The fruits (and vegetables) of Biju George’s labour- his startup venture Purple Peedika

by Business Periscope

The fruits (and vegetables) of Biju George’s labour- his startup venture Purple Peedika

“The Purple Peedika yard is run like a kitchen of a 5-star hotel.”

In Conversation with Biju George

Founder & CEO, Purple Peedika

You have a craving for some guacamole and toast but your family insists on sticking to a traditional meal of rice, sambar and vazhapindi thoran. Lunch is under four hours away and none of the places you usually get your groceries from could deliver all the different fruits and vegetables that you want in time. 

Enter Purple Peedika– a Kochi-based startup catering to the traditional as well as gourmet palates with same day delivery (for orders placed before 10 am) and assured next day delivery! At your doorstep delivered by a Purple Peedika delivery staff member with pleasantries and a smile, packaged to perfection─ preparations for a delicious lunch using fresh produce ensues. 

From the Chef’s Table

After recognising a gap in the market during the lockdown when it came to the online delivery of well-packaged fresh fruits and vegetables within a good time frame, Chef Biju George decided to start Purple Peedika. Purple Peedika is your local (yet gourmet) greengrocer!

For a chef, the ingredients that go into a meal is what makes the magic happen and it was George’s intention to extend this into the household kitchens around Kochi. He says, “As a chef I know that only with fresh & high-quality vegetables can a good dish be prepared. To supply such vegetables- this is the philosophy on which Purple Peedika is based.”

Given his background of 26 years in the luxury hospitality sector, Chef Biju George has extended those sensibilities into the brand by functioning as a five-star hotel would. Here are a few of the things that truly sets Purple Peedika apart from their competitors: 

1. Quality

The mantra that Purple Peedika as a brand channels is ‘Quality Matters’. All of the produce listed on the Purple Peedika page are sourced from ethical farmers based in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka while onions are exclusively obtained from Nashik. Purple Peedika has a godown in Mysore where okra and ridge gourd are sourced and stored. No matter what you choose to buy, every fruit/vegetable is handpicked and subject to a three-step quality check process before being packaged and set out for delivery. The elements of the brand’s three-tier quality control system to guarantee this promise are:

  • At the first level, farmers are instructed to load the produce into crates supplied by Purple Peedika instead of gunny bags. A rough check of the produce is done at this stage. 
  • On the second level, after arrival in the Purple Peedika yard, products of different perishability are assessed and separated using the different parameters set based on the produce in question. Here, a more thorough check is done as the produce is subject to the eagle-eye checks of the expert Purple Peedika grading staff. This is such a vital step in the process that Chef George has splurged to specially create stainless steel grading tables of specific angles to choose only the best of the best. “The Purple Peedika yard is run like a kitchen of a 5-star hotel,” he assures. 
  • Lastly, the Purple Peedika packing staff conduct final checks to ensure exceptional quality before receiving a final stamp of approval from a quality inspector before the bag is finally sealed and sent off to the customer. 

2. Packaging

One of the shortfalls of the online fruit and vegetable delivery services that Chef Biju identified was their poor packaging. The Purple Peedika packaging is eco-friendly and paper-based, keeping the produce neat without causing significant harm to the environment. For the cut vegetable as part of kits, the containers are biodegradable with minimal use of cling wrap. 

For larger and heavier orders, delivery is done in beautiful handmade bags called Purple bags created by Kudumbashree units using tailoring scraps. These upcycled Purple bags are another step towards sustainable packaging that Purple Peedika is making.

3. Service

Greengrocers can feel like a luxury service too owing to the training that all the Purple Peedika delivery personnel receive, akin to a five-star hotel. Right from greeting customers with pleasantries to how they receive customer complaints, service is truly a class apart.

4. Delivery time

The other players in the online fruit and vegetable delivery space take up to 2 to 3 days to complete an order. Cravings can’t wait- so the produce must reach the customers within a maximum of a day’s time! When a customer places an order before 10 am, they are even assured same day delivery within the Kochi metropol. 

Chef Biju George wants to take things to the next level and is working towards a system where the fruits and vegetables can be delivered within a time frame of 2 hours!

What’s in a name?

