Online food ordering industry

Foodpanda.com, tastykhana.com, justeat.in are few of the names of online food ordering companies that operate out of Bangalore. However these names make me wonder:

What is the USP of these companies?

What is the service that they provide?

How do they make money?

What hooks they have to ensure that they are irreplaceable?

Can they ever be profitable?

To me a food delivery ecosystem has the following elements

  1. Customers: Without a market no business model reach
  2. Order taking: Includes ability to influence user behavior by switching restaurants, trying out new food items
  3. Chef: Ability to actually cook food in time
  4. Delivery & logistics (including reverse logistics of a wrong order, item missed etc.)
  5. Billing & promotions
  6. Feedback & customer delight

All the 3 websites that I mentioned are giving 50% off on billing to attract the crowd, but the question is what is the unique thing they are doing? Attracting crowd via discounting is neither sustainable nor builds us the right customer expectations.

Food delivery is really in infancy in India. Basic elements like packaging, warming the food, On-Time delivery or Customer satisfaction is too much to expect. The tech-geeks with their online models could do a lot, but I am still struggling to find one that has done anything commendable. Do you know of any such website?

Tomorrow: What are the gaps and how can they be bridged.

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Natural teether for babies

I could never understand on one hand we insist on sterilized feeding bottles and boiled water for our kids, then on the other hand we hand them unsanitary teethers & chew toys.

Most of them are reused without properly disinfecting them. Often they touch unclean surfaces & hands and the babies tend to drop them multiple times. Some of the chew toys are filled with water to provide chilled soothing touch to the 4-8 month old who in pain due to fresh set of teeth. These fluid filled toys cannot be even boiled and wiping them with alcohol often ruins their colorful design patterns.

What I do is give fruits as chew toys. It could be a small piece of peeled carrot or a slice of apple. These are clean, healthy and nutritious for the baby and I can replace them with a fresh set every 5-10 minutes (which is the average attention span of most toddlers). I would be worried if any plastic or chemicals leached out of the commercial chew toys, but fruit juices from the natural toys are always welcome.

However care needs to be taken before preparing a chew toy from fruits:

1.  the fruit/vegetable selected should be hard, smooth and consistent. So that you don’t have to worry about the toy damaging the tender mouth of the baby also its is hard enough that it does not disintegrate in the mouth (and pose a choking risk)

2.  The seeds, splinters (esp of the apple core) needs to be manually removed, these pieces might get dislodged and choke

3. Clean the fruit and peel its outer surface

4. Ensure that the fruit is big enough that the baby cannot choke on it, yet it is small enough that the baby can play with it.

5. Adult supervision esp. till the day that your kid is old enough to eat

6. Choose tasty fruits which are easy to digest. Even though your kid has not developed teeth, his jaws will be able to squeeze some juice out of the fruit.

7. Consult with your doctor (I am not a certified medical practitioner)

8. There are some commercially available mesh that you can use for the fruits (optional). Otherwise the the peel around the slice of an orange is also safe enough (natural and economical)

For a kid who is fed on milk only, a fruit can be a refreshing change.

Glass Feeding Bottle

These days there are 3 different make of infant feeding bottle available in the market:

1. Standard Polycarbonate bottle (INR 50-100/- per bottle)

2. BPA free plastic bottle (200-400/- per bottle)

3. Glass bottle (240 – 400/- per bottle)

Like most first time parent, I was not aware of what BPA is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A) and the triangle at the base of the plastic container with a number code (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resin_identification_code#Table_of_resin_codes.5B1.5D) was always greek & latin for me. However after going through several websites & forums I have realized that standard feeding bottle often contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which is added to make them transparent. Although BPA free bottles are available, but I secretly suspect here some other toxic chemical would be used. Hence I am going back to the age old glass bottles.

My wife was initially skeptical of using a glass bottle. Her concerns that a thick glass might crack when boiled, the bottle might shatter while the kid is playing with it & the glass might be too cumbersome for travelling. However after buying, I realized a FARLIN bottle, I realized that these concerns are unwarranted. It is made of thick enough glass to not shatter into fine pieces. Also as long as you immerse it in cold water and then heat that water, the bottle can withstand the changes in temperature. Also some expensive varieties have the volume measurement markings etched (instead of printed) this way it does not get washed away.

