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Ant Farm buys Meals on Wheels to enter online food delivery

Meals On Wheels

Former Times Internet CEO Rishi Khiani’s AntFarm* has acquired a food delivery service Meals on Wheels for an undisclosed amount.

While the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, AntFarm mentions that Sandeep Das will be taking over as the CEO of the venture while Meals on Wheels founder Sunil Saraf will be taking a senior management role in the “growth and expansion of the business.”. Das had joined AntFarm in June this year, prior to which he was the COO and head of business for Network18’s Burrp and AskMe (now owned by Getit).

Das told Medianama that Meals On Wheels already had partnerships with quite a few popular restaurants and was making food deliveries for these restaurants. Post acquisition, Ant Farm will focusing on building the technology layer, adding more restaurant partnerships and building logistics with a focus on last-mile delivery.

In terms of technology, AntFarm has just launched a redesigned version of Meals On Wheels website that allows users to search for their preferred restaurants, cuisines or dishes and place orders. Alternatively, users can also browse through trending dishes and restaurants or choose any restaurant based on cuisine or time of meal (Lunch, Dinner, Snack or All day). The company claims to deliver these food products within 60 minutes.

One can also sign up for the service to save their favourite restaurants and dishes, view their past orders and get relevant recommendations. The company will also be building mobile apps for consumers and apps for vendors, logistics and customer service.

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Meals On Wheels homepage

Expansion Plans: The service is currently limited to popular restaurants in South Mumbai (Cuffe Parade to Worli) with plans to extend this throughout Mumbai by next month and then expand to cities like Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata by the end of this fiscal year.

It will be interesting to see how AntFarm scales up this business considering that online food ordering is quite tricky, due to the logistical challenges raised by the immediacy nature of the business and more importantly, the hesitation of restaurants to offer online ordering services. In an interview with Medianama last year, JustEat India had mentioned that they hadn’t been able to scale up their operations as per expectations due to these challenges –

“We initially thought that we know Bangalore because we have been around. But when we launched in Bangalore and Mumbai, we realized that this business is not a cake walk. The problems double when orders go up. All orders are concentrated in the same one hour during lunch and dinner and we need to process it to restaurants in 1 minute and they have to deliver the food within 30 minutes. In traditional e-commerce, they can time to deliver a book in 2 or 3 days. But if we are late by 5 minutes in delivering food, customers become angry. That’s when we realized that we need to automate everything without human intervention to make things faster and smoother” More on that here and here.

Das however mentions that they will be controlling all the elements in the transaction, unlike JustEat wherein restaurants do the deliveries, in a bid to provide good consumer experience. He also noted that they would be providing features like GPS order tracking among others to consumers.

In terms of partnerships, Meals on Wheels will be looking both affordable restaurants and fine dining ones, although the focus would be on standalone restaurants who cannot or are not too keen to setup in-house delivery logistics, rather than QSR (Quick service restaurants) chains. Meals on Wheels currently charges a commission of 15-20% per order and they expect it to grow further going forward, due to the various value added service the company intends to roll out in the forthcoming months.

Adding more categories later: Das mentions that food delivery is the first category in its local delivery business and they intend to add more categories like cakes & confectionaries, groceries, gifts & flowers and essential electronics like phone chargers and spike busters among others. Das mentions that these products will also be delivered within 60 minutes.

Other Players: Besides JustEat, other players in the food delivery segment include Rocket Internet-backed FoodPanda and Delivery Hero-backed TastyKhana. JustDial had also introduced online food delivery service in August last year. However, what might give Meals On Wheels an edge over these players, is if the company is able to provide a good overall experience to consumers.

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Also read:

– AntFarm raises Series A funding from Bay Capital & Hausela Capital Partners; ClickZoot acquisition
– AntFarm plans to enter Fitness & Classifieds segments; Hires Burrp COO Sandeep Das
– Former Indiatimes CEO Rishi Khiani launches startup platform Ant Farm

*Disclosure: Ant Farm is an advertiser with Medianama

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MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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