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India’s Captain Fresh more than doubled its valuation to $500 million in three months – TechCrunch

Captain Fresh, a retail farm platform for animal protein, has more than doubled its valuation to $500 million in three months as the Indian startup deepens its footprint in the local market and begins to expand overseas .

Existing backers Prosus Ventures and Tiger Global co-led the startup’s $50 million Series C funding, Captain Fresh founder and CEO Utham Gowda told TechCrunch in an interview. Existing investors, including Accel, also participated in the new round.

The B2B Seafood Marketplace, which has raised more than $100 million to date and was valued at around $200 million in its disclosed Series B round in December, is in talks to complete up to 10 million additional dollars in the new round. , said a person familiar with the matter. Gowda declined to comment on any expansion of the Series C round and the valuation of the startup.

Gowda, a former investment banker, has spent years tracking the seafood industry. He helped one of the industry’s biggest exporters at a time when it was exploring going public. Although the plan changed, it helped Gowda understand the ins and outs of the market.

“It’s a very big industry but also a very messy one,” he said, adding that it still consumes billions of dollars every year. “I got a good perspective on how India as well as the developed markets viewed this category and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time on the production floor and managing purchases.”

Captain Fresh, founded in 2019, takes a different approach to serving farmers and customers. “Every other player in the industry has tried to solve this problem from a brand point of view or from an end customer point of view. We believe that the central problem is to organize the supply,” he said. he said, “It’s a commodity business, but a private supply industry.”

The bet seems to pay off. Captain Fresh now helps farmers and fishermen sell nearly 100 tonnes of fresh fish and more than three dozen other seafood species every day, he said. The startup, which has set up more than 50 collection centers, helps farmers sell to more than 2,500 companies in almost all of India’s coastal states.

Captain Fresh now also operates in the United States, Spain and the Middle East and international activity, which started less than three months ago, already accounts for 20% of global activity. Most of the big brands – including some e-commerce services and offline retailers – in India have become Captain Fresh customers.

The animal protein market is highly fragmented. Historically, farmers buy fish and other seafood through an auction and take the produce to wet markets. But this approach is riddled with many inefficiencies. On the one hand, if the supply does not arrive on time on the wet markets, several actors do not have the means to secure the product.

“We bring reliability, which basically means that [businesses] can place an order with us, we confirm the order to them and the next day deliver the product at 6am. So they can then devote all their bandwidth to marketing and selling the product rather than worrying about supply and other things,” he said.

“We are also looking for quality. For example, in our supply chain, we measure quality by what we call the number of fish contacts. The more keys, the worse the quality will be. We were able to get less than five or four points of contact from when the fish was caught to the point of sale, compared to more than 25-30 contacts seen in the traditional supply chain,” he said. .

Captain Fresh’s approach has allowed it to extend the shelf life of fish and other seafood from a day to a day and a half. “In a category where inventory has a three-day shelf life, a day and a half is a significant buffer for anyone associated with us because the window they have to make the sale increases by 40%,” said he declared.

The startup sees similar opportunities in international markets, where the supply chain is riddled with the same challenges. “I can say now that meat retail in the United States is not as mature and we have a lot of things we can do to add value even to developed markets,” said Gowda, who joined the Zoom call from the United States.

Captain Fresh plans to roll out the new funds to expand into a few additional geographies, including some in Southeast Asia and Africa. It also envisions inorganic growth via acquisitions, he said.

The startup is also experimenting with a social commerce model to help farmers sell more. On its app today, Captain Fresh offers these farmers reviews and content. And, “if you are a fisherman, you can upload your inventory details to our platform and we will sell it in real time. Then our fulfillment takes over,” he said.

The idea of ​​social commerce is to help anglers replicate the offline experience more effectively on the digital platform, he said.

“On the supply side, from a seafood market, Captain Fresh is now entering the broader animal protein industry,” said Ashutosh Sharma, chief investment officer at Prosus Ventures in India, in a statement. communicated.

“On the demand side as well, they have expanded their reach by adding new export markets. All of this is made possible by the same underlying technological infrastructure highlighting the potential of the platform. Captain Fresh continues to perform very well and at a fast pace. We are delighted to support their mission and partner in their growth.