Exclusive: Top management churn at food tech startup InnerChef; three co-founders quit

22 Jul, 2015

InnerChef Pvt Ltd, the ready-to-cook meals delivery startup floated by GSF Accelerator's Rajesh Sawhney, is seeing a top management churn just a few months after starting services.

Three of the five co-founders of InnerChef, namely Heena Karia Thakkar, Uday Bansal and Rahul Samat, have moved on from the company, sources close to the development said.

Sawhney confirmed the development in response to a query, saying the move is part of a 'restructuring exercise'.

"Given the rapid evolution of InnerChef, we have decided to restructure the company from a five co-founder model to a three co-founder model. We have a seasoned CTO founder on board. We think with three co-founders, InnerChef will move faster to deal with the fast evolving food tech space," Sawhney, who is one of the co-founders, told Techcircle.in.

Following the exits, the company will soon induct an industry veteran who will be InnerChef's third co-founder.

However, one of the exiting co-founders said the departures were the result of 'unresolvable disagreements', especially over the startup's shareholder agreement.

"The exiting co-founders were not on the same page with the other co-founders on aspects ranging from technology to the eventual shareholding pattern of the promoters, given that InnerChef is at the cusp of raising funds. It is a painful decision for all three co-founders," the person mentioned above said.

Sawhney and Bal DiGhent (who runs Di Ghent Cafe) are the other members of InnerChef's founding team.

There is speculation that InnerChef's plan to venture into Bangalore and Mumbai by the latter part of this year may get affected by these departures. InnerChef currently operates in South Delhi and Gurgaon.

However, Sawhney said it is business as usual at InnerChef.

"The company will launch (services in) Bangalore and Mumbai as planned," Sawhney said.

InnerChef, which delivers on-demand meal boxes to its customers, was launched in April. The Gurgaon-based company's model, an Indian adaptation of the US-based company Blue Apron, is to deliver pre-cooked, sliced food with all necessary ingredients as well as the recipe packed in a kit with last-mile preparation to be done by a customer.

While Thakkar was a professional chef before joining InnerChef, Bansal had founded fantasy stock trading platform Skybulls. Samat worked as a product manager with Barclays in New York. Sawhney is former president of Reliance Entertainment and founder of GSF Superangels in India. GSF also runs a startup accelerator in the country.

InnerChef estimates that the Indian food retailing market is worth $300 billion in size or roughly one-fifth of the country's GDP. The restaurant market is pegged at $50 billion. The home food delivery market is growing at 40 per cent per annum and is expected to be $10 billion in size by 2016.

When it comes to startups in this space, there are two sets of ventures. The first set connects consumers with local restaurants through an online food ordering platform (Foodpanda, TinyOwl and others) or manages delivery, such as Swiggy, Meals on Wheels and others.

The other set, comprising companies such as Bite Club, Yumist and SpoonJoy, connects consumers to independent chefs or offers food ordering from in-house kitchens. InnerChef belongs to the second category.

The food tech space in India is currently one of the hottest segments with a few companies raising funds from VC firms, as per VC funding data from VCCEdge, the data research platform of VCCircle.

Recently, Bangalore-based Bundl Technologies Pvt Ltd, which owns and operates online food ordering startup Swiggy.com, has raised Series B funding of $16.5 million (around Rs 102 crore) in a round led by Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) for expanding its geographical footprint and brand building.

Also, Delhi-NCR-based Bite Club raised Rs 3 crore from Powai Lake Ventures and angels such as Aneesh Reddy of Capillary Technologies, Ashish Kashyap of Goibibo Group and Alok Mittal of Canaan Partners. In February, food technology and delivery start-up YuMist raised about Rs 6.2 crore from venture capital firm Orios Venture Partners.

The biggest deal in this space was that of TinyOwl which raised Rs 100 crore in its Series B round from Matrix Partners, Sequoia Capital and Nexus Venture Partners, while Foodpanda raised $110 million for its global plans.