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FY18 will mark four years for food delivery platform FreshMenu and the company isn't only hoping of breaking even but also putting in its expansion strategy in place.

The start-up wants to remain leaner while it takes on other popular and bigger online food delivery platforms such as Swiggy, Zomato and UberEats.

The brand has been largely dependent on content marketing to reach out to its customers. It not only blogs through its own website but also comes out with a niche food magazine called 'Food for Thought', a rarity for a tech-based start-up. caught up with Priyanka Bajaj (PB), Khundmir Syed (KS) and Romal M Singh (RS) of the FreshMenu design, brand and content teams to get an insight into their business plan and marketing strategy.

(L-R) Romal M Singh, Priyanka Bajaj and Khundmir Syed

The brand that has raised $22 million in funding so far doesn't want to tread the path often used and is looking for fresh content creators to tie up for content.

“There are several content aggregators, creators and online players in the video streaming space in different formats like TVF, FilterCopy, ScoopWhoop and Terribly Tiny Tales. Even if we must partner with any creators, we’ll partner with somebody who is not already tried and tested and would prefer someone new on the block,” believes the leadership team.

The start-up spends 70% of its total marketing budget on digital, which is largely spent on content marketing.

FreshMenu was founded in 2014 by IIM Ahmedabad alumni, Rashmi Daga, who has previously worked with cab aggregator Ola and online jewellery store Bluestone.


What made FreshMenu become a content marketing first brand?

RS: It was completely our CEO’s (Rashmi Daga) idea. A lot of people put efforts into other things like design and digital, Rashmi believed that if the content is strong, you’ll be able to attract people to the brand automatically. Recently we did a series of videos called #SheSpeaks, where we got in touch with the women poets across Bangalore for Women’s Day. The idea was to get women to speak about the issues that mattered on Women’s Day rather than the shallow campaigns that often flood the market on the same day. The videos were viewed at least by three lakh people and received several thousand shares.

How do videos like these help build the brand or generate leads?

KS: These videos help build brand awareness and define what the brand really stands for. Lead generation as an activity is not the objective when we do content-related videos. When brands directly tie sales with the videos, it is an angle that consumers are tired of. #SheSpeaks doesn’t have a call to action at the end. With these videos, we were able to show what FreshMenu stood for.

What role does design play in presenting content to your consumers?

PB: Design plays a very important role in content marketing. If you see a drool-worthy image of a rice bowl, even if it’s for ₹200 and more, you will pay it because it looks good. If the visual can communicate and build aspirational value, I think the job is done.

Does that mean FreshMenu doesn’t do content marketing to generate leads but believes in doing good content as brand-building exercise?

KS: Eventually, the leads come in indirectly. If any brand does content marketing with an objective of getting certain number of leads, it doesn’t really work well in terms of content. The content should be interesting enough for people to watch and the content will obviously have a brand connect. If the brand connect is there, people automatically log into your app and check it out. Hence, the leads are generated, but at a secondary level. The primary objective is to have that unifying factor; that the brand stands for in terms of content.

Is there any way to measure ROI on your content initiatives?

KS: The engagement rate we receive on the videos is one way to measure your content. Obviously, nothing is organic on social in today’s day and age. So, the kind of spends that we do versus the cost per view that you get for your video, that’s what we try to aim at maximising. According to the recent Facebook standards, anything below 40-50 paisa per view is considered good. We follow a few metrics in terms of engagement. For example, the number of shares and comments, instead of just the number of likes, defines (to us) how our content is doing.

How much of your revenue goes into marketing? Can you share the medium-wise break-up in case you might be undertaking other forms of advertising?

KS: We spend the maximum budget on digital, which is around 65-70%. The traditional medium receives 10-15% of our marketing budgets. We don’t do a lot of print ads as it’s obviously a very traditional medium and we are a new-age business. Digital helps convert sales quicker because the consumer is already on the medium. We do a bit of BTL in terms of activation and a few on-ground events.

How much of the total spend on digital goes into content marketing?

KS: 80% of the total digital budget primarily would be on content marketing. In terms of creating content, I would largely say that it’s 50% and 30% is spent on pushing content. 99% of content creation is done internally while our brand campaigns are done by our agency Brave New World.

FreshMenu also sends out magazines. What’s the idea behind sending out a print? Isn’t the idea of sending out print magazines cost incurring? How many magazines are sent out every month?

RS: The whole idea of behind the magazine ‘Food for Thought’ is that people need to connect with the brand in a more personal way. The stories are driven more by lifestyle and food elements, but we do manage to plug FreshMenu here and there. That is a format which we experimented with for three issues and we may not be going that way in the future. As I said the brand is open to constant change. We send out the magazine once in a quarter.

KS: In the last edition, we sent out around 15,000 magazines. We are also introducing a tracking mechanism from our next issue, which means, we will know how many people have seen the magazine and redeemed certain things online.

FreshMenu employees talk about the experience of working with the company on the blog. Is it also a part of the brand building?

RS: The team is largely 35-year-olds and below. A lot of people that we want to associate with are young, who we believe can bring a lot more to the table. The younger generation looks for an organisation that has a good workforce and is an equal opportunity employer. FreshMenu aims to be just that.

PB: People want to be associated with the things they relate to. If you are buying food, you are not just buying the food, but buying into a lifestyle.

Any plans to co-partner external content creators or platforms?

KS: We are looking at a couple of partners by April and May. There are several content aggregators, creators and online players in the video streaming space in different formats like TVF, FilterCopy, ScoopWhoop and Terribly Tiny Tales. Even if we must partner with any content creator, we’ll partner with somebody who is not already tried and tested and new on the block. We’ll partner somebody who is fresh, young, energetic and talented.

Would you say that start-ups use content marketing more than the already well-established brands? Why do we see this trend?

RS: The well-established brands don’t really need that much of a push. They are already well-established brands. Therefore, their focus is on traditional mediums. We need to be more creative to get the interest of our consumer piqued.

KS: We need to keep innovating in terms of content. The bigger brands do have bigger money to spend on content marketing and they would probably do it over a period through traditional content marketing mediums. In our case, we will have to think of newer ideas that might interest people.

Where do you see India keeping up the pace with content marketing trends internationally?

RS: We are far behind. I am not saying that the content quality in India is bad. They are ahead of us, in the sense that they began using content marketing ahead of us and hence they ahead of us in terms of creative, content and design. They have done it for so long that it has become normal business for them. At FreshMenu, we are trying to create things with the Indian mindset and an Indian audience in mind. We consciously avoid taking inspiration from the West. I think we can do better. We’ll get to their level much faster though, that I am sure of.

KS: The trends are very different if you consider country to country. Different mediums work for different people in different countries. For example, Pinterest is very popular among a lot of women in the US.

PB: Visually, the brand always must look aspirational and make a connection with the consumers.

At times, marketers end up doing branded content even with content marketing in mind. What would you suggest to marketers while taking the content marketing route?

KS: The brand needs to have a very subtle unifying connect to the content because what you create is the key to great content marketing. It can’t be in your face, out and out brand content because that’s not going to impress the customer. The content needs to be interesting enough and the real secret lies in how you storify it.