Unconventional thinking Old fashioned love for good Indian food Interpreting modern technology and knowledge to serve our unique business model

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  • Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

    The main reason of becoming an entrepreneur was to provide employment opportunities to the rural folks. Another way of giving back to the society was by touching lives of millions of people across households by providing healthy, nutritious and fresh meals every single day.

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  • What is your definition of success?

    If results are helping you to achieve the purpose of your life, it is success.

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  • What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

    In Asia, parents and families have slowly started accepting the concept of entrepreneurship which wasn’t the case few years ago.

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  • Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

    We were getting 90% unsold market returns in the first few months of our inception. It took us 9 months to sell 100kg daily.

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  • What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

    We are very clear about our brand philosophy and we will continue to add products to our portfolio which is fresh, natural, preservative-free, authentic, Indian home-style food. The future of ready-to-cook/ ready-to-eat industry in India is expected to grow exponentially with changing lifestyles, higher disposable income and increase in working population who are time crunched.

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  • What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

    RTC(Ready To Cook) segment is witnessing double digit growth. RTC will continue to grow faster compared to RTE(Ready To Eat) as Indian home makers need their credit. Fresh food and authentic ingredients like batter has great market potential in India.

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  • Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?

    The task at hand differs from region to region. For instance Chennai is a mature market with a lot of competition. Whereas Bangalore is a nascent market where there are not many players in the market. Our strategy differs region wise. iD as a brand is known for its quality and we ensure we stick to our brand philosophy of providing fresh, chemical-free, natural food to our consumers. As per research we are a stickier brand over most large FMCG brands.

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  • What kind of feedback did you get for iD Fresh Food so far?

    We get a lot of anecdotes from our consumers. The most often feedback we receive is that iD is a ‘life saver’ as it has reduced the arduousness of the homemaker and brings in harmony in the family. Another feedback we receive often is that iD is as good as homemade and tastes authentic.

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  • How have you been developing iD Fresh Food since startup ?

    It’s very challenging to create a category, especially in the fresh food space which is crowded with local and regional players. iD has been a differentiator over the rest in the market with innovative packaging and unique product delivery which is offering fresh, natural preservative-free products every single day consistently.

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  • Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

    We honestly faced a lot of challenges during and after the inception of the business. The concept of fresh, natural, preservative free was hard for not just the consumers to believe but also the retailers and employees. There is no brand in the ready-to-cook segment which offers products that are free of additives and are 100% natural. It took some time for us to convince people and educate them about our core brand values which are- fresh, natural, no chemicals, traditionally made and authentic. Besides we cater to the fresh food segment and hence the wastage is high. Another main challenge was none of us having any sort of background in food technology or food industry. As a team we adhere to certain principles and hence we always believe in growing business ethically aligned to our core values. Cash flow too was a challenge as I had invested whatever savings I had to kick start the business

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  • Could you walk us through the process of starting up iD Fresh Food?

    iD’s journey so far has never been an individual’s contribution. Five of us cousins- Nazer, Shamsudeen, Jafar, Naushad joined hands, took on a role each. We found a small place of around 50 square feet and started with two grinders, a mixer and a sealing machine and I decided to invest Rs. 25,000. And thus iD Fresh was born and our entrepreneurial journey.

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  • How did you come up with the idea of iD Fresh Food?

    While studying at IIM-B, I started to discuss business plans with my maternal cousins. My cousin, Shamsudeen who ran a kirana store noticed that dosa batter that was then sold in plastic bags tied with a rubber band in nearby stores was in demand, especially among working women but was of poor & inconsistent quality. We decided to try selling batter, but with the difference being that we will use the best of ingredients and be consistent in quality.

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  • In your own words what is iD Fresh Food?

    iD Fresh Food is the perfect professional assistant in the kitchen for the homemaker. It helps smart and busy people, rustle up 100% natural and authentic tasting Indian meal. It produces and delivers an array of ready-to-cook, fresh Indian home food to its customers every single day and takes pride in its home-made style of preparation.

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  • How have you identified your products?

    We gradually expanded to newer products. Some of them worked, some of them failed. Paratha is just one example. We are selling close to around 8 lakh parathas a day.

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  • What were the key challenges you faced when you were making this brand?

    I was a techie, my cousins were running a kirana shop. We had no idea of technology.

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  • So you are driven by a whole lot of technology which gives you data for you to be adopting that zero inventory in a certain sense, right?

    Yes right, iD runs on IT. Every store is geo-tagged and geo-fenced. Last eight years of data is used to predict demand. And that data is used to supply the right quantity to the right store. And then that data is used to predict the orders for tomorrow.

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  • What is the value you carry for this brand?

    We will keep our foods 100 percent natural, no chemicals and no preservatives. It is not an easy journey. When the world was moving to extend the shelf life of the product we were here to change the business model, to serve fresh food. That’s when we learned the only way to make this work is to build our own traditional network.

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  • When did the first influx of big-ticket investment come in and how did it boost the operations at iD?

    We started with a capital of Rs 50,000 and reinvested every penny we made back in the company. We are a zero debt company and in 2014 we got an investment from Hidden Adventure, worth Rs 35 crore. That gave us wings to expand across India

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  • How did you decide on this business?

    There was a batter supplier supplying batter in a pouch. The batter had quality complaints, service issues and cockroaches. The problem wasn’t fixed at the vendor level and then we decided to fix it ourselves.

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  • How do you keep your team’s innovative spirit alive?

    Opportunity lies everywhere you just need common sense to spot it. All our products are related to dishes that are consumed everyday in most homes. We just identify what is difficult for the homemaker.

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  • You said it took three years to get the pack with the spout right. Why?

    First, we had to get the batter right. The consistency has to be perfect or it becomes a messy, sticky, oily blob. Then, frying a vada requires skill — if you don’t handle it properly, you end up frying your fingers. And the shape is key. We started with a nozzle, similar to those on ketchup bottles or used for jalebi making. We realised it wasn’t possible to join the end and the beginning of the batter in the oil. We had to do something to form the vada in the desired shape. We consulted industry experts and engineering consultants but no one had a solution. Finally, my cousin and co-founder went to a welding shop and created a mock-up using a hammer and pipe. It took him a year to have a working model. Finding the right food-grade material took another year. It paid off: One simply has to squeeze the pouch and the batter comes from all sides of the spout and you cut to get the shape.

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  • Your ‘Everybody can vada’ video was shared quite a bit even before the batter was launched. How did you come up with the idea?

    We’ve been selling idli and dosa batter for over 12 years. So we asked ourselves, what next? Idli-vada is a favourite breakfast combo in south India, but it’s tough to make vada at home. Except for grandmums who have mastered the art of getting the shape right, most people struggle with it. It’s started disappearing from homes, so we decided to work towards reviving the vada.

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