It’s a crowded market, with established players such as Bigbasket and Grofers, but that didn’t stop Rishi Sakhuja and his sister-in-law Radhika Singh from launching a business exclusively selling fruits and vegetables.
The duo started Fruit Box & Co in 2018, bootstrapping it with an investment of just Rs 10 lakh. Today, it is raking in Rs 1.25 lakh in daily revenue
Fruit Box & Co sells imported, seasonal and exotic fruits and vegetables to consumers at their doorsteps. Not only that, it delivers the goods to doorsteps across India.
Apart from mundane items like onions, potatoes, bananas and papaya, the startup sells everything from Afghan pomegranate, dragon fruit and Thai guava to red globe grapes, navel oranges and Granny Smith apples. In addition it sells Longan lychee, as well as blueberries, pomelo and New Zealand kiwis.
Deliveries are transported in specialised, temperature- controlled packages, keeping the goods at close to 20 degrees Celsius.
They don’t come cheap
One of the reasons for Fruit & Box’s Rs 1.25 lakh daily revenue is its pricing and the ticket size of each sale. The fruits and vegetables on offer, particularly the exotic varieties, don’t come cheap. Moreover a shopper has to place a minimum order of Rs 700 on its e-commerce platform.
Indeed, Sakhuja said that Fruit & Box has witnessed its average order value almost doubling to Rs 1,700. It’s easy to see why: an imported Blueberry (125 gm) box is priced at Rs 495 (Rs 349 on Bigbasket). Avocados sell for Rs 375 apiece, while a pair of thai guavas are priced at Rs 765 and 500 gm of imported peaches go for Rs 850. Onions are sold at Rs 46 per kg (Rs 34 a kg on Bigbasket) and potato at Rs 50 per kg (Rs 42/kg on Bigbasket).
The repeat customer rate currently stands at over 65 percent, said Sakhuja. The startup also has gift boxes of fruits, which are priced between Rs 1,149-8,000.
Sales surge during Covid
The online fruits and vegetable industry is pegged to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of ~7.62 percent between FY2018 and FY 2023 to reach a value of Rs 256 billion in FY 2023. It is largely dominated by e-commerce players such as Bigbasket, Grofers and JioMart.
Fruit Box & Co, which was already doing well, took off after the Covid pandemic hit, as it recorded a five-fold jump in monthly orders and revenue.
The company has sold close to 30,000 boxes in FY21 so far, which is six times last year’s sales in less than half the time.
“Demand has increased significantly this year. Health & wellness has become key, with fruits and vegetables greatly supporting that aspect. People have become more aware of what they eat and how the same is procured.”
He added that immunity-boosting, anti-oxidant and other highly beneficial properties of fruits and vegetables have increasingly led to people accommodating more of the same in their diet on a daily basis.
Touching on the hygiene aspect Sakhuja said: “People are relying on online purchases of daily essentials as it is convenient, easily available in variable options and follows a sanitisation regime and contactless delivery, which is the prime need of the hour today.”
How it all began
Sakhuja, 35, an MBA in Finance, got a direct placement in IndusInd Bank, where he was inducted as one of the youngest product managers in the industry. From there he went on to become the Director of Business Development at real estate firm HDIL.
While managing land acquisitions for the organisation, Sakhuja got a first-hand perspective on farming processes, from cultivation and harvesting to challenges, strengths and the supply chain situation.
Having acquired these insights, Sakhuja bid adieu to the corporate world and set up his own farm-produce supply-chain brand, which focussed on fresh bananas.
He went on to collaborate with a pan-India banana-specific brand called Super Bananas to develop the supply chain for a farm-to-consumer model.
At Super Bananas, Sakhuja meticulously led the entire process from packaging at the farm to transportation to handling to ripening and then selling the fresh, ready to eat and boxed bananas across Delhi-NCR.
From 1,000 Kg of bananas daily, he soon scaled up to selling a whopping 6,000-8,000 Kg a day, depending on the season and availability.
Super Banana is still operational and supplies to retailers such as Bigbasket, Modern Bazaar, as well as to wholesalers and hotels in Delhi.
After securing success selling bananas, Sakhuja decided to widen his horizon sell more fruits. This led him to launch Fruit Box & Co with Radhika.
Under Sakhuja’s leadership, Fruit Box and Co has swiftly emerged as the leading online portal for premium fruits and vegetables along with other complementary third-party products.
While Sakhuja looks after operations, his co-founder manages the design, packaging and branding.
Fruit Box sources its produce directly from farmers, wholesalers, and importers. The company has tied up with farmers across different States to bring in seasonal local fruits to customers. Fruits are airlifted from Kochi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai.
Sakhuja said that fruits and vegetables are also brought in from Himachal Pradesh on a weekly basis to provide fresh produce with limited middlemen as far as possible and minimal fruit handling.
The fruits are packed daily in non-perishable damage-free boxes to preserve their freshness for a longer time. The company has its cold storage in Delhi-Azadpur
Sakhuja is eyeing a revenue target of around Rs 4.5-5 crore by the end of FY21. He, however, refrained from sharing last year’s revenue figures.
The company is also eyeing an entry into the organic fruits and vegetables space soon. In addition, Sakhuja said Fruit & Box is in the process of collaborating with multiple companies in different segments such as beverages, sauces & spreads, cheese, ghee, oil etc.