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Jaydeep Barman, the co-founder and chief executive of food-tech firm Rebel Foods, takes two weeks of vacation every year, which he spends on climbing the mountains in the beautiful Himalayas. But this year seems to be clearly an exception as the former McKinsey consultant was busy with something more pressing — charting out plans to take its ‘cloud kitchens’ to global markets.

The Mumbai-based company, known for brands like Faasos and Behrouz Biryani, has shortlisted several markets for its global foray, including the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. By next year, it plans to set up operations in Mexico, Brazil, the US, and the UK, said Barman. This will make it the first Indian internet restaurant company to launch cloud kitchens in the overseas market.

A cloud kitchen is one that does not offer dine-in facility and accepts food orders only through an online ordering system. Rebel operates more than 205 delivery cloud kitchens and 1,600 online restaurants across 18 Indian cities. In the next two years, the company aims to have around 500 cloud kitchens. Besides, Rebel also runs Mandarin Oak that provides Chinese cuisine; Oven Story that is known for pizzas, and Sweet Truth that offers desserts.

The company is in the process of introducing a health food business unit as well, and is in talks with marquee global food brands who want to enter the India market. These food brands can use Rebel’s infrastructure, including cloud kitchens and supply chain, to set up their operations in the country. “If someone wants to reach 200 locations in six months, we are the only ones who have the power to do it,” added Barman.

The concept of cloud kitchen has recently caught the attention of food tech companies and investors who are pouring millions of dollars into such facilities. Bengaluru-based Swiggy, a Naspers and Tencent Holdings backed food delivery start-up, is expanding its cloud kitchen platform Swiggy Access to metros, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad.

The platform enables its restaurant partners to set up kitchen spaces in locations where they don’t operate but have a high demand for their product. Swiggy Access houses brands such as Truffles, Vasudev Adigas, and Leon Grill as well as the company’s private label brands like The Bowl Company and Homely.

Last October, Ola-owned Foodpanda said it had acquired Mumbai-based food-tech venture Holachef for an undisclosed amount. Through this collaboration, Foodpanda marked its strategic entry into cloud kitchens and plans to launch its own brand of food products in different categories. It was also reported that Gurugram-based food delivery and restaurant discovery firm Zomato was also making strategic investments in Bengaluru-based Loyal Hospitality for its cloud kitchen project.

What differentiates Rebel from the rest is that it does not operate its kitchens as ‘landlord’ type of facilities. Besides, it is in the process of automating the processes at its kitchens use robotics, machine learning, and data analytics. “We would integrate the (outside) brands in our supply chain and operations and run them more like our own brand,” said Barman, an alumnus of INSEAD, who co-founded the firm along with Kallol Banerjee in 2011.

The company has plans to explore other opportunities such as setting up enterprise caféterias and offline stores at airports and malls. Unlike e-commerce business, which is more about winner-takes-all-market concept, Barman said there is space for a lot of internet restaurant companies to thrive in India just like the US, where there are over 75 such companies operating with a turnover of $1 billion and more.

At a glance

Rebel Foods plans to launch ‘cloud kitchens’ in overseas markets

Looks to countries such the UK, US, Brazil, UAE and Indonesia for global foray

Cloud kitchens do not offer dine-in facility, accepts only online orders

Company operates 205 cloud kitchens in India, plans to grow to 500 over next 2 yrs

Firm looking at opportunities like setting up cafeterias for large firms, offline stores at airports, malls

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