Simply put glass is inert & does not react or leach into the milk. Hence one should use it.

Babies & travelling light

Flying with the infant is always a challenge. With the stroller, baby bags, diapers, food and supplies for the trip etc. always make me end up paying baggage allowance. We as adults can switch brands & are flexible about what and when we eat. However our kids are not.

Solution: I order baby supplies (diapers, formulae feed, wipes, some clothes and toys) online and get it shipped to my travel destination.

This way I don’t have to carry them in the flight and pay excess baggage. Also I don’t have to face the inconvenience of trying to find a store nearby and hunt for these products. Also many of the products (even from reputed companies) have a localization factor. As a result, the flavor, color and texture might change a little bit. And with kids the closest substitutes often does not work and my worst nightmare would be that it worked so well that my kid would only want that flavor (even after coming back home)

Fortunately for me most E-commerce sites are ready to deliver for free.(or cost less than what airline company charge) Also concierges of reputed hotels are kind enough to hold the parcel for me.

Hopefully this Diwali, I can travel & enjoy for a week without turning into a porter carrying the provisions & supplies.

PS: Please share your tips for baby gear as well (bathing tubs, stroller & bouncer)

 

Babycenter

In the past 1 year, my journey from an expecting parent to a proud father has been filled with anxiety. Each and every symptom, which might be as little as a sneeze, had to be exhaustively researched online, in books or even through a doctor’s consultation.
Through my research I found that babycenter.com has been one of the most trusted resource & research partner for me. Please use it also if you are a parent (or in the journey of becoming one). They have a weekly news-letter which even educates & illustrates the child’s progress & growth. This way the first time parent is prepared both physically & psychologically for the changes they are going to witness.

Education and Maturity

When do you think a kid stops being a kid?
As per our IITs, IIMs and IISC NEVER!

I was looking at the Gate 2014 form which is required by IITs and IISC for M-Tech education. The second field in their application form was “Name of Guardian/Parent”.
The world (industry, higher education institutions & society) still continue to treat undergraduate degree holders as teenagers.
Even after 12+4 years of formal education & average batch experience of 3-4 years the faculty of my MBA school(including the Dean) would frequently address the batch as Baccho! (kids).

Is it the fault of the parents & teachers for treating the students as kids and making them live a sheltered life in a cocoon? Or is it the fault of the kids of being so immature & care-free? Or I am being a hyper-sensitive parent?

Chasing the local Chai

As a long time fan and aficionado of coffee, I have tried to find all the information I can get about it. Of the many trivia I have gathered so far, the Turkish way of preparing coffee always had its special place in my mind. It was the Turks who said –“Coffee should be as black as hell, as strong as death, and as sweet as love”. The Turkish way of preparing coffee involves putting very fine ground coffee and water in an cezve, and bringing it close to boiling twice or thrice. More info here. I thought it to be a unique process which imparts a very different flavor to the drink.

What broke my perception of uniqueness about Turkish coffee was the fact that I saw a street vendor prepare the local Indian tea – chai (In places near Mumbai, half a cup of chai is also called cutting) outside my office. He had just started when my colleagues and I strolled up to him. During our typical office gossip, I noticed him pour milk and tea leaves (the commonly found, low-cost variety) in a saucepan and heat it three times to a near boil. He removed the saucepan just as the boiling started and replaced it back in less than ten seconds, and served us only after doing it thrice. I interrupted him quite abruptly, my curiosity having taken the best over me. He explained that this way of preparation gave the chai its unique flavor.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! That is the reason many affluent people are addicted to this low-cost, common man’s drink. It scores over the dip tea or other similar available beverages not just because of its cost, but the flavor imparted by this unique preparation style which has been perfected by almost all street vendors across India. That is also the reason that chai made at home lacks a certain flavor found in the local street shop.