WayCool Foods closes $117-million funding round to push deeptech, automation

Chennai: Agritech startup WayCool Foods has racked up $117 million in an ongoing Series D funding round that saw the participation of new and existing investors, including LightRock, LightBox, FMO, Lightsmith, World Bank’s International Finance Corp., Redwood Equity Partners and Gawa Capital.

The company had in October
raised $13 million as part of the latest fundraise. The fresh capital will be used to accelerate and leverage deeptech and automation to enhance its efficiency multifold.

The company is also looking to enter the alternative meats segment, cofounder and chief executive officer Karthik Jayaraman told ET. “These categories are small today but will grow rapidly…. The advantage we have is access to the raw materials. We’re also investing in a food-technology lab in Bangalore,” he said. “We will look at a range of value-added products, including alternative meats and other such categories.”

According to a report by Research & Markets, the Indian meat substitutes market is likely to clock a compounded annual growth rate of 7.48% over the next five years to become a near $50 million industry by FY26.

Founded in July 2015 by Karthik Jayaraman and Sanjay Dasari, WayCool Foods works with 1,500 small farmers across South India, buying around 320 varieties of fresh produce as well as staples, dairy and other produce. It also works directly with around 35 non-governmental cooperatives with access to a tentative base of 35,000 farmers.

The Chennai-based agritech startup also plans to strengthen its private labels, particularly in the value-added foods category.

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“If you look at the sale of our private label brands, it is the same as the revenue of the entire company one and a half years ago,” Jayaraman said. “We’ve grown 6x and within that, if you look at the value-added, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat categories, the growth has been about 8x, in the last 18 months or so. And it is only going to expand further.”

The company, which has grown from 20 people to 170 on the technology side, will add another 180 employees over the next three months to become a 350-person organisation, Jayaraman said.

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