Chennai-based TenderCuts is tech-driven omni-channel fresh meat and seafood company founded in January 2016. TenderCuts has grown in various spheres in the past five years, including brick-and-mortar stores and the online space. The company owns 25 stores in Chennai and Hyderabad alone and is looking to expand in other cities. To aid its rapid expansion plan, TenderCuts has recently raised Rs 110 crore (US$ 15 million) in a round led by Paragon Partners, a mid-market PE fund with participation from Nabventures, an agri-food tech VC fund backed by NABARD.
Nishanth Chandran, founder, and chief executive officer of TenderCuts, speaks about the company, “Today, TenderCuts is the favorite meat and seafood brand in both cities and has won the trust and loyalty of over 500,000 families. TenderCuts is strongly driven by its 700+ passionate and hard-working team and 1000s of farmers and fishermen with whom the brand directly works and creates better livelihood.”
TenderCuts offers a wide range of products across poultry (chicken, quail, country chicken), mutton (goat, lamb) and seafood, fishes (over 50 varieties), marinades (ready to cook dishes), cold cuts, eggs (over six varieties), masalas and dry fish. Chandran says, “TenderCuts provides specialized cuts across the meat and seafood which are typically not available in regular butcher shops.”
According to Chandran, the company plans to add value-added products like sauces, spreads, cold-pressed oils, imported meats, spices, and meal kits to its product portfolio. Moreover, the company plans to expand its ready-to-cook range to include more regional cuisines in starters, launch gravies, kebabs, and biriyani kits.
Traditional butchery modernized with food safety standards
TenderCuts’ business model is a culmination of traditional butchery modernized food safety standards from farm to fork. According to Chandran, the idea is to provide fresh meat and seafood which are antibiotic and hormone-free by establishing direct partnerships with local farming and fishing communities.
He adds, “Direct backward integrations and technological interventions enable us to ensure a shortest and robust supply chain that guarantees best in class quality and absolute freshness every day. We have managed to reach a broader spectrum of consumers by keeping the pricing very competitive and improving accessibility and convenience with its products and services.”
The use of technology and its apt application into ordering and delivering differentiates TenderCuts from its competitors in the online business. “All online brands typically take 24 hours (Cut to Cook) to centrally process and deliver to customers. However, TenderCuts has developed its proprietary technology that processes over 500 orders within 2 hours from the neighborhood stores. All our orders - both for retail and online are freshly cut and freshly packed from our stores and delivered within 1-2 hours,” explains Chandran.
TenderCuts has created a modern retail store with the best-in-class customer experience and one-point solution for all non-veg needs in the retail space.
A robust supply chain ensures quality & hygiene
Chandran mentions that at TenderCuts, the entire supply chain - from farm to fork is hygienic and on par with global standards. “The products are maintained at 0 to 4 degrees, ensuring consumers would access fresh meat and seafood. All livestock are screened carefully before the culling process. Every batch of fishes is tested for chemicals and ensured 100% safety.”
Moreover, the ongoing pandemic had created a sense of panic among consumers, especially the meat buyers. Chandran assures that every employee of the company follows safety guidelines recommended by the government.
Lockdown – Shift from local butchery to branded stores
The entire meat and seafood industry faced severe supply chain issues, which were strategically solved over time. However, Chandran believes that the lockdown has created a positive movement for them. “The pandemic has made people focus on the hygiene and quality standards like never before. It has brought a massive change where people moved from the local wet markets to stores like TenderCuts for buying meat.”
Moreover, Chandran has observed an exponential increase in the demand (300%) with a skew towards a preference for online orders. He adds, “When lockdown restrictions were phased out in August 2020, demand softened overall, and some customers moved from online to retail and migrated out of the city as well. Since TenderCuts had a retail option as well, our customer retention was better.” TenderCuts has been steadily growing in the past six months, and with past marketing investments, the company is again experiencing rapid growth in the last one month.
The company has also launched a contactless retail service at 20 stores during Covid-19 to ensure health and safety of its customers and employees. According to Chandran, TenderCuts is one of the first companies in the meat and seafood sector to introduce contactless retail services. Commenting on the expansion plans, he says, “Shortly, we are looking at launching four stores in Chennai, and two more in Hyderabad. We are also excited to enter the market in Bangalore with the launch of 9 new stores. By the end of this financial year, we will have 20 to 25 stores in each of these three cities.”