Vegandukan is a marketplace for vegan & ethical products. It’s a platform for those who take the utmost care about the impact their business has on all lives. It was launched in December 2019. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Sagar N Mehta, Founder & Partner, Vegandukan.
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Please share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem.
I have been vegan and inclined towards animal rights for the past 6 years. The zeal to contribute to this sector in order to make lives easier for aspiring vegan plant-based consumers is what led to the formation of Vegandukan.
As more focused plant-based/organic businesses were starting, I recognized the need of a curated platform which can help such business persons to sell their products. There was not any such marketplace and so thought it’s going to be a great value addition if not instantly then in coming years.
I have always followed global trends since I turned vegan. I knew it was going to transform the way we eat and think about our food and other animal sourced products. After about 12 months of research, I decided that a marketplace will make a lot of sense which caters only plant based and thoughtful products.
I think that none of us can deny that cruelty free and well nourished living is a good way to lead life. While several may not take it to be a problem, some do realize that animal rights are as imperative as human rights and hence the problem is not just need related but also something that needs to be resolved within the system and society as a whole.
Q.: Please tell us about the founders
I (Sagar N Mehta) started Vegan marketplace (earlier it was vgungho.com) as its Founder after leaving my full-time work. Earlier, I had been leading e-commerce start-ups in a niche segment. I have done Industrial production engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering and MBA from School of Petroleum management.
My co-founder Nirav Bhavsar was my wife’s ex-colleague and a well-rounded business person. He liked the concept and in about 2 months of frequent communication he agreed to join hands. Nirav comes with 20+ years of technology experience and served senior positions in MNCs. He is presently associated with UK based Fintech as CTO and runs his own software development company. He is well versed in the technology area including managing highly mission critical complex platforms and latest technology stack.
Q. : List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skill Sets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
The First teammate was Vimlesh Dixit, my ex-colleague, who wanted to set-up his own agency in digital marketing but later he thought he would rather join us. As he had a lot of things already thought about in terms of growth strategy for early-stage brands, it became a great synergy.
He introduced Vishal Rajak who took over operations. So, this is how the core team was built and we are hands-on people. We believe it is needed to stay lean and make most of our capabilities and bandwidth.
A Strategic advisor, Jinesh Shah is 37 years of age. He has co-founded a similar venture in the USA and comes from a variety of consulting roles in plant based and alternative protein industry.
When we talk about the team’s alignment with mission- Idea of the Vegan movement, it is rational. It only takes a few minutes of focus to comprehend why society has to change the way it ignores the identity of Animals or rather gets fooled by the big corporations’ ads. Team has voluntarily cut down on their animal-based products and this brings satisfaction that the work we are doing is showing positive outcomes.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Vegandukan is a plant based and vegan brands e-commerce aggregator. We enjoy bringing all the vegan and plant-based products together on one platform. Giving people vast choices will make the movement of thoughtful consumption – stronger and more fun. We focus on customer comfort and choices they need. That has made a good product- market fit for Vegandukan. They just love the varieties and new launches we do from time to time.
Q.: What is your USP? * What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
We probably have the largest collection of vegan/plant based products in India. We intensely work on creating a catalogue of plant-based products and understand customer’s pain points. Especially Mock meat and Dairy alternatives. We strive to simplify the need of plant based and flexitarians as much as possible by not limiting ourselves to only a city but accessible to Pan India. Basically, wherever there is a pin-code we want to deliver even if we must personally visit India post office. We have more than 50% clients who are non-vegans, trying to cut down dairy and meat.
One key about our market is that we work in a niche area but with awareness if not completely, a major population can work towards adapting a more plant based food in their lives. Which is the first step to progress?
We try to charge customers as competitively as possible in comparison to amazon and big basket. Yes, we don’t get scale like them but we work really hard to make it very tough for customers to choose them over us.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
I had researched the market extensively and moreover being myself vegan for 6 years before starting Vegandukan, I knew that I am entering a playground where the players are new and not many are even keen to play the game.
Our real ideal consumer is someone who is conscious about increasing plant based products to improve one’s own well being and planet’s too.
We have numerous such customers who are not just resolutely trusting us but to the very core share our vision.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
I think we have made many mistakes along the way but fortunately could rectify them without a lot of cost impact. Tech selection, Naming the brand, Inventory projections, Team building and so forth. We learnt that we have to keep the customers and our sellers in the center and think about everything. The costs spent at times gets over compensated when decisions are made keeping highest stakeholders in center.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
We are into a typical FMCG business, so margins are tight. We have our trade margins 15%- 25%.
We try to charge customers as competitively as possible in comparison to amazon and big basket. Yes, we do not get scale like them, but we work hard to make it very tough for customers to choose them over us.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
We are self funded and pretty soon we will start looking for funding to accelerate our expansion plans.
Q. : Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it. ?
We started from a small rented flat. It was started with a few of the fast moving products which are needed everyday by vegans. Many times, I used to pick up the products from passenger buses coming from Pune and as they were cold chain products, the same day we had to distribute. We had a refrigerator to spare at home and a small room where we used to store all the products. It was my dream of starting a company from a garage which became sort of reality on the fourth floor.
It was a tough road but with tremendous efforts by team and customer’s love we kept seeing considerable surge in order volumes and movement, we had to leave out the flat before it started becoming a disturbance for residents. Now we have moved into a 2000 sq ft. warehouse cum office and it seems this will be not enough in a few months. These small steps are what made up our journey.
Q. : Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in detail. (e.g., What is the current turnover? From Launching till date total no. of visitors on website/persons registered/enquiries and enrollment etc.)
We have grown 20+ times since we have started Vegandukan and we feel we are yet to touch the glass ceiling.
Q. : What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Our only plan is to reach out to more people and focus on making our service and messaging formidable so people know the products we are offering. Getting near the customers, giving them choices and giving them the best deal is our focus at a strategic level. We are focused on becoming the most sought after platform for plant based and thoughtful products. Yes, conscious consumerism and equality without biases is a big thing in the world now and we are onto something really meaningful.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
We are an e-commerce aggregator but in a very niche market. The competition is limited but yes tough. Brands like Amazon and Flipkart that have a larger workforce take up the pace but we have curated product lines and only zeal to be focussed on plant based lifestyle which differentiates us.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? Any other information you would like to share?
We aim at creating a bigger catalogue of plant based products in the coming months. We already have the largest collection of vegan/plant based products in India. Especially Mock meat and Dairy alternatives. But the objective is also to spread awareness around the same.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
2020 has been extremely tough for the startups space other than a few sectors. Hence, I think collaborations and focused marketing can be the key for growth in 2021. Let’s be confident that emerging techs and consumer spaces will have faster growth in coming times.