A #downbutnotout story: Wildermart's resilient pivot from conscious grocery to AI-driven healthtech
Wildermart set shop in May 2021 as a conscious grocery store. It has now evolved into an AI-powered healthy food store. But what exactly is an AI-powered healthy food store? We decided to dig deeper.
There are very few startups unscathed by the current funding winter—those with deeper reserves have kept a low profile and recalibrated their approach to growth, while many others have unfortunately perished. Still, a few have used it as an opportunity to pivot. Wildermart is one of them.
Wildermart set shop in May 2021 as a conscious grocery store, and we covered them in our feature right after their first funding round in March 2022. It has now evolved into an AI-powered healthy food store. But what exactly is an AI-powered healthy food store? We decided to dig deeper.
"Honestly, I realised that I had built a capital-heavy business, and the lack of capital just put an end to it. But I was so convinced of the work I had to do, I wasn't ready to shut shop yet,” says Shweta Thakur, the founder.
“So I closed the shop temporarily and started thinking of how to make the business capital independent. This survival streak made me dig deeper into customer behaviour, and I ended up converting Wildermart from a simple marketplace to a healthtech product… and this pivot is a live example of how the paucity of resources can push us to the wall to create something bigger and better."
The problem statement
Most people in their 30s go through what Wildermart calls, a 'health event'. This is an event which makes them snap out of their reverie and forces them to re-examine their health situation. It could be a shirt that didn't fit, a trek they couldn't complete, or a blood report they didn't like. Post this event, they start reading up and take to an activity they like: running, cycling, yoga, sports, and more. But when they try to re-think their diet, they run into a roadblock.
A user can research to find what's healthy for them or employ a nutritionist to do that. But when the meal plan is handed over, this journey ends. A fresh one starts in the grocery store—to find the products on the meal plan, which isn't easy. This gap makes a lot of people drop off the grid.
The bigger challenge is that this activity is at a point in time. But the human body keeps changing. So there is a need to constantly re-calibrate what's healthy for them, and any user will get tired of doing it repeatedly. They will need an easy solution—convenience of a different kind.
"The truth is no one wants to get healthy, 99.7% of people are forced into getting healthy—simply because they don't want to be sick or overweight. It usually happens to people now in their 30s, once they have hit their career, marriage, and kids milestone,” says Shweta. “This is the time they are in between life's milestones and have finally found time for themselves. So a bad blood report usually knocks them off their feet, and they want to start living healthy. It's all good till they choose their activity. But when they start rethinking their food, it gets complex to know and find what's healthy for them."
Health-conscious consumers shop differently. They are not looking for the dal chawal aisles. They are looking for protein, fibre, calcium, and so on. They need a lot more information on their products. They are looking for products that work for their health goals—which they don't find easily in the small ‘health foods’ aisles of the grocery apps. They are time-poor, more knowledgeable, involved with their food, and willing to spend. But they are making do with their current options because nothing better exists.
Wildermart 2.0 is a store designed for this differentiated buying behaviour.
The solution lies in technology
Wildermart has built a technology-backed solution, which seeks to answer the health-conscious consumer's problems.
Wildermart curates health products for different health use cases: diets, allergies, general wellness, goals, diseases, and more. It chooses local startups that are making comparatively cleaner foods. It has more than 1,500 products live right now—and is aiming to take this to 3,000 by December 2023.
It does a 100% label check on all products. It reads the labels to remove the products that aren't “healthy". It sorts the healthy stuff into correct aisles using label data. It gives benefits and warnings for every product—so that consumers do not need to spend hours reading labels and deciding what's to be done.
"There is a lot of talk now about reading labels. But when we started working on our label algorithm, we realised that it is absolutely impossible for consumers to read labels even if they want to,” says Shweta. “The intent is there, but the amount of data processing required in the short time frame makes it impossible as a human task. It is a task for a machine."
Wildermart’s AI is designed to sift through its catalogue to recommend the right products to match every user's health goals and needs. Personalisation reduces clutter, helps in better discovery, and makes commerce very efficient.
"Health is unique to every individual. What works for me may not work for you. I might find wholewheat bread healthy, but if you are gluten intolerant, it's unhealthy. So as a store, it becomes important to cut out the clutter and show the customer exactly what works for them," says Shweta.
Wildermart has created a membership model. At Rs 99 per month, you get all your healthy food brands like TWT, Gladful, Evolve, and more—at an insider pricing of 15% off. You also get free deliveries anywhere in India and access to a host of health services brands through its rewards programme.
This combination of choice, information, personalisation, and value is what the team at Wildermart is hoping will be the holy grail to attract a health-conscious consumer to its store.
The future build
By 2026, 30 crore Indians will suffer from diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular diseases. Most of these are now diagnosed in their 30s and 40s, and all of them need a change in diet. The goal ahead of Wildermart is to help such customers on their journey of recovery and healing through food.
The AI will be designed to use customer's health data—through its diagnostics or wearables data—combine it with algorithms designed for complex nutritional recommendations and then overlay it on top of the commerce catalogue to tell each user exactly what is healthy for them. It aims to simplify the process of eating healthy by cutting out the thinking and amplifying the doing.
"The goal for us is to create a bridge between nutrition plans and commerce. The user shouldn't have to fill out a form. They should just connect their wearable or blood report data, and we will be able to design their recommended nutritional basket constantly,” says Shweta. “Over time, their actual shopping basket will start looking like the recommended nutritional basket. And all the user needs to do is choose whether to pick strawberry or chocolate flavours. The heavy lifting of eating healthy will be done by us."
The funding winter has forced Wildermart to innovate and transform from a grocery store to a healthtech company. It plans to do things differently this time around. No heavy spending on customer acquisition or delivery infrastructure. It has created an asset-light model focusing on tech.
Edited by Jarshad NK