A lot of thought and research went into coming up with a name like Purple Peedika. Chef Biju George wanted a good brand recall and intended on straying away from the practice of using the adjective or colour ‘green’ in his fruit and vegetable store’s name and logo. The use of the colour Purple was his preferred choice. ‘Peedika’ is the Malayalam word for local store and has a unique ring to it allowing local people to connect further to the brand. 

Not your average Greengrocer

Chef Biju and his brand Purple Peedika aren’t your average greengrocer! 

The range of 130+ types of products with 35 varieties of fruits offered will suit different markets. These many varieties of produce are not offered by any of their competitors! Right from the humble vazhapindi (banana stem) to avocados, it’s all available on Purple Peedika. That being said, Biju insists, “I don’t plan on adding every single product on my website. I will be selective, therefore ensuring that Purple Peedika remains a place where you get gourmet products.” 

There is another distinction to this Kochi-based brand─ the founder wants to explore the chance to revive forgotten local fruits and vegetables and make it available to the urban population. Clove beans and water spinach for instance are widely available through most of the year in Kerala but farmers do not grow them as currently, there is no market for them. Purple Peedika also sells Chengalikodan vazhakkula bananas which are cultivated in a unique traditional manner in a specific location that possesses the GI (geographical indication) tag. 

On the website, there is a segment for local produce where fruits and vegetables are gathered from local markets within a 100 km radius (from Munnar to Thrissur to Alleppey); George is working on a contract to get fresh local produce from the local and traditional farmers of these regions. In addition to this, they are also associated with farmers markets (controlled by farmers themselves) and everything is sourced from the farmers directly. 

However, life as a gourmet greengrocer is not always a bowl of cherries. Biju George gives the instance of how he sourced basil for a customer when it wasn’t available anywhere else in the city- and it was obtained from the terrace garden of a Kochi-based farmer. He completed his promise to his customer, going the extra mile to search for the product they wanted, despite facing a Rs 100/- loss on his end- a true testament to Biju’s dedication to upholding the vision he has for the Purple Peedika brand. Supplying from other local markets or retailers is only considered when all others are exhausted as options.

In the unlikely case of bad quality produce, instead of performing a half-hearted delivery of substandard goods, Purple Peedika chooses to reach out to customers and informs them that they will not be able to fulfill the order as the product is unavailable, offering to replace, refund with Purple Coins (in case of unavailability) or resupply the product. He says, “The ultimate aim is to supply only good products.” 

The food wastes generated enter a bio-composting system on site. If any of the produce are still in edible conditions, George has created a system to redirect it to COVID relief kitchens around the city with the support of the councillor. 

The addition of new products and a grocery section selling organic USDA-certified pre-packaged goods is set to happen in the near future. Purple Peedika will soon become a one-stop shop for all cooking needs with all daily essentials like oils, grains, pulses, eggs, bread and dosa batter listed. 

A long term plan is to expand to different cities of Kerala. Purple Peedika already has been receiving enquiries to consider franchising however, this is not a priority at the moment. Chef George intends to establish Purple Peedika without compromising quality before considering expansion. 

The Cherry on the Cake

Within the short period that Purple Peedika has been in existence, they have celebrated many achievements. Purple Peedika supplies vegetables to Nimmy Paul, one of the most famous traditional chefs in Kochi for her household use. Biju George prides this as he recognises the value that a renowned chef like her would place on quality. Not only her, Purple Peedika as a brand managed to break into high-end society customers and has become a favourite among culinary enthusiasts- which affirms his belief that there was a gap in the market and that he is providing a service that people were, in fact, looking for. High-end customers don’t gamble and Purple Peedika has always proved to be a safe choice. “People are ready to buy, people are ready to spend if they get quality produce,” he affirms. 

Another achievement for the brand, something that surpassed his expectations, was the average spend from every Purple Peedika customer. He estimated Rs 300/- per purchase but the reality averages Rs 450/-! 

Purple Peedika is certainly not a ‘run off the mill’ fruit and vegetable seller neither is it a fancy place that makes it intimidating to even place an order─ treading this balance carefully has been a priority for the founder. Customers can easily place their orders on the Purple Peedika website, via their user-friendly mobile application (available on both Play Store and iOS) or by contacting the WhatsApp Business page. 

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