The Hunt for Choice

Growing up in Bombay, we had Savitabai who came around every other morning with her ‘tokri’ of fresh fish. She’d get them straight from Sassoon Dock in Colaba so they really were fresh. The only problem we’d ever had with her was it was always the same fish! Prawns, Pomfret, Mackerel, Surmai or Bombay Duck!

As my brother and I grew older, we wanted more to choose from but no amount of cajoling or screaming or even begging helped. She very stoically maintained “heych ahe, ghey aataa” (this is whats there, buy it now).
Moving to Delhi for a few years for work exposed me to a host of fresh water fish from the hills and it was exciting at first. But I soon wanted my sea fish. Nope. Nada. Zip. Either you pay humongous amounts of money at 5-star hotels or… well, there was no or.
I moved to Pune a few years later and have been here ever since. Now Pune, strangely, offered me a decent mix of sea & fresh water fish but was still the same 6-8 options, very seasonal and definitely not as fresh as I was used to.
And expensive!

Work related trips abroad started to happen and suddenly there was this exposure to not only different cuisines in their authentic form, but also this explosion of choice. Not only seafood but other meats as well. A veritable smorgasbord. This is also around the time when the cooking bug really bit.

Back in Pune, the meats were available so there was a fair amount of trial and error cooking happening on the grill or in the oven. But seafood? No real choices available here for love or money. Cooking the staples got boring real quick.
Around the end of 2012, on another of those work-related trips, this one to Bhubaneshwar, I met a few people who were in the prawn culture, processing and export business. They were also sending their product to Delhi where they supplied 5-star hotels. A quick phone conversation with my co-founder Shumu and suddenly we had a germ of an idea.
From there on, it was about getting Fishvish off the ground and supplying prawns to restaurants and hotels in Pune. We slowly added a few other staple fish products like Surmai, Basa and Squid to our inventory. Friends and family started calling us to deliver product and the retail extension of our fledgling business started to take shape.
The basic problem still remained. We were not happy with what we were offering Pune. No real choice. Sure our product was as good if not better than the fresh product available in Pune but they were still the same products!
We started travelling. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal and even Himachal Pradesh. Every area had a few staples the local population ate. They also had staples that were being exported abroad and to a few big cities in India. Put them all together and suddenly there was this huge variety on offer. What in heavens name had we been doing?
We’d seemingly found the answer to one of our biggest problems. And then reality smacked us right in the face. No one wanted to sell us any of their products at the quantities we wanted! It’s taken the better part of 3 years to slowly claw our way in to their system and forge relationships.
We have over 20 types of seafood on offer today. And we’re only scratching the surface – India currently has more than 80 varieties of commercially viable seafood products. There is a whole host of fresh & brackish water fish just waiting to be laid out for you. The exotic products might have to wait just a little longer as cold chain for that is still completely non-existent in India right now and air freight is not a viable option.

It’s coming Pune, wait for it. We’ve taken a long, arduous journey so that you don’t have to. The joy of seafood should not have to start with pain.

Bijal Patel, Fishvish Co-founder

Image Credit: Fisherwoman –
Image Credit: Ocean Animation – Popkey
Image Credit: Seafood Variety – BastaPastaMD

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