Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management giant, has launched India's first-ever food accelerator to help startups in the $14 billion food services ecosystem. The accelerator will be operated in partnership with Zone Startups.

The startups, that Sodexo will choose for its accelerator program, need not necessarily be food apps and these can be companies solving some real-life problems with or without the help of technology.

Mumbai-based Zone Startups India will help Sodexo in conducting bootcamps, connecting startups with companies and investors in the food ecosystem and formulating go-to market strategy.

Notably, Sodexo runs a 3-months accelerator program under the name of Sparx Accelerator, however its not clear if the acceerator launched in India will be the same or under different name. The accelerator do not take equity in the startups it selects.

Rishi Gour, Country President, Sodexo On-Site Services India, said, “The urban food market continues to offer tremendous growth potential for Sodexo India and is at an inflection point with rapid digitalisation, evolving consumers and the entry of new players. With start-ups offering innovative technologies and business models, we look forward to creating new services together and generating a differentiated experience for our consumers.”

The accelerator will provide startups with access to Sodexo large corporate customer base. The company is also open to investing in these startups through its venture fund, said Gour.

While the accelerator will not be making any investments in the selected startups, it may use their services through partnerships, or in future, if there are synergies, it may also look at acquiring a few of them.

Sodexo also has a venture capital arm called Sodexo Ventures, which has made six investments so far, and having made the most recent investment in China's AEYE-GO, in last month only.

In France, Sodexo has picked up a majority stake in a food delivery company called FoodCheri that was a part of its food accelerator.

“Here in India, we are looking at certain B2B food companies. We are at present inviting applications, and by the end of January, we will select a few,” Gour said.

He added that if Sodexo identifies a startup that has the potential to scale up globally, its €50 million venture fund might look at investing in them.

Sodexo, which is well-known in India for its flagship Sodexo meal vouchers, is globally known for its facility management services which include operating cafeterias and food canteens for corporates, manufacturing units and institutions. In India, the company is also trying to reach out to the consumers indirectly through its on-site services.

Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director of Zone Startups India, said that, “In the last few years, food-technology has been disrupting the start-up ecosystem. This has led to the emergence of several innovative consumer brands that need funds and hand-holding to scale up further."

It may be recalled that this is not the first food related accelerator in India, as in 2015 Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad has launched India’s first Food & Agri-Business accelerator for startups in food and agri-business sector.

In September last year, GSF, Ia tech accelerator founded by Rajesh Sawhney, and Infobridge have had launched Agrifood tech accelerator called "Gastrotope".

Source - Business Line

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