With the goal of providing healthy eating options and positioning salads in the mainstream Indian diet, Salad Days has defined stringent standards from the outset and has built a solid reputation in the food delivery market in the Delhi NCR region. They are not only setting new and desirable trends in the food sector but are also making a ‘healthy’ contribution to the society.
Our team interviewed founder Varun Madan who steered us through the exciting journey of Salad Days- how they’ve grown to become the most trusted brand for quality food delivery over the last two years.
1. Tell us about yourself, your background, your entrepreneurial journey and inception story of Salad Days.
I and Kunal Gangwani studied together at XLRI, Jamshedpur, and became great friends while playing music for “Bodhi Tree”, XLRI band. While music got us together, it was our common attitude towards work and life, which glued us towards the same goal. Hard core believers in originality and insanely sincere about travel, food and cultures, we have always welcomed newness in its original form.
The reason for starting Salad Days was very logically derived. It was a felt learning from food endeavours in Europe and US that freshly sourced raw ingredients have a great taste of their own and they qualify as awesome meal options. But here in India, we couldn’t identify that one name which comes to everyone’s mind when one thinks of eating healthy food. Lack of both demand and supply have been the most basic reasons for this void. While we embraced these challenges as opportunities, Salad Days was born (in Feb 2014) to address the big white space of serving healthy, filling and tasty food in a quick format and at reasonable prices. We are working towards re-positioning salads and other healthy eating options from being mere side dishes to become a part of mainstream Indian diet. We wish to be healthy food experts in India. We wish to be top of the mind recall for every thought about eating healthy.
2. What is Salad Days all about? Tell us in detail about the product offering and your target segment?
Most simply, Salad Days implies best days of one’s life. It is a sincere contribution towards realizing ones best through food which is healthy, raw and pure in its true sense – the way it should be.
Salad Days has a coherent set of rules that the entire team follows religiously and effortlessly. We have a determined focus on honesty and right ways of working. We believe in doing less, but doing it well. This essentially means that we don’t want to be everywhere in terms of our menu/expertise/positioning and so on. There is no distraction in vision and there is a lot of fun in growing vertically than horizontally. It is with this attitude, that we have a searing focus on product more than anything else.
Our product portfolio consists of Salads divided in 4 categories (Veggies, Non vegetarian, Fruit and legume Salads), Cold pressed juices, smoothies and Cold teas.
We are in a delivery model only and we cater to entire Gurgaon and South Delhi. All our products are fresh and made to order and that’s why we happily invite customizations to any salad that one orders. Our target customer is anyone who wishes to eat real healthy meals. We target working professionals and analysis validates that we serve about 65% of our orders to individual customers at their work place and rest are residential orders. For us, most contributing population is of 25-34 years age group (both men and women) and interestingly, we have a significantly huge customer base of men from 18-24 age group and a decent contribution from 45yrs+ age group of both men and women. So, it is a good story that we are loved by customers from all age groups and are not positioned as a gender specific or age specific brand.
3. What is your competition in the market? What is it that sets you apart from your competition?
Ideally, any restaurant or QSR which serves good food is our competition regardless of the cuisine, since it qualifies as an alternative to our offering. In terms of direct competition, we still aren’t aware of any serious set up that does only salads as their reason of being around.
We started more than 2 years ago and have humbly proven the market potential in salads. Hence, and the good part is that many startups in our immediate vicinity of Delhi NCR and other important cities have now certainly started treating salads more seriously. I have seen the trend changing so fast in last 24 months.
From the beginning, we have chosen to concentrate on our core. And I believe we have chosen our core very well. Great product & unparalleled customer experience is what we work for. To us, rest all (including IT) are important, but enablers. Our philosophy is simple that we wish to be the best, and not necessarily the biggest. We take unbelievable pains in areas which most food companies choose to ignore royally. Whether it is the procurement, packaging, hygiene, team, operations, delivery or branding, we continue to spend a lot of energy on almost everything in the entire value chain. We also grow some of our stuff at Salad Days Garden.
As a result, Salad Days is consistently the highest rated healthy food brand across Delhi NCR. We are blessed with extremely loyal and understanding customers. It gives us immense happiness when our customers review us as an “honest” brand.
4. What is the business model of Salad Days? Can you briefly summarize the growth achieved in both volume and value from the Day One till now?
Salad Days is a sensible mix of fine dining and QSR experience. We serve gourmet food in a delivery model only. And we serve really quickly. We are market leaders in terms of volume and value in a comparable format of restaurants. We have exclusive contracts with Oberoi Gurgaon and Taj Mansingh Delhi and are also present on the shelves of Godrej Natures Basket stores in Delhi and Gurgaon.
We have been doubling up QOQ in numbers and we are blessed with healthy unit economics from the beginning while our team size has grown from strong 6 to strong 60+.
5. How has been your beginner’s journey? What were the challenges you faced in setting up and scaling up your enterprise? Any hurdle that you faced or are still facing?
We have executed some things really well and some levers are still to be pulled in a better direction. It’s a learning every now and then and we don’t shy away in accepting and improving all the time.
Our nature of work is operationally intensive and hence our biggest challenges on a daily basis are operational in nature. And they will continue to be the same. It is easy to execute anything, but the real problem is to execute things intelligently. I realize that we all are very good in being average and above average, but the tough part is to pull up the socks and walk an extra mile. For example, it is easy to deliver food, but it is not easy to optimize deliveries without putting undue pressure on the system. It is easy to articulate checklists and stick print outs on the pin boards, but it is not easy to orchestrate processes which will be followed by everyone without constant human intervention. It is easy to highlight, but not to convince. And the answer doesn’t come in a day. It is a team effort and one needs to build it – slowly and continuously.
The challenges which linger are that of government authorities. The sad part is that when one wishes to work the right way, one is bombarded with regular predicaments.
6. Can you tell us about your other founders/core team, their background and rich experience?
Like I mentioned in the beginning, we are two – I and Kunal Gangwani.
7. How is ‘Salad Days’ funded? Any early stage money/seed stage experience that you would like to share with us?
We are primarily self-funded. We picked up a small round of funding in the form of FDI in August 2015. We utilized that money to develop a state of art facility and to expand our operations in Delhi.
8. Any other areas or initiatives that you plan to venture into in the future?
We wish to vertically integrate. It makes great sense w.r.t portfolio expansion and there is a social intent involved too. We have visited many farmers and any contribution to uplift their standards of life, will be happiness.
9. What will Salad Days look like, 10 years from now? All perspectives – people, business, revenue, team, size or anything you foresee for the venture.
We would have outlets where you would hop in to eat the most honest and innovative healthy food. Everyday.
10. Any school/ campus-connect initiatives that you are pursuing or plan to pursue?
We employ interns from Ivy League B Schools in India and that is what we will continue to do.
11. Any experience or advice you would like to share with soon to be start-up founders out there?
On a personal note, I believe that you need to have passion and prudence in equal parts. Both are very important and you can’t afford to have less of either. To have conviction in what you want to make is very important and it should not be swayed by local trends. One needs to be strong in mind and adaptable in execution.
On a practical level, it is important that you get a few things right from Day One. Choose the right partners for growth – and realize that it does not always mean your friends. Respect unit economics, invest in correct legal construct, good infrastructure and all that is core to your business. And finally have long-term vision with short term clarity. This will help you scale up in the right way.
Their absolute dedication towards their endeavour makes Salad Days one of the most promising and trustworthy brands. We wish them good luck and hope to see them expanding their venture very soon so that they can cater to a wider audience who ultimately can be benefited by their services. As to all our readers, keep eating and stay healthy- may you have happy Salad Days!