How Kumar Setu’s Sprink Online is transforming daily food with food Science and technology stack

Interview with Kumar Setu, Co-founder and CCO of Sprink.Online, a high quality and nutritious daily meal subscription service for working professionals
Kumar Setu, Co-founder and CCO of Sprink.Online

Established by Kumar Setu, Ritesh Dwivedy and Abhishek Mandal in 2020, Sprink Online, a full stack meal subscription platform, makes affordable daily personalized meals accessible to people wherever they are – at their homes or workplaces. This seemingly simple problem becomes daunting as Sprink Online strives to deliver hygienic, healthy, delicious and freshly cooked meals at affordable prices.

Setu has been a part of the food industry for more than a decade. He spent the initial few years researching, observing consumers’ food habits and preferences and he found that Indian cuisine was the most popular among customers yet there was no national brand in Indian cuisine space. Producing Indian food at scale without chef dependence was the biggest bottleneck that prevented Indian food brands from scaling. So he along with Ritesh and Abhishek spent a few years developing a solution for the problem, in the form of Sprink Online.

Setu, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and a serial entrepreneur founded his first venture OffersForShoppers in 2006 and later started Nuclei Marketing, a marketing and consulting venture,. He considers himself a family man who got the confidence to fight his battles only because of the unconditional love and support of his family and friends. He feels he’s fortunate enough to call IIT Kharagpur his alma mater which has given him access to some of the brightest minds in the country and the courage to go after his dreams. He firmly believes that one should make the best out of what one has got instead of worrying about what’s missing.

In an exclusive interaction with MotivergeKumar Setu, Co-founder and CCO of Sprink Online shares more insights about his venture, journey so far, motivation and future plans.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

What is Sprink Online all about?

Sprink is an online meal subscription service making affordable daily personalized meals accessible to people wherever they are – at their homes or workplaces. Consider it as – daily food without daily hassles. It strives to deliver hygienic, healthy, delicious, freshly cooked meals at affordable prices at predefined time.

I, with Ritesh Dwivedy, and Abhishek Mandal co-founded Sprink with the vision of “making food effortless and to empower people to live better” a reality.

What factors influenced or motivated you to start this venture? What seeded the idea of a startup in the FoodTech sector?

I have been part of the food industry for over a decade now. The key reason to start Sprink was to build India’s largest food brand. Indian cuisine is probably the most flavorful and definitely one of the most popular cuisines worldwide. However we do not have a single international or a nationally recognized brand. Building a global, lovable brand in Indian food has remained a pipe dream for many entrepreneurs because of the complexity of our cuisines and dishes. This can be solved at scale only by usage of food science and technology. This is what we at Sprink strive to achieve. We have spent years building the complete food tech stack (sourcing, production and logistics) and well oiled processes so that we can offer personalized meals at scale with great ease and at very affordable prices.

What were the first few steps during and after the launch of Sprink Online?

Though we have spent initial few years building scalable food production capabilities along with the full food tech stack, Sprink as a brand began its journey at the peak of the pandemic. People were stuck at home, there was no house help as none were allowed, nearby eateries were closed, work pressure was mounting and everyone was stretched for time. Like me, many others were struggling to draw a balance between office work and house chores. And we saw a surge in the number of people, including families, requesting simple homely meals to be delivered to their workplace, which was now home. And that’s when we made Sprink Online a reality and launched a self-serve platform allowing customers to choose meal type, set address and get meals delivered daily at a fixed time like a clockwork without all the hassles of choosing a restaurant, selecting dishes, ordering, guiding riders and tracking. Imagine doing this daily when you are already busy. Our steps during and post launch have always been to ensure the variety and hygiene of the meals and making it easy and effortless to access. We have and still operate under very strict food hygiene and safety protocols.

We are building a vertically integrated platform using science and technology to optimize every aspect starting from menu planning and food production to packaging and logistics. We have built AscentAI, our AI based engine, which enables us to curate personalized meal plan for you based on your likings, portion preferences and even understands that you might not be non-vegetarian on certain days of the week (it’s very India specific trait) and factors that while curating your menu. The same engine also enables us to deliver food to you at 1/5th of the costs, compared to those incurred by on demand platforms, by intelligently creating what we call – dynamic hubs. So when you eat food it’s just your homely food but the experience of convenience and personalization is all powered by the tech that we have built in the backend.

