When Licious, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) meat and seafood startup, turned unicorn last year, it was a rare moment of mainstream recognition for a space that has largely remained unchanged for decades. Indeed, India’s meat and seafood sector—which analysts from Bernstein estimate is worth $40 billion $40 billion Techcrunch India's Licious raises $150 million for its fresh animal protein e-commerce platform Read more —has strong parallels with local fish markets. It is largely unorganised, messy, inconsistent, and riddled with quality issues.

For companies that aim to bring some semblance of order to the space, such as Licious and its peers FreshToHome and Tendercuts, there’s a goldmine waiting to be tapped. Realising this opportunity, though, is an expensive and complicated nightmare. These companies must sort out sourcing, warehousing, long-distance transport, and finally, last-mile delivery. All while building brand recognition through aggressive marketing.

But even as they build their farm-to-fork empires brick by brick, a dark horse in the space is challenging the notion that D2C is the best path to meat and seafood success. Enter, Captain Fresh.

Founded in 2019, Captain Fresh eschewed the consumer-facing meat and seafood play from the get go. Instead, it has built its business by solving for the seafood supply chain, building a digital layer connecting fisherfolk, collection centres, and retailers. Through this, it ensures that the seafood it sources reaches the end buyer as quickly and efficiently as possible—eliminating the unpredictability of sourcing from local markets.

This value proposition has helped Captain Fresh sign up more than 2,500 clients, sourcing around 100 tonnes of seafood and other animal protein (which it has recently started sourcing) each day. The company even counts the likes of e-grocer BigBasket and Swiggy’s grocery arm Instamart as customers. In the quarter ended March 2022, says company founder Utham Gowda, Captain Fresh hit an annual revenue rate annual revenue rate annual revenue rate Annual Revenue Rate (ARR) is the estimated annual revenue for a company on the basis of a month's revenue. (ARR) of $100 million. For context, when Licious achieved unicorn status in October 2021, it claimed an ARR of ~$131 million.

“We are doubling every quarter. Our ARR was $25 million in the September quarter, $50 million in December and $100 million now in March,”

Utham Gowda, CEO of Captain Fresh


Unsurprisingly, Captain Fresh is gaining ground on its D2C peers in the valuation sweepstakes.

AUTHOR

Bhumika Khatri

Bhumika covers e-commerce, consumer internet, and everything startup for The Ken in Delhi. In her previous stint at Inc42, she spent two and a half years writing about a breadth of startups and topics. A commerce graduate, Bhumika completed her postgraduate in journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru. You can reach her at [email protected]

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