31 Oct 2017 16:05 IST

Pampering the palate with 48 Asian cuisines

Bengaluru start-up delights diners with new flavours from little-known regions

Exhausted after a long commute from one end of Bengaluru to another in maddening traffic, you just want to flop into bed when hunger pangs strike. Shuddering at the thought of hitting the road again, you decide to order in. But you’ve tried all the nearby options and are bored of the favourites too. That may be the right time to try out 48East, the Asian gourmet food delivery service, and savour its offbeat offerings ranging from Korean to Uzbek, and Yemeni to Indonesian delicacies.

Started in August 2016 by industry veterans Joseph Cherian and Nabhojit Ghosh, 48East is a Bengaluru-based food start-up that delivers Asian gourmet food on demand. Featuring a wide range of ethnic, regional cuisines, it has been delivering fine Asian fare at people’s homes for over a year now.

Representing 48 countries from East and West Asia, 48East serves up not only familiar food from China, India and Thailand but also more exotic items, ranging from brightly coloured West Asian desserts to the subtle and light flavours of the South-East and Japan, and from the hearty meals of Central Asia to great khaana from across the Indian sub-continent.

Nabhojit does the food planning and research and Joseph looks after marketing, sales and finance, while both focus on different aspects of design and strategy.

 

Delivery model

Nabhojit has more than 30 years of experience at leading hotel chains, a private equity firm and a leading food tech brand in India.

With expertise in global cuisine and kitchen setups, he has had stints at Oberoi Hotels, Radisson and Taj Hotels.

Joseph, an alumnus of Harvard Business School, has over 20 years of experience in managing global markets, setting up and scaling new business verticals for brands such as Papa John’s India and McDonald’s. He’s travelled widely across the Asian region, is excited by the vast swathe of flavours and combinations he has tasted in different countries and wants to bring that zest, those aromas into Indian homes.

But why adopt the delivery model rather than start a restaurant?

Joseph says: “We wanted to offer clients a new taste and flavour experience. Though Asia is home to several ethnic cuisines within each region, consumers know little about this diversity. The gourmet Asian food served in most boutique restaurants and five-star hotels is limited to Indo-Chinese or East Asian cuisines. Menus rarely feature delicacies from across Asia and, when they do, not everyone can afford them. So, we started 48East hoping to create a wider awareness about this gastronomic variety and offer eclectic Asian cuisine at affordable prices to the discerning customer.”

What are some of the favourites? “The dumplings are hugely popular,” says Joseph. “The range of steamed delights — from fun gou dumplings and chicken-chive pot-stickers to fried veggie wontons and pok choy-mushroom dim sum – come with an assortment of three sauces to suit different tastes. The baos, or steamed buns, another 48East specialty, are ordered often too, as are the crisp Som Tam Thai salad and wholesome Korean bibimbap.”

Signatures boast of Mushy Peas and Cheese dumplings and Devilled Chicken Bao, while Asian Lites include Tangy Pad Thai wraps, Turkish Chicken Kebob Sandy and Tabbei paneer bao rolls with a Persian touch. There are combo offers as well, showcasing such exotic pairings as Yemeni Mandi Biryani with Banana Caramel pudding, and Ginger scallion fish, and chilli garlic noodles with Nizami shahi tukda.

Asked how they make sure each dish is authentic, and from where they source the right ingredients, Joseph says: “The authenticity of every dish from each country is ensured by experienced in-house chefs, who curate each item to suit the Indian palate without compromising on authenticity. There are now a whole lot of distributors selling imported foodstuffs, from whom most of the ingredients are sourced.”

Regular customer Carolyn Theresa Simon says: “48East offers a great variety of Asian food that you can enjoy in the comfort of your home. Not just Sushi or Chinese Manchurian, there is a whole lot more waiting to be discovered. Most of us don’t realise that Indian food also falls under Asian cuisine, and how can we forget our Middle Eastern cousins. At 48East, it’s all about exploring different parts of Asia. From dumplings, baos, dimsum and the humble laksa to Persian rolls and innovative Asian desserts, they have it all. The ordering and delivery experience is seamless too.”

The mains are priced at ₹180-200, the sides average ₹160-180 and combo pairings are priced at ₹260-300. Most of the desserts cost ₹110-200. With a menu that changes weekly, 48East offers handpicked dishes from Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Turkey, India, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Japan, apart from other Asian countries.

 

Funding, expansion

What about funding? “We were bootstrapped for about 6-7 months, to ensure that the model works. Then we received $250,000 in angel funding from Agra-based ACPL Exports and pre-Series A funding of $500,000 from the Al Dhaheri family,” says Joseph. Starting with one kitchen, the company now operates five kitchens and processes over 9,000 orders a month. They have invested ₹2 crore in the infrastructure and hope to break even in four months. 48East serves more than a dozen areas in Bengaluru and hopes to expand in the coming months. Joseph says only after the Bengaluru model is established and successful will they think of expanding to other cities.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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