THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Craving for banana chips and plum cakes from Malabar Chips and Omana Paul cakes, or aromatic saffron from Kashmir, or Roopak masala from Delhi’s Karol Bagh? www.placeoforigin.in is where you will find these and several other authentic delicacies from across the country. Founder Ashish Nichani, who officially launched Place of Origin in June 2015, tells us the story of this unique Bengaluru-based startup.
How it started
“We started with the base concept by talking to family and friends and then gradually with the sellers because when you are in a marketplace you need to communicate with both buyers and sellers.
We established that there was a need,” he says. A lot of interest was seen from the seller’s side. For instance, Dharwar peda sellers were facing local competition and were hence stagnating.
Local businessmen, Ashish says, had heard of e-commerce but had not figured out how it was done. Sellers wanted to know about the response their ethnic products would get, far away from home. After a successful pilot project, the digital platform was established.
“We wanted a good representative sample of food products so that a large number of people are satisfied. We had to work and invest in content, how to describe food in the best possible manner.
When we put Bengali products online we sought help from Bengalis to bring authenticity to the whole thing,” he says. Cakes from Nahoum’s and Flurys, sweets from Balaram Mullick and chanachur from Mukharochok are some of the authentic products from Bengal that are being extensively ordered from Calcutta on the portal.
Tie-up with Craftsvilla
“Craftsvilla happened in February 2016. We had not thought about an acquisition. Our visions aligned with each other. Craftsvilla, which was looking at creating a marketplace for ethnic clothes bu the traditional food was an entirely different vertical that they had not tapped,” tells Ashish.
The Place of Origin team received the support of like-minded people through this partnership as they too had gone through a similar stage of growth. They grew by almost 10-12 times since its acquisition by Craftsvilla.
How it all works
“We don’t stock any food. Most products are delivered within three days of the order but it also depends on the customer and seller location,” says Ashish. Sweets take three days, pickles which are transported by road take six days. In Kerala, the Spices Board of India has tied up to deliver authentic spices.
In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, tea and coffee come directly from the plantations in Palanoor and Balmari. The North East has its favourite sticky rice, pork and chilly pickle along with local Bihu peeta and Assamese tea. Other hugely popular items have been gajak from Indore and Meerut, pickles from Panipat and Delhi, snacks from Gujarat and Maharashtra and rosogollas and date palm jaggery from Bengal.
The challenges faced
Logistics is one of the major challenges faced by the firm. It is very difficult to have delivery manpower across every state from which products are being procured. Further, perishable items like sweets do not last for more than three days in winter and even lesser in summer.
Negotiating with plantation owners and Spices Board for delivery along with wholesalers and retailers from Jammu & Kashmir to Nagaland is another challenge in itself, says Ashish. Unlike merchandise delivery, which can be delivered late, food products cannot be compromised on.
The Road ahead
“At the current stage we don’t want to move beyond food, but we would like to bring our own brands and private label at some point in time,” he tells us. The object is to make every sale sustainable. Food and discounts don’t go together. “You cannot discount the product. We need to focus on the quality and help customers stick to it,” he signs off.