PC Musthafa, along with his cousins, started iD Fresh Food in 2006, delivering dosa and idli batter to neighbourhood stores in Bengaluru. Soon they were supplying parotta and chutney, too. In 2017, the ready-to-cook food company raised Rs-150 crore from PremjiInvest, Wipro founder Azim Premji’s investment arm, and sought to move beyond dosa and idli batter. Today, iD products – parottas and chapatis and ready- to-cook idli, dosa, and vada batter and decoction for filter coffee – are much sought after in major Indian cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad, besides West Asia.
What was your vision while starting the brand?
The main reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur, with the help and support of my cousins (the co-founders), was to provide rural employment opportunities. We saw a lot of talented and smart youngsters in my village who were unemployed and never got a break in life because of the requirement of formal education. We knew if we chose the entrepreneurial route and started a company of our own, we could provide employment opportunities to thousands of rural youths either directly or indirectly.
The reason to venture into the ready-to- cook category was to give back to society by providing healthy, nutritious and fresh food every single day; and as an extension touch the lives of millions of people to fulfil their basic food needs.
Is ready-to-cook food an exciting space to be in at the moment?
Yes, most definitely. To balance the equilibrium in today’s seesaw of time and health, people are opting for ready-to-cook food products that are natural and chemical-free. We started iD Fresh at a time when home-made idli and dosa batter was sold in unhygienic plastic covers. It took a lot of hard work, innovation and adoption of advanced technologies to help us provide the best quality products and gain the trust of millions of consumers. We acknowledge that making South Indian items from scratch can be a challenge; therefore, we strived to identify gaps in the industry and through technology and innovation serve people with easy-to-cook, tasty and preservative-free food.
Making medu vada, a doughnut-shaped South Indian snack, is a craft not easily mastered. One has to take a blob of the batter in one’s hand and make a hole using the thumb. ID Fresh Food’s squeeze-and-fry pack simplifies the process. The spout is designed such that a vada is formed in perfect shape as the batter is squeezed through the spout.
The squeeze-and-fry pack can be used to drop the vadas directly into the hot oil, from a safe distance, while the mix remains consistent, without making the process messy or time-consuming. “It took us three years and a lot of hard work to get the vada batter packaging right. We used innovation to make the best of tradition,” says Musthafa.
Do you believe packaging can be a strategic touch point to solve business problems?
While the packaging is a critical part of our marketing mix, we believe that half of the marketing is done right with the right product. Change is constant and we at iD are constantly working on packaging innovations and solutions. iD Batter pack was first of
its kind with a zipper, boat-shaped, self-standing pack which doubled up as a vessel. We've patented this pack. The famed iD Vada Batter pack effortlessly helps shapes the batter into vadas through a unique
spout with a hole in the centre, without causing any mess or stress. This pack is
patented, too, and has received accolades across the globe.
What are you doing differently from other players in the market when it comes to packaging and branding?
We use common sense to solve consumer problems. Our consumers love our ergonomic and innovative packaging and, of course, the products too.
One of your innovative products is iD Traditional Filter Coffee Decoction.
iD is known for its authentic home-style fresh food products which are natural, preservative and chemical-free. Taking forward the company philosophy of using only
natural and premium ingredients, iD Fresh’s traditional filter coffee decoction was launched which is made of single origin coffee and has the right blend of coffee and chicory (80% coffee, 20% chicory), zero sugar, and no preservatives. The filter coffee comes in the form of ready-to-use liquid (decoction) rather than the conventional powder form available in the market. The brief to the agency was simple. We wanted a disruptive packaging which is traditional yet progressive and gives an authentic feel of filter coffee.
In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of packaging?
The packaging must perform at three levels. It has to be distinct and showcase disruption in the category. It has to enable ease-of-use for the consumer. And most importantly, it must have great shelf throw, since most of our products go into the chiller in a retail environment.
How do you plan to make iD’s packaging more environment-friendly?
We're guilty of generating plastic waste on a daily basis. We're however working on various options to minimise this. We encourage our consumers to reuse the packs for storage, growing plants etc through our on-pack communication.