Covid-19 And Its Impact On The Indian Food-tech Sector

The Indian food industry is one of the biggest sufferers of the pandemic, which forced the restaurants to close and workers to return to villages

As the world woke up to come to terms with Covid-19, the pandemic and the new normal, one of the biggest sufferers were the Indian Food Industry. With the onset of the pandemic, restaurants shut shop, employees returned to their villages and people were scared of accepting anything from outside.

But people need to eat and businesses need to survive. Humans did exactly what they are best at doing – surviving by re-inventing in the face of change. And what better partner to aid this change than Technology. As people started understating Covid-19 and its effects better, the initial paranoia and the scare started to water down, they also opened up to how to survive and start living in the new normal. And as always technology came to aid.

Food-tech companies started to quickly revamp and re-invent themselves, enabling a lot more food businesses to come aboard. This enabled a lot of food brands that were not on the food-tech platforms to leverage the massive reach that it provided. It further enabled them to slowly and steadily restart their businesses. Food-tech helped businesses right from home chefs, homegrown food businesses, local grocery shops, general trade & modern trade access India’s huge population which was not able to step out at all. Using food-tech apps people could get anything from a biscuit to an entire thaali delivered home within a few hours at the most. 

Food-tech enabled delivery companies allowed families to reach out to their loved ones and ensure that they were well stocked and well-fed. Local vegetable vendors were using technology like Whatsapp to ensure their clients could order day to day vegetables. With the help of technology – farm to home table became a reality where farmers were allowed to sell their fresh produce to their city-based customers and deliver to them in good time – a scenario which would have been unheard of earlier.

Words like Swiggy, Zomato which were already a part of peoples routine now became a part of their day-to-day life, moreover, brands like We-fast and Dunzo become lifelines that helped people stay connected and survive the worst of the lockdowns. We also saw neighbourhood hyperlocal food-tech apps helping home chefs reach out to their neighbours with homemade dishes on a daily basis. This also helped people who had no staff left or less access to groceries get home-style food whilst allowing the home chefs to earn more. Social media platforms encouraged thousands of jobless people to look at the food industry as a new hope for survival – everyone needs to eat!

The food-tech sector is surely on a growth trend, with the big two aggregators – Swiggy & Zomato working on full steam, the situation also gave birth to backend platforms like Thrive & DotPe which help foodprenuers to have their own online restaurants and better access & communication to their client base. Suddenly the very popular Whatsapp also became a very strong marketing tool with many food groups allowing small to large food businesses to connect to millions of people at a click. This is all thanks to Food-Tech.

As pandemic eases and people start to venture out food-tech has enabled contactless menus, by scanning barcodes at a restaurant you can view the entire menu and offers on your Phone, place a contactless order from your phone and settle your bill directly. You can also download the menu. This started sometime in 2020 and we have seen several food outlets adapting to this ordering system. Some outlets do offer offline menus or staff would assist in ordering for clients who are not comfortable in ordering online.

As per some of the research reports, the food tech market in India is set to grow 5 folds in the coming 3-4 years. Rapid urbanization, increase in the number of working youth and increase on internet/smartphone usage are significant factors that have propelled the market growth. In addition to the above, lucrative offers and discounts provided by the aggregators on the apps and the convenience of getting delivery at the doorstep has given a boost to the market. Tier II & Tier III cities have seen significant growth.

During the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the food tech market had experienced a setback as food deliveries were severely affected with our country going in for complete lockdown. In addition, consumers were concerned about their health. We also saw a reduction in the availability of delivery agents as migrant workers had chosen to return to their homes. Several food service start-ups saw the setback as an opportunity and worked on expanding their business by targeting new customers and retaining existing customers.

As they say, ‘Necessity Is The Mother Of All Inventions’, no one really knows this better than the Food-Tech industry. In times of necessity, food tech re-invented, re-created and grew multi-folds just to ensure that we all had a smooth life allowing us to survive and sustain, kept us well fed and kept our kitchens fully stocked. Food-tech is here to stay & grow with us.

The Author is Jay Kantawala, Co-Founder, Food Concepts

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