Ankur Capital
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Ankur Capital

Why we invested in Captain Fresh

Ask any seafood loving Bengali or Malayalee what she misses the most when she is away from her home state and you will hear a four letter word — fish. This is accompanied by a five letter word — fresh!

A big market opportunity in India

Unfortunately this is the painful reality not just for the communities mentioned earlier, but for more than 70% of Indians that seek to include meat and seafood in their diet. In a country where more than two-thirds of the population, including the urban rich, suffers from protein deficiency, demand for these protein rich foods can only be a secular growth trend. For comparison, Indians derive less than 5% of their overall protein consumption from meat and seafood, versus a 40–50% share in many other similar per-capita markets.

Evidence of this trend is already there. As a result of increasing disposable incomes and changing food habits, per capita consumption of fish has been continuously increasing over the past few decades. The domestic industry is now Rs. 1110 billion, growing at 18% per annum.

The export versus domestic paradox

With a well-endowed coastline and robust aquaculture and fisheries industry, India is near the top of global charts on fish production and is a top exporter of fish and fish products to major developed markets. India is emerging as one of the key suppliers of frozen shrimp and frozen fish in various international markets such as the US, Europe, South East Asia, Japan, and the Middle East. The sector contributes 1.1% of India’s GDP.

The domestic market, however, remains significantly underpenetrated — being just 2x that of exports even with a huge 1.3bn population. This has much to do with Indians’ preference for consuming fresh food — overwhelmingly so when it comes to freshwater fish and other seafood. The core of the problem is the state of the domestic supply chain, which fails to provide consistent access to good quality and trustworthy fresh meat and fish products at reasonable prices.

Retailers have had to rely on unorganized wet markets that offer little transparency on availability and quality as well as lack of traceability. Suppliers too often quit the fish business due to challenges of managing intermediaries, especially with regard to payment. Supply chain inefficiencies in getting the product from source to plate lead to an estimated value erosion of 30–50%.

The time is ripe for a platform, driven by technology and powered by data at each stage, to transform this supply chain and unlock this sizable latent market. A platform that enables retailers and other bulk customers to meet their need for freshness and regular supply, which establishes trust through transparency on availability, quality and pricing.

Why Captain Fresh

We are excited by the Captain Fresh team’s vision to build out a large business in this segment, by developing a full stack platform to transform the supply chain. Captain Fresh’s founder, Utham Gowda, an ex-investment banker, is passionate about unlocking the opportunity through a tech-driven platform, leveraging deep insights on the domain from his time as a banker, followed by a corporate strategy stint with the Nekkanti Group, one of the largest exporters of frozen shrimps from India.

Utham’s team members, with experience from starting up Mastaan (Hyderabad-based online fish and meat delivery startup) and helping scale-up Licious (a leading online meat and seafood brand), bring valuable strengths on scale-up of business and back-end technology operations. The team has established strong traction, validating the potential of the opportunity.

The company has already crossed last financial years’ revenues in just the first four months of the current financial year. Amongst its initial customers, it counts leading brands in the modern trade channel and pioneers in the online meat and seafood space. It currently serves more than 120 retail businesses across all formats.

We’re excited about the potential for Captain Fresh and see potential beyond the Indian market in the longer-term, with co-investors like Japanese-origin Incubate Fund India helping drive that journey.

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Ankur Capital is an early stage fund investing in technologies for the next billion

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