With a proven track record of setting up large scale supermarket chains for leading global and domestic brands, Dippankar Halder’s new venture Jalongi is an extension of his personality. He has successfully transformed his love for fish & seafood into a national platform that brings local delicacies from across the country directly to your dining table.
Fish & seafood is a large, complex, rapidly growing and mostly unorganized category, a perfect candidate for e-commerce disruption and veterans like Dippankar and his team are now putting in all their energy and experience into building and organising this category.
In less than 9 months of operations, Jalongi has successfully built a strong delivery network and a loyal consumer base in Kolkata and in Delhi NCR. With large varieties of fish and other seafood products available under one roof, Jalongi is now concentrating on creating regional hubs that can cater to product aggregation, quality storage and instant delivery to outlets and customers.
Manish Joshi from NewsBarons connects with Dippankar S Halder, founder & CEO of Jalongi, who informs ‘More than 60% of our customers are repeat customers, even in the most discerning market of Kolkata, which makes us all of us at Jalongi really feel good and excited about our future’.
NB: Tell us about Jalongi
Dippankar: Jalongi is an online retailer delivering wide range of high quality fresh fish& seafood, cleaned and pan-ready (packed ready to cook, no need to wash).We are ‘the specialist’ in the category with end-to-end focus on the value chain starting from direct sourcing to processing centres to home delivery, all managed in house. We also are the first retailer to introduce recipe packs of iconic preparations like Patrani Pomfret & Bhetki Paturi, which is already redefining category consumption in markets we operate in.
Jalongi was launched in March 2018 in Kolkata, the most competitive and discerning market for fish. We followed up with NCR launch in July 2018. With a great market response and a stable model in place, we are now getting ready go to other large opportunity markets including Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune.
• Jalongi was launched in March 2018 in Kolkata and is now also present in NCR
NB: This is a highly competitive and unorganized segment. What were the opportunity areas that made you launch Jalongi?
Dippankar: Fish & Seafood is the healthiest form of animal protein and its’ huge variety keeps consumption always exciting. It is a high potential high growth food category world wide.
In India, this category has domestic consumption of INR 65,000 crore p.a. with 22%+ CGPA, making it one of the fastest growing markets in the world. Add to that the fact that India has gone big on e commerce. Courtesy Amazon and Big Basket, India now is buying even groceries on line.
I had been part of great journey of unorganised to organised retail in India. At both Spinach and EasyDay, supermarket chains we built from scratch to scale, not only we passionately mastered Fish & Meat category but also had transformed category consumption in West and North India.
Talking about transformation, this unorganised sector employs a large population and thus gives huge opportunity to uplift lives of millions across the value chain. This is a super-exciting category and there wasno better time than now to plunge in and take a lead.
NB: How has the journey been so far?
Dippankar: Retail is a complex business plus fish is an unorganised category and a challenging item to sell online : Makes it quite a tough game in true sense. Sourcing, handling, delivery plus building competencies to deliver consistent customer experience were challenges. While they will remain challenges as we keep scaling up, being flexible and nimble were our magic potions.
Currently we cover Kolkata, Howrah, Gurgaon and New Delhi with 2 distribution centres (DC) located in Kolkata and Gurgaon. A full time team of 30 plus members manages the show.
We are getting better in sourcing everyday, think Fresh Rainbow Trout or Kolkata Parshey (Mullet) available online in NCR or Octopus, Mussels and Calamari in Kolkata. We are having an exciting journey at Jalongi.
NB: Tell us about your growth plans?
Dippankar: We will be in Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune in 2019. By 2023, we will be in 20+ cities with 60+ DCs and be a INR 1000 crore+ profitable business.
So far we have been bootstrapped. Right now we are in talks with a few Institutional investors to raise $ 3 million to:
1) Consolidate our presence in Kolkata and NCR
2) Cover Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune
3) Invest in Technology and
4) Build Team/Competence
NB: You have also ventured into social initiatives and Skill development programs with Jalongi. Please elaborate.
Dippankar: Handling and Cutting of Fish & Seafood are specialised jobs, and there is an acute shortage of talents in India.
At Bharti Walmart JV, while setting up EasyDay supermarkets in small towns of Punjab & Haryana we faced similar challenge to source trained retail work force. To build a quality workforce we had to set up retail academies in multiple small towns in our markets.
Along similar lines at Jalongi we are launching our first training centre in Kolkata next month. To start with, we are taking in a batch of 15-20 young people from district towns & villages of West Bengal to a residential training programme. We are also in talks with an NGO in NCR with SHGs (Self Help Group) engaging 5000+ women members to set up similar up skilling centres in North.
NB: What is your thought on Meat & Poultry which has already got investor attention with Licious raising $50 Mn in last 3 months? How is Fish & Seafood different?
Dippankar: Meat & Poultry is INR 1,50,000 p.a. sector and has a big potential too. This category perhaps is a step ahead, esp. with players like Godrej, Venky’s or regional player like Arambagh or Zorabians organising the supply side for years now. Great to see players like Licious coming strong on the demand side, esp. when supported so well by institutional investors.
At Jalongi we do have meat & poultry to complete the overall consumption basket and to provide customer convenience. This section currently contributes to 10% of our business and will stay as a supporting category.
Fish & Seafood is a different ballgame. Sourcing challenge in fish & seafood is much more due to geographic spread, seasonal impact and lack or organisation at sources. There are many items which are wild caught and very little organised farming exist in true sense. While chicken and meat is largely about cuts and marinades fish has much larger number of unique items,making fish merchandising a more complex game. It is also a much more delicate item to handle, especially when delivered fresh to customers. Training academy for fish cutter and handlers are meant to take care of the last point, as there are not enough people available right now.
Having said that they also mean that there is a bigger value creation opportunity in fish & seafood for the able, esp. when it is a large category growing at a fast pace. We are super-excited to take lead in this awesome category.
NB: How do you plan to use technology to boost Jalongi offering?
Dippankar: We are an online player so technology is in the core of our existence. Going forward at demand side AI and Data analytics will kick in to aid customers to buy better and buy more. Within the box (read DC) technology will drive productivity and efficiency with process automation and smart infrastructure. By mid 2019, we will have a two way information speedway from sourcing to delivery, our backbone of a super-smart and super-efficient supply chain that will help us truly unlock value at Jalongi in coming years.