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By TPCI | August 9, 2019

It was back in 2003, when an engineering student was fascinated by an interesting study carried out in a University in The Netherland,s which was actually a research on tissue culture-based meat. With an unparalleled love for animals and a fervor to do something out of the box, Abhishek Sinha, recognized his urge of animal based meat foods and at the same time to stop the exploitation of these creatures.  Since then he nurtured the idea of innovating meat alternatives which could finally resolve moral dilemmas of many!

Revolutionizing food with compassion! Yes, this is the mission of Good Dot Enterprises, a pioneer of mock meat alternatives in India, which Abhishek Sinha, as a successful entrepreneur, mentors today.

Why the moniker “Good Dot”?

Restaurant menus in India have a ubiquitous red dot next to dishes containing meat, fish and egg, and a green dot against vegetarian food. For Abhishek Sinha, the red dot is the bad dot, given the harm meat causes animals and its impact on our environment and health. The green dot is the good one. That’s the logic behind the name of the startup he cofounded in 2016. 
Udaipur-based Good Dot is betting on an idea popularized by US companies, particularly Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. The two California-based companies have tried to make alternatives to meat from proteins extracted from plants such as pea, wheat and potato. The flagship product for both companies is the burger patty (a substitute for beef). Beyond meat the company also sells plant-based pork sausages, chicken strips and beef crumble. 

Eying the latent potentials

While there is a debate raging on whether these products that try to approximate the flavour and texture of meat can even be called meat, the market potential is huge beyond doubt. According to a recent report from ResearchandMarkets.com, the global plant-based meat market is estimated to be valued at US$12.1 billion in 2019 and is likely to reach US$27.9 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 15% during this period.

US and UK have already marked a near to six folds increase in the number of vegans in last three years. Moreover, in the Asia-Pacific region, high growth is expected from countries such as China, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand due to the rising demand for organic food products in this region. The Asia-Pacific region also consists of the largest vegetarian population in the world, which is expected to create a lucrative opportunity for plant-based meat producers. Good Dot wants to make the most of this potential in India. 

It uses pea protein, wheat gluten, soy protein and soy flour, among other ingredients, to make its food taste like meat. Unlike the US firms, Good Dot is not aiming to replace beef, which is not the meat of choice in India. 

According to Euromonitor International, in 2017, chicken accounted for half of India’s meat market, by volume. Beef and buffalo meat accounted for a fourth, and mutton and lamb less than a fifth. Sinha says one of Good Dot’s four products, called Vegetarian Meat and sold in chunks, could be a replacement for mutton or chicken, depending on whether it is cooked in a curry or as kebabs. “You need to provide credible alternatives to meateaters — tasty and with nutrients,” says the 37-year-old, chemical engineer who joined the Indian Revenue Service and was a deputy commissioner of income tax before starting this venture. 

Expansion

Good Dot also wants to familiarize its product through quick-service restaurants run by a group company, Good Dot Foods. There are three outlets in Udaipur, including two food trucks. There is one more outlet in the works in the city, along with two each in Lucknow, Bengaluru and Gurgaon. 

By the end of August this year, Good Dot Foods will have a total of 12 outlets. These outlets actually use the products made by the Good Dot Enterprises for serving hot biryanis, pulaos, and other dishes.

To fund its growth, Good Dot has raised undisclosed sums from some Venture Capitals (VCs) and High Net-worth Individuals (HNI). 

Innovative & much needed!

Good Dot products are a healthy alternative to the meat and muttons. While they approximate the look and texture of mutton, they tend to have a soya-like sponginess while chewing. Good Dot’s Vegetarian Bytes, Protyze, ready to cook Pulao & Biryanis, and Achari Tikka are making sensations in the Indian and the international market as well.

What has inspired Sinha to launch a range of new products like Thai Curries with mock meat, and barbeque chickens, is the overwhelming response Good Dot has received in the nascent Global markets and a completely unexplored domestic market. “The response we are receiving is prolific. And interesting fact that we discovered through our restaurants was that almost 80% of our consumers are meat eaters who today wish to reduce their meat consumption or switch to something similar to meats.”

The curries, apart from other new products to be launched like Cajun vegetarian chicken, have strikingly differentiating feature, i.e., these products are all shelf stable that means they need no refrigeration. This in turn would make these products more competitive in the market.

The Start-up also bestows the indigenous market with Cup Biryani and Cup Pullao which are innovative and comfortable to cook products.

Asking about the expansion in exports, Sinha mentioned, “in fact, we have started exporting to Dubai and Nepal and expect to export the products to Canada also latest by next month.”

Sinha, thus, is loath to divulge any numbers, except to say Good Dot sells 10,000-15,000 packets a day (its products are sold in 150-250 gram packs). The sales occur through its own website, Amazon, Paytm Mall and RCM, a direct seller like Amway. 

Challenges on the way

In order to gain a foothold in the market, Sinha knew that Good Dot needed to get its products to cost the same — or less — than regular meat. “We believe that to make plant-based meat mainstream it is important to have cost parity with real meat,” he said. “This is where our strength lies.” Good Dot’s “mutton” is at price parity to its traditional counterpart, and its vegan egg product is cheaper than traditional eggs.

Another challenge Good Dot had to tackle was distribution. Chain grocery stores aren’t common in India; locals rely on smaller neighborhood shops and outdoors markets. To get around this hurdle, Good Dot sells its products through RCM, a direct selling company in India with 7,500 stores, as well as online via the Good Dot website and Amazon. In addition to its direct-to-consumer channel, the company also supplies its plant-based meats to hotels and restaurants throughout India.