The battle lines have been drawn. On one side is Zomato and the other, Swiggy. Both have successfully become verbs. But both want to be the only verb when it comes to customers, investors and food. And the duo has now found a new way to achieve that: cloud kitchens. Zomato has infrastructure services, and Swiggy, The Bowl Company (for now).

But maintaining a cloud kitchen isn’t an easy business. After all, it takes a restaurant an age to perfect recipes and even then sometimes, it just doesn’t agree with changing tastes. And these restaurants have the advantage of a physical storefront and advertisements. Food tech companies have tried their version of restaurants, with varying levels of success. Delhi National Capital Region (NCR)-based Yumist’s expansion to Bengaluru in 2015 was unsuccessful. It went back to the basics and decided to focus on Delhi NCR. Sequoia-funded Faasos, which championed the concept back in 2015, too, has found life difficult.

For Zomato and Swiggy, these experiments signify different things. Zomato is reducing its losses, and this new cloud kitchen could help by increasing order delivery margins. For Swiggy, it’s part of the quest to build a profitable arm of business. An arm, which will fund its delivery business.

The difference between the two cloud kitchens is stark. Zomato invites established brands to be a part of the kitchen. Swiggy will cook and sell its own food, just like FreshMenu. There is pressure, however, on both companies to show some profitability. There is a reason. It may not be a two-player market anymore. International superstars are eyeing India. Superstars like Google (for discovery, which is Zomato’s strength) and Uber’s food delivery arm UberEATS (Swiggy’s muscle).

Enter, cloud kitchen.

Attack formations

A cloud kitchen can best be described as a kitchen with no storefront. There’s no physical place a customer can walk up to, linger on the menu and place an order. That lingering happens on the web or an app. The kitchen cooks and delivers. It saves the cost of renting or buying property on high street.

The Ken sent Swiggy a detailed questionnaire. The company chose not to comment.

To set up a cloud kitchen, Swiggy tried many variations and price-points. But nothing stuck until it came up on a small revelation. In March 2016, it saw a surge of new users, in the age group of 16-28. They gave Swiggy a cause to celebrate. The company hit a record high of one million orders a month. But few, if not all, had the spending potential. The most they were willing to spend was Rs 200 per order (without a delivery fee).


Patanjali Pahwa

Patanjali has spent over seven years in journalism. He last worked at Business Standard as Principal Correspondent, where he wrote on startups, e-commerce companies and venture capital. He has worked at an array of institutions, which include Forbes India, Caravan and Outlook Business. He is a Mumbaikar, born and brought up. Patanjali did his BSc in IT from Mumbai University and then got his journalism degree from IIJNM in Bangalore. He is enamoured by Ernest Hemingway and Tom Waits and may try to sneak in references to them in his stories.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.