Uber Technologies Inc. co-founder Travis Kalanick has invested in India’s largest shared-kitchen company, a person familiar with the matter said, taking his second act in business to one of the world’s fastest-growing internet arenas.
Kalanick’s real estate company, City Storage Systems, bought a small stake in Rebel Foods Pvt as part of a previously disclosed $125 million round of funding, the person said, asking not to be identified talking about a private deal. The entrepreneur has taken a slice of a business valued at $525 million that delivers butter chicken and paneer-topped pizzas to millions of Indians, backed by big-name investors from Coatue Management and Goldman Sachs to Sequoia Capital and ride-hailing giant Gojek. Rebel Foods is now expanding beyond its home turf and into Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Cloud kitchens, much like cloud computing services, have become a popular business model for food-delivery providers that want to serve up meals while skirting the expense of traditional restaurants with their associated high real estate and service staff costs. Food is prepared through a network of tightly-packed kitchen spaces in affordable locations, far from the bustling high streets that restaurant brands favor.
Kalanick, who was ousted in 2017 from the U.S. ride-hailing leader he co-founded after a series of scandals, is making his first investment in India. Since that dramatic exit, Kalanick has set up an investment fund and charted a strategy to build a kitchen rental service — called CloudKitchens — through CSS. A spokesman for Rebel Foods declined to comment. A representative for a Singaporean unit of CSS didn’t have an immediate comment when contacted.
Kalanick’s involvement is a boost for Rebel. He took a startup with a small fleet of black cabs in his San Francisco base and turned it into a global ride-hailing leader before getting into meal delivery. Mumbai-headquartered Rebel, founded by McKinsey & Co. alumnus Jaydeep Barman, serves a wide menu through “virtual restaurants” that, as far as consumers are concerned, exist only on the internet.
Rebel’s own menu ranges from fragrant biryani and cottage cheese (paneer) pizzas to a hundred variations of dosa, southern India’s lentil-and-rice crepe. It operates more than 250 cloud kitchens in 22 Indian cities, and plans to expand to 400 by the year ending in March 2020, founder Barman told Bloomberg previously.
The startup however operates in a crowded space, particularly in India where delivery company Swiggy, backed by Naspers and Tencent Holdings Ltd., is also building its own virtual cooking network. Uber already delivers from a chain of so-called ghost kitchens, while Amazon.com Inc. is reportedly scoping out its own cloud kitchen and food delivery strategy.