Farm to dining plate agri commerce company WayCool Foods and Products has an investment kitty of $20 million to invest in companies with complementary capabilities, said a top company official.
He also said the investment kitty will be used for capex towards technology and automation.
The Rs 400 crore turnover company had earlier acquired two companies--a logistics provider and a ready-to-cook maker--and has raised about $46 million equity and debt till date.
"We move about 500 ton per day across regions. There are companies available with specialised skills in specific supply chains. We will make investments in select segment specialists, as they complement our capabilities and save wastage," Karthik Jayaraman, CEO and Co-Founder, WayCool Foods and Products told IANS.
"We are also investing in automation. Last year our $20 million investments were in capacity building and this year it will be in capability building," he added.
Largely a business-to-business (B2B) food products supplier (source from farmers/farmer producer organisations directly and supply to retail outlets/bulk buyers) in the southern markets and in Maharashtra, WayCool Foods is also in the retail space with its SunnyBee retail outlets.
On the technology side the investment will be for making WayCool's integrated platform scalable, add artificial intelligence for demand forecasting, supply planning and reduced waste, sales enablement (recommendation engines) and crop management (weather based advisory, disease identification) and have digital lending features.
In respect of automation the plan is to make it 100 percent from the current 60 per cent for fresh produce and scale up packing capacity.
WayCool will also build two dry grocery distribution centres, where picking, packing and crating will be mechanised and further scale up automated dry grocery packing.
Agreeing that the COVID-19 lockdown and the resultant closure of several hotels and restaurants had impacted sales to HORECA (hotels, restaurants/catering) segment, Jayaraman added that it was offset by increased sales to retail outlets and online sales.
Catering to the demand, WayCool set up three `dark stores' (outlets that would cater only to other retail outlets, online sales) in Chennai and in Bengaluru, Jayaraman added.
"The Covid-19 lockdown seems to have made people innovative. Many of our customers has said that they have used our health-mix powder to make good dosas, a Jayaraman said.
"I use the health-mix powder as a thickening agent for gravies instead of corn flour. This is good for diabetics," J. Nitya, a housewife, told IANS.
Be that as it may, the 2021 Covid-19 lockdown also enabled WayCool Foods to reduce its carbon footprint.
Unlike 2020, this year's lockdown has affected the rural areas and labour availability got impacted, Jayaraman said.
"We set up our grading unit near the supply point so that waste produce can be ploughed back into the farmland as manure while we transport good produce thereby reducing the carbon footprint," Jayaraman said.