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Open Talk @DSIM

An Interview with Shitiz Dogra, Co-founder at

First Eat is a budding start-up based out of Gurgaon, aiming for holistic wellness with food as its epicenter for your health. For health freaks opting for diet plans as per their goal or intent, the biggest lacuna is the fulfillment of that diet. It’s easier said than done. Plans are available but who will fulfill that diet food for you?  So for this huge gap, First Eat is the bridge. Every single food item on the First Eat app has been curated by nutritionists with calorie counted approach and measured ingredients for your health.



Q1. Hi Shitiz, you are new to the startup culture. So how you managed to start

Ans. First Eat was founded in October 2015 by Mannat Wadehra, Rishabh Tickoo, Saikat Bagchi and Shitiz Dogra (me). We have been connected since childhood through friendship.

We Indians have a very reactive approach towards health and massive investments in health insurance etc. stand a befitting testimony to this. But what we all forget that good health is half taken care of if you eat right. And this is the paradigm shift in the mindset of the people that we wish to bring. First Eat aims to facilitate this by creating ‘awareness, availability and affordability’ of necessary healthy meals, by offering on demand freshly prepared healthy meals and diet plans options.

We all have worked in different parts of the country and observed that availability and affordability of healthy food still continue to be a pressing issue, more so for working population who are away from their homes. And, that’s how we decided to take a headlong plunge into this industry and fill this gap with the help of technology.

We are currently doing an average of 200 daily meals and 90 daily running subscriptions of Nutritionists’ recommended diet plans. Our average ticket size is currently hovering around INR 195-220. 

Q2. Nice concept. So what makes special? How is it different from other food portals?

Ans. We are a healthy meals centric startup and what differentiates us from other players is that every meal is prepared fresh on-demand, nothing is prepared forehand and we will never compromise on this practice. Recently, we did and entire brand revamps and developed our new product that eliminates the gap between the availability of goal-oriented diet plans and the fulfillment of same.

We have our own panel of nutritionists on board who have created various healthy meal plans. Health freaks having specific goals like Weight Loss, Weight Gain, Gym Diet, it’s all curated by our panel and available on the app.

We are aiming for holistic wellness and food is an integral part of it. For health freaks opting for diet plans as per their goal or intent, the biggest lacuna is the fulfillment of that diet. It’s easier said than done. Plans are available but who will fulfill that diet food for you?  So for this huge gap, we are the bridge. Every single item on our app has been curated by a nutritionist with calorie counted approach and measured ingredients for your health.

Q3. Wonderful! How has been your journey so far? What are some of the challenges faced and lessons learnt? 

Ans. We are not here just to sell food. We see ourselves as a health & wellness player. When we started last year, there were many food players in Gurgaon. So, how you differentiate yourself from other players and how you cement your brand’s image in line with brand identity was the main point to consider.

When we started off, we were pretty sure that food is not the only thing we are going to do. We did a lot of awareness activities, blogger meets, corporate wellness plans and nutritionist sessions to drive forward the idea of healthy eating.

When you are in a red ocean like food tech, delivery, and quality consistency are purely key differentiators but having said that marketing, brand perception and customer experience is what makes you stand out. This is what we have learnt  in our short n sweet journey so far. Also, outsourcing any entity in the entire value chain of our business makes no sense, and we are very determined about that. 

Q4. Interesting journey! How do you advertise your business? What does digital marketing do for your business?

Ans. We are app only players currently but very soon will be available across channels (website ordering etc.) because digital presence is very important for us. Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), Ad campaigns play very important role. We believe that if your product is good, your content and digital presence has to be even better to do justice to your brand image.

If you see our blog, it is infused with great content. People really appreciate that. Our small initiative called tasty tiny tales on facebook that speaks about warm stories revolving around food also got us lot of appreciation. Digital marketing plays a pivotal role for every startup today. Digital marketing techniques like geo-targeted campaigns, segmented communication etc. today helps you reach out to a focused audience because in an ultra-competitive food business “just” traditional marketing might not work out, besides people spend more time in the virtual world today than the real one.

Q5. Any feedbacks you have received from your website users? How do you handle negative feedback, if any?

Ans. We take our CRM very seriously. It’s very important to have unbiased and honest feedback. When we started off, we harnessed third party players for our deliveries but it caused lot of issues. There have been cases in which delivery was a major issue as shared by our customers. So we decided to get rid of the practice and own up entire logistics and delivery. As of now, our repeat percentage is 67% and we believe it is very good conversion rate. It’s a testimony that we are treading the right path.

Q6. Shitiz, what do you think, entrepreneurs are born or made?

Ans. It’s a very subjective affair. Anyone can be an entrepreneur; all you need is an idea and courage to do justice to it. Entrepreneurs are made when fear of failure is dwarfed in front of your will to change something or create something entirely new. When fear dies, that’s when the real entrepreneur comes out. It’s not like anyone is born or made.

Q7. Nice Shitiz. What does it take to start an online business nowadays? An innovation idea? Technology? Digital marketing specialization? How?

Ans. Many people have great ideas, but only execution matters today if you wish to survive. If someone wants to make a big noise, digital is a must. Technology has become kind of bedrock. Most of the time traditional marketing approach might not work whether you are a product or service, and that’s why digital is becoming indispensable. You see, nowadays most of the startups are tech oriented and have a massive presence online. Why? Simply because digital interaction with your consumer decides the moment of truth now.

Q8 If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what business related advice would you give yourself?
Ans. The advice I would give myself would be aggression but balanced aggression. I would tell myself sternly to just hang in there instead of taking rejection to your heart. Rather, come up with more ideas and try various routes of a pure growth plan. Needless to say, it has to be with composure.







Q9. Shitiz, If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?

Ans. If the internet had not existed, we would have been carefully studying the daily life of our average TG. We would have been on ground and listening to our customer because he/she will be the one proving the worth of my idea ultimately. You can make a thousand plans, but if your customer is not even aware of your presence, what’s the point.  Analyzing what his/her normal day would be like, what would be the avenues where you can interact with him/her and how to ensure that you grab their attention and leave a mark would form the offline strategy for the business.

Q10. Shitiz, tell us what website or app could you not live without?

Ans. Hahaha! The GOOGLE will be the first *winks*. I guess as a startup player in India, Business World, Economic Times, Business Outlook, Yourstory  are some great places to get your dose of some inspiring stories and know the pulse of the market as well.

Q11. What about the future? Where do you plan going from here?

Ans. As of now, we are operational in Gurgaon; we are planning to expand our operations across NCR and Bangalore, to gain traction within these clusters, through targeted marketing and creating a market for the robust tech product we are coming up with.

Q12. One last question, What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up his/her first business?

Ans. They have to first understand technology and know what to do with it. Secondly, execution really matters. Everyone has great ideas but execution matters ultimately and that too a scalable one. You have to work on your mistakes; there is no room for errors in the startups. It is always a fast moving lane. You can’t take a U-turn on a highway right?

“It was nice talking to both of you. Thank you so much for your time and valuable information. Best wishes from DSIM.”

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