From fine-dine restaurants to a B2B foodtech startup serving Fortune 500 clients: Foodni’s journey

After 11 years of working in IT, with marquee names such as OracleMicrosoft, and Sierra AtlanticSwaminathan Gopal quit the corporate world to become an entrepreneur.

He started by launching three fine-dining restaurants, which he sold in 2014. That very year, as the Indian startup ecosystem raised billions of dollars, the tech side of Swaminathan’s career came back to him and he decided to merge food and tech as the next evolution in his career. 

In 2015, Swaminathan launched Hyderabad-headquartered Foodni, a “technology-enabled office food solutions and more company”.

The startup claims to be an Enterprise Hospitality-as-a-Service (eHaaS) platform that aims to disrupt the corporate catering industry across India

Foodni founders

Getting started

Swaminathan teamed up with Shoban Babu, who had 20 years of enterprise sales and marketing experience in corporates such as Microsoft, SAP Labs, and Oracle. They also partnered with Anantha Subramanian, who brought 20 years of technology experience from top-notch IT services companies like Parexel, Sierra Atlantic, HCL Systems, and others. Anantha, who has handled multibillion-dollar programme delivery and product development, brought in strong execution capabilities and heads technology at Foodni.

The founding trio set out to resolve one pain point: enterprise food discovery, ordering, and fulfilment needs. In corporates, the current procedure to discover, order, and fulfil is extremely outdated and fragmented. It is often based on phone calls and personal connections.

Foodni aims to challenge and disrupt legacy manual systems in enterprises where an admin or an executive finds it extremely challenging to search, order, and pay from places that would want to but can’t do due to bureaucratic processes.

In the beginning 

The idea had been brewing since 2009 for Swami, who had often seen corporate teams driving 12 to 15 km to have team lunches, dinners, and parties at a restaurant or a hotel. That’s how he pioneered corporate fine-dine restaurants near the IT hub of Hyderabad.

“We were the only quality restaurant set-up across 20,000 sq ft with three different themes. As a founding team, individually the three of us have skills in software technology, sales, operations, and the food industry,’’ he says.

When they launched Foodni,  the tech platform allowed enterprises to log in and search for caterers, restaurants, hotels, and resort partners to order or book their requirements. Registered partners are available on the web and mobile-enabled solution.

“Sooner than later, we all have to build multiple technology-enabled products and services and embrace the new wave of foodtech,’’ Swaminathan says.

“In 2015, our business started with two enterprise clients who we convinced to explore our services,’’ he adds.

Now, the foodtech startup boasts of 50-plus enterprise Fortune 500 clients. This year, the team has started beta operations in a new city, Bengaluru, with premium clients like Amazon, Microsoft, ICICI Bank, and DxC Technology.

As of now, the company offers food court services, catering for team outings, food delivery services for corporates, corporate lunch boxes, and business event catering.

The 18-member team serves more than two lakh corporate employees in a year with 90 percent repeat business. The average ticket size of orders is around Rs 13,000 per day per corporate client, and Foodni has partnered with 120-plus high-quality merchant partners to deliver required services. The foodtech startup serves 22,000-plus employees in a month.

Creating smarter enterprise food discovery 

Foodni is tackling problems that will lay the foundations for smarter enterprise food discovery, order, and manage mechanisms.

The founders say the definition of corporate food discovery and ordering experiences will fundamentally change in the next couple of years as all processes go online.

“We are confident that every process of enterprise ordering will undergo a renewal in the years to come,’’ Swami says. He adds that organisations will be able to understand what kind of food their employees like and what keeps them healthy.

Hungry for more

The aggregation marketplace takes a cut of the transaction from the hospitality partners. However, the founders did not want to disclose personal investments and sales, as of now.

According to FICCI, the performance of the foodservice industry is forecast to accelerate, with an anticipated CAGR of 10 percent for the five years from 2017 to 2022. This is expected to drive the industry to a value of Rs 5,52,000 crore by the end of 2022.

Foodni competes with B2B players like HungerBox and Tonguestun, which are also solving the workplace cafeteria problem with technology.

The company is now planning to expand its footprint to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Pune. “We also plan to start operations in Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi in the next 18 months,” Swaminathan concludes.