Have you raised funds so far?

We have raised funds from Angels and family/friends. Times and Axilor Ventures are also our early backers.

Tell us about your motivation. What keeps you going?

The vision to empower people to live better by freeing a few hours daily in their lives by making daily food simpler is what keeps us going. It’s a grand vision and we live and breathe it every day.

How has your journey been so far?

It has been a wonderful experience building Sprink from the ground up. We have been able to touch so many people’s lives in so little time. There are many real challenges in bringing daily, hygienic food and keeping it affordable. I have been fortunate enough to be working with some of the smartest and hard-working people from the industry who are equally passionate about building Sprink. When you meet and work with such people, I believe, half your battle is already won.

How big is your team? How did you manage your team and business during COVID-19 outbreak?

We are a team of close to 100 people which includes our kitchen team, riders, operations team and other people in management. Covid brought its own challenges like suddenly we didn’t have packaging materials left, our riders had to go through multiple checks on road causing delay in deliveries, we had to rebuild the team reporting hours and space utilization to follow covid protocols at production facility and so on. But that also meant that our focus on hygiene from the get go started paying us back as customers suddenly became very conscious regarding food hygiene, which used to be a secondary thought earlier. Also as we were/are part of essential services so our business continued during this time. In fact it has grown many fold and covid has definitely accelerated the adoption of meal as a subscription service. There was always a big void in daily meal space and covid accelerated the need to fill that gap faster.

What are the USPs of your brand? How does Mumbai’s popular Dabbawalla system resemble Sprink?

We love the way Mumbai’s Dabbawala system is built and it’s the trust they have earned from their customers for timely and accurate delivery is what we would love to replicate at Sprink. But we are not the ones who only deliver dabba, we also make what goes in that dabba and that’s another level of challenge to solve. That’s why we are a fully integrated food tech company. Our daily operations are mostly automated and we have built smart AI driven technology called AscentAI to empower menu personalization and logistics optimization. This is a sophisticated AI which can track customer responses, behaviour and recommend personalised menus based on their chosen preferences making the entire customer experience a  lot personal.

We are also a hygiene-first brand. We stick to non negotiable protocols during the entire process of food production, dispatch and delivery.

And to ensure we are very easy for our customer, we are very flexible i.e. you can start/pause/unpause with just a click.

So what differentiates us is the scale of personalization which we offer in terms of meal, the ease that we bring without daily hassles and all this at a truly affordable price which is difficult to beat.

Being a startup, what do you think is the biggest challenge in India? Please share your views on how the Indian Government is doing on supporting startups? 

There are always challenges but I can’t complain. India has changed in the last decade like no other country.  Whether it’s access to capital or skills we are no less than any other country in the world. The whole startup ecosystem has evolved, the perception towards starting up has changed and with recent successful IPOs it’s going to just explode from here. There are many things which can be attributed to Government policy and framework changes. Success of many fintech companies can be attributed to the building of UPI framework, ed tech/local commerce tech and many other industries have got the fruit of digitalization push, fintech has benefited from eKYC/Aadhar based systems and all the recent pile up of IPOs is also a function of policy changes. So there’s a lot that can be attributed to Government policies. At a ground level in terms of ease of doing business there are many missing pieces though and I am hopeful that those will also be plugged over time.

Where do you see yourself in the upcoming 3 to 5 years?

We definitely see ourselves touching at least a million lives daily – that’s like giving back 2 million hours of daily life back to people, which they spend on cooking or ordering now, so that they can do something which they love to do. We would also take the brand global by that time.

What are your messages or leadership lessons for budding entrepreneurs/young generation?

Pick up a large enough problem to solve and commit to spend at least a decade solving it if you want to impact people at large and leave a legacy. Also don’t wait for the best time to take a plunge, it will never come.

Hope this interview will motivate all the aspiring entrepreneurs. It is a part of our startup profiling feature story/interview series. We are on a mission to bring forward the inspirational journey of successful entrepreneurs in order to spread some motivation during these tough times.

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