Rebel Foods plans to expand its geographical presence beyond India, UK, UAE, and Indonesia to markets such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain.
Rebel Foods, which operates a network of cloud kitchen brands such as Behrouz Biryani, Mandarin Oak Ovenstory Pizza, and Faasos, is planning a public listing in the US in 18-24 months, even as it plans to expand into newer markets in Asia & the Middle East, its co-founder and CEO Jaydeep Barman told Moneycontrol.
Rebel Foods: From QSR to Cloud kitchen
Founded by Jaydeep Barman and Kallol Banerjee, Rebel Foods started out as Faasos, a chain of quick-service restaurants (QSR) that sold kebab rolls, with an online ordering option. High rentals coupled with the realization that a majority of their orders were coming from the online channel forced a rethink of the business model. They shuttered outlets and pivoted to a cloud-kitchen only business in 2016, delivering a range of cuisines from kitchens operating in spaces that had lower rents.
It is now one of the largest internet restaurant companies with over a dozen brands that serve biryani to Chinese to pizza to wraps to desserts, through food delivery platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy, apart from its own apps. It counts Sequoia Capital India, Lightbox ventures, Coatue, Goldman Sachs, Gojek, and Uber founder Travis Kalanick as investors and was valued at over $800 million in its last round of funding in 2020.
Rebel Foods: India's next unicorn?
Its next round of funding will catapult Rebel Foods into the unicorn club. "The last round was absolutely close so I would expect that we will be a unicorn (privately funded firm valued at a billion dollars and more), otherwise we are not doing a good job. We are more focused on an IPO in 18 months. We will be raising a private round between now and then but nothing is finalized yet," Barman said.
"We are waiting for some clarifications on Government regulations on the direct overseas listing. If that comes through, we will list on NYSE or Nasdaq, otherwise, we will list in India."
Rebel Foods CEO Jaydeep Barman
Rebel's global ambitions
It also plans to expand its geographical presence beyond India, UK, UAE, and Indonesia to markets such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain. In the last two months, it has opened kitchens in Malaysia, Singapore, and Bangladesh. Apart from its own kitchens, Rebel is also opening its cloud kitchen platform for third-party brands such as Wendy's, Naturals ice cream, and Anand Sweets.
"We are trying to plug every gap- from single-serve to group serve, from value to luxury. We will launch an Indian curries brand and a luxury meals brand. For Wendy's, we will add 300 kitchens for them by the end of 2022."
How India eats
Within India, it is doubling down on smaller cities that are taking to ordering food online in a big way. The second wave of the pandemic seems to have accelerated the trend, as people have fewer options for entertainment and indulgence.
"We have opened in 20 Tier-2 cities and these have grown very fast In the big metros, while we are seeing demand in Mumbai and Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru is not growing as much as many software engineers have gone back to their hometowns."
In contrast to the first wave, when Rebel had to shutter its 70 percent of its kitchens for a couple of months in 2020, this time around, its business is thriving as people are comfortable ordering food online, with state governments too allowing this as an essential service.
"Our business is now probably 30-40 percent above pre-COVID-19 levels. Anything that is indulgent is doing well- such as Biryani, pizza, or dessert. People need something good in their lives."
Barman said Rebel has put in place a policy to reimburse all employee claims related to COVID-19- be it procuring oxygen cylinders, vaccination, or medicines.
"People need to be in a good place psychologically. It takes care of your mental anxiety," he said.