We left off last week with these 2 questions to be answered for ourselves before really diving into this business ‘all in’.
Do we really see ourselves doing this 5-8 years from now?
Why are we really doing this?
The second question was the one that really needed to be answered. Sure we loved seafood and wanted much better quality and we wanted variety. This “settling” for inferior quality and lack of options had to stop. We believed that there were more people out there who didn’t realise that they were ‘making do’ and we wanted to stop them from having to settle for their seafood. Why should they considering we are a nation with a 7517 Kms coastline and a multitude of rivers. The variety and quality were both out there, we just needed to bridge the gap.
Our confidence of seeing this through came from our experience of running a restaurant and the learning from that actually applied directly to our concepts of quality and variety. Dishes we were introducing with seafood that you wouldn’t usually find locally were being lapped up! Customers were actually asking about different types of seafood and the whole “surmai, pomfret, bangda and basa” dependency was relegated to the back burner. Sure, there was a large number that still wanted the tried and tested but there was a fairly large number that wanted to try the new stuff.
With this confidence came the motivation and though we still had to dig deep, we just knew that this is what we wanted to do. We were now completely committed and that answered the first question as a natural extension.
We now needed to prioritize the 5 areas though each was as important as the other.
Seafood Processing Factories
Supply chain was essential. If you don’t have the product you cant sell it. Quality of product was our mantra and we decided very early that we will only sell high quality products. We traveled all over India for a little over 2 years, finding certified export houses who might be willing to supply us. Our quantities at the time were really small and most just laughed at us. They could not believe what we wanted to do. Still, we stuck at it and we did finally get a few of them to agree to supply and we were off.
Now we needed to tie up the first leg of the cold chain – inter state transport. Quantities were too small for the big cold chain players but we got lucky somewhat and our suppliers got their transport partners to ferry our shipments for us from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal to Pune.
The second leg of the cold chain was rented space in a commercial cold storage in Pune and a few industrial freezers at our office cum distribution center.
The third leg was the last mile delivery and we decided to not trust any one with this and decided to deliver ourselves. Two-wheelers with insulated bags and freeze packs was our mode of choice and it’s working really well.
So we figured okay we’ve got quality seafood products, good variety which is continually growing and we’ve got and if not the best cold chain setup. 3 out of 5 problem areas are being dealt with.
We now shifted focus to our packaging and distribution. This was crunch time. Should we be a brand among many on the shelves of retailers? Should we be distributors? Should we innovate and do it a little differently? We went with option 3. No retail stores or distributors for us. We are a brand that stands for “choicest seafood”. A brand that provides an ever growing variety of quality products. A brand that thinks about the customers convenience first. A clear value proposition.
Slashing Non-Essential Costs
Packaging took a while to finalize as we questioned the need to add 8-12% of product cost on packaging when the customer would only see it when delivered. Customers want our product, let’s sell them that, not packaging. We went as thrifty as we possibly could without compromising on the quality of the packaging materials. It needed to be food and freezer grade and we’ve made no compromises there. We managed to slash down all non-essential packaging costs. Another problem area dealt with, for now anyway.
40% margins to a retailer seemed an awful lot to us. I mean we were here to make money too. It is a business after all. Why not market the product ourselves, we’ll warehouse and sell direct to the customers with doorstep delivery, in most cases on the same day. That cannot cost us 40%! And what we do save we can (and do) pass on to the customer. Win win for the customer and us.
Our goals is to bring you the bounty of choicest seafood that’s available in India. Over 70 varieties are commercially harvested in different parts of the country. Fishvish today has got a fair chunk of this variety and the inventory is continually growing.
We have a few pleasant surprises coming your way soon. Stay tuned. As a recently popular TV character famously said “It will be legen…. wait for it…. dary”.