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iD Fresh Food: How iD Turned Adversities Into Learnings As The Company Grew
Brand Breakdown is Shopflo’s monthly 4-part newsletter, in which we deep dive into an Indian D2C brand, and understand its constituent elements to figure out what makes it tick ⏰
When you think dosa batter, few think beyond ID. A staple in Indian refrigerators, this is a brand that took a food item that was traditionally made at home, and standardized it for the masses. Building a brand, especially in the fresh food industry entails a lot of misses and definitely some wins. This week, we take a look at some of the lessons iD learned the hard way.
Last week, we delved into the beginnings of the brand ID, and how Musthafa and the team took the company from a 50 square feet kitchen to one that is supplied to over 6000 retailers in Bengaluru.
The journey of growing this brand, however, wasn’t a smooth one, and the team faced a lot of critical challenges and learned their fair share of lessons along the way.
#1: The importance of food technology
In the hot summer of 2006, 4 months after they started operations, they got a call from a store manager in Bengaluru saying that there was a blast in his store that was caused by their batter. Musthafa and his team initially thought that the store manager was playing a practical joke. "We laughed. We said if you have a bomb blast in your store, please call the nearest police station, we don't handle bombs,” Musthafa recalled telling the store manager.
Once they realized that the manager was furious, they rushed to the store and were ordered to clean out his fridge and take their batter. "Batter ferments during summer. It expands, it forms gas and beyond a point, it explodes. We had no idea about food technology before we started this business. In fact, I learned about this term called fermentation after this incident," Musthafa said.
#2 Staying true to what the brand stands for
From day 1, iD positioned their product as 100% natural, and the company stayed true to their values of not adding preservatives to their batter even when faced with lower priced competitors. Chennai would seem like the ideal market for an idli-dosa batter product, but iD faced stiff competition from brands that were priced at Rs.10 vs their product that cost Rs. 45 at the time.
They weren’t even making enough money to pay salaries. However, instead of resorting to adding cheaper soda, to keep the batter fluffy, lower their costs, and keep up with competitors, they decided to shut operations in the city. We shut the factory, paid workers with the rental deposit, and went back to the drawing board,” Musthafa says.
#3 Embracing innovation and moving beyond dosa-idli batter
Until 2010, iD was still a one-product, one-city brand. From there, they began experimenting with different products; most that were misses, but some hits. The parotta was one of them. However, finding the right technology that could master the thin layers unique to a parotta, proved difficult.
They turned to Greece.
Not because the country had even the remotest connection to parottas; but because they made pastries. This seemingly odd gamble paid off. They worked with the manufacturers of pastry-making machinery to customize their own parotta making ones that created the light layers perfectly.
Taking cue from the success of the parotta, they made a wheat version of it, and also grew to include chapatis, vada batter, curd, bread, coffee, paneer and even grated coconut. Keeping pace with the emergence of the popularity of superfoods, they created a range of healthier alternatives like ragi batter and wholewheat bread as well.
Innovating their products, keeping their consumer base that is increasingly conscious of ‘eating right’ in the centre, is what guides the brand in their product portfolio expansions.
#4 Turning adversity into opportunity
The covid-19 lockdown period was a tough time for businesses, especially for restaurants and fresh food industries. iD’s B2B model took a hit, as retail stores were pulling down its shutters, but they re-invented their distribution model to end FY21 with 33% growth.
They shifted to B2C started distributing their products to residential complexes directly, and added a feature on their website that allowed consumers to locate the nearest store that had iD products in stock
"Our-direct-to-home delivery was a trust-based model. We left the product at the security gate and the consumers would pick it up and drop the money in the box at the gate or pay online. There was no monitoring and that got us great brand mileage," explains Mustafa.
Picking up from this model, they partnered with Big Basket to start a co-branded venture called ‘iD-Fresho’ which is aimed to further expand their B2C model to wider geographies.
A brand that sticks to their roots sticks with its customers
The scaling of a business comes with unexpected adversities. iD’s courage to constantly stick to their brand’s ideals and values is what has helped build such a strong sense of trust amongst its consumers.
iD’s learnings weren’t confined to product portfolio and distribution models, another aspect they’ve actively innovated on is their packaging. Stick around for next week’s newsletter to discover how iD approaches their packaging.
Ever noticed the striking packing iD’s products come in? In the next edition of this month’s brand breakdown, we discuss the inspiration behind the unique and practical packaging designs adopted by iD as well as their much loved campaigns.
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