A few years ago, Prashant Kumbhat and his wife attended a Jain conference in the United States to realise how they were not truly following the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) that Jainism preaches. They were spectators at the conference where a gentleman was speaking about how Jains should not just avoid eating animals but also turn vegan if they really want to practice non-violence in their lives. This made the couple reflect on their food choices. “The information presented at the conference made me think about my actions and their impact on innocent beings that were deprived of a happy life because of my gastric pleasure,” Prashant, Founder and CEO of UK-Based Get Vegan Grub, told The Vegan Indians.
“I was born into a Jain family and was raised to follow the principles of Jainism, the most important of which is ahimsa. In Jainism, ahimsa means trying your best to reduce mental or physical violence against any living being. As is the norm in Jainism, I grew up a vegetarian, oblivious to the cruelty of the dairy industry.”
Prashant and his wife decided to turn vegan the very next day of the conference, and have never looked back. “We have been vegan over three years, and it is the best decision we have ever made,” he said.
Making Vegan Accessible to All
A technologist by profession, Prashant found his true calling after moving to the United Kingdom. He realised that the UK vegan food scene was thriving in every form – from restaurants and cafes to street food vendors and home-based businesses. “There were a few major players in the market, but none was really catering to the needs of street food vendors and home-based chefs. That is how our first iteration ‘IndieHob’ was born. We were able to pilot it with a few home-based businesses, and then thought about extending the pilot to restaurants and cafes – our second iteration. That was also when we decided to change our name to Get Vegan Grub – of vegans, by vegans, for the love of animals,” Prashant remarked.
Prashant said that Get Vegan Grub is an ethical alternative to Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats in the UK, or Swiggy and Zomato in India. Besides enabling delivery of vegan food through the platform, Get Vegan Grub also partners with ethical companies to deliver their services.
Building a Business with Ethical Considerations
According to Prashant, the inspiration for Get Vegan Grub is drawn from the principles of Jainism and veganism. “My philosophy is very simple – play fair, and work with others who do the same.” The company is trying to do things differently with the limited resources it has. But, how?
Prashant said that his business stands on three strong principles: non-violence, sustainability, and ethical business practices. Explaining them, he said, “We never profit from the misery and suffering of voiceless animals. We treat our partners with respect, offering them an easy and affordable way to sell online. Unlike other platforms, we do not overcharge our partners. This means our partners get to reinvest their profits back in their businesses. Secondly, we request our partners to provide eco-friendly packaging. We have partnered with Enviropack to provide a discounted rate to all of our food businesses. Better for the animals and better for the environment.”
“To run our platform, we have to work with other companies that help us with technology, delivery services, etc. We research our partners and do our best to work only with ones that pay good wages, support good causes, and play fair with others in a crowded marketplace. On the technology front, we have developed our own platform and do not use Amazon for any technology/other services (both professionally and personally). We have partnered with a self-funded company for all of our platform needs. We do not allow any advertising on our sites, and we do not share customer data with any third parties. On the delivery front, we work with a UK-based company that pays fair wages to their riders and provides eco-friendly solutions for delivery in the form of bicycles.”
“I am hoping that this way of doing business can inspire others to think along the same lines and create businesses that are truly sustainable,” commented Prashant.
A Risky Business Proposition?
Did Prashant ever feel that a 100% vegan food delivery app might turn out to be a risky business proposition? Giving his views, Prashant said, “Every business has inherent risks associated with it, and Get Vegan Grub is not immune from that. But our mission and values are what differentiate us from our competition. We have seen strong support coming out of our pilot phase, and we will continue to build on that as we grow.”
“There is a lot that we are offering vegans, flexitarians, and ethically minded customers. A huge part of our marketing effort is to let our customers and potential customers know that we offer a much better deal for food businesses and for delivery riders. Choosing to place their order with us helps businesses stay afloat and stay profitable. In a lot of cases, we have seen the same menu items appear less expensive on Get Vegan Grub than on other platforms; our partners pass on their savings to their customers.”
“Additionally, with Get Vegan Grub, customers can look at relevant food options and place their orders without having to search through several dozen non vegan options. They can trust that what is listed on our site is vegan, and not an item that will have to be veganised on demand,” he commented.
The Year So Far
Coronavirus pandemic has impacted businesses across the world, especially those that took off this year. The whole year has been difficult for hospitality businesses, especially restaurants and cafes that depend on foot traffic and dine in customers to stay afloat. Prashant said, “A lot of businesses have had to shut down temporarily, furlough staff, and work with a bare minimum workforce to keep their business running. All of these factors combined have put a lot of strain on them, making it difficult for a start up like ours to get their attention. With the new strain of the virus and new lockdown rules, unfortunately this will continue. But we are optimistic and see light at the end of the tunnel.”
“A silver lining of the crisis is that restaurants are placing a greater emphasis on takeaway and delivery, and they are looking for new platforms to do that. Joining Get Vegan Grub helps restaurants to market to vegans and flexitarians at a much lower cost than other aggregator platforms.”
Vegan Food: UK vs India
Giving his opinion on the comparison between the status of vegan foods in India and the UK, Prashant said, “Indian food by default is vegan friendly. Most places I have been to, since going vegan, have very happily substituted dairy ingredients with their non-dairy counterparts. The UK has seen an explosion of vegan food in the form of all-vegan restaurants and cafes, packaged snacks, frozen foods, fake meats etc. From all the news I read, I believe India is catching up and will soon have a huge market for all things vegan. The one thing I have noticed from my own experience is it is difficult for most folks to give up dairy. There is almost an aversion to it! I believe if there are good dairy alternatives in India, we will see a much quicker growth,” said Prashant.
Expansion Plans in the Pipeline
Get Vegan Grub is currently catering only to Manchester and plans to take the service to London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Exeter, and Cardiff in the future. The company has just sprung out of its pilot phase and is partnering with new businesses every week.
“There is an upward trend in terms of customer awareness, seeing businesses interested in what we do, and overall support from customers who choose us over our direct competitors,” Prashant concluded.