‘Health is an investment you make to have the life of your dreams.’ Araj Hassan, CEO
Tell us about when and why you set up VMeals?
VMeals was set up right after the lockdown ended locally, in the third quarter of 2020. The motivation behind setting up a healthy food company came from my personal journey and connection with food! Suffering from renal failure in my early teens, it was right changes in my diet that helped me recover when all medicine failed.
I am from an entrepreneur family background, always wanted to take things in his own hands. At the age of 15 I dropped out of school after class IX. I knew I could finish my education on my own and wanted to get a head start to work, gain work experience, and earn money. I was up for any challenge to achieve my aim of working to earn, learning from the school of hard knocks. To ensure I learned my own lessons, I didn’t join my family business but started doing jobs that I got on my own merit like selling Etisalat cards, manning stands at shows in town, I even acted in a horror movie, literally anything with earning and learning potential was game. At age 18 on the dot, I completed my A levels studying on my own, preparing for them in three months nullifying the three years I would have spent to achieve the same goal had I stayed on to complete my school education.
An important lesson I learned at that time is ‘Health is an investment you make to have the life of your dreams’ I learned that I was afflicted with a hereditary ailment that could lead to kidney failure. This tested my resilience in a new way as I sought to overcome a new life-threatening hurdle. Like every cloud, this experience too had a silver lining – an awakening of his mind to the importance of health. I learned how a combination of good diet and exercise is imperative to living well and being fulfilled. That lesson is lifelong and has influenced me in my decision to launch Vmeals.
How do you differentiate from other home meal delivery services?
We are a consumer focused meal prep company, with multiple diets and portion sizes available, we have a plan that FITS our customers’needs. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by offering the clients what they need, by giving the utmost flexibility on creating their own plans! Our clients even have the liberty to setup their own custom plans and diets with us, with support of our in-house nutritionist! Moreover, we don’t lock-in our clients with contracts!
Was is difficult to launch a new business during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has severely affected multiple markets and it has challenged businesses and entrepreneurs in many unique ways. Location based, brick and mortar concepts have taken a severe hit while digital commerce took off. Strategically positioning your product within the right sales channels and attracting the right audience is definitely one of the biggest challenges.
My career in food began when I decided to venture out on my own to market an app created by myself and my friend. The app was expected to convert all paper Menus into Digital menus thus ensuring the customers had a good experience when they went to restaurants for dine-in. The app had features like scanning a QR code assigned to a restaurant menu whereby information on every item listed including its calorie content and nutritional value was transferred to a customer’s mobile phone.
I thought about this before Covid – such features became the norm for every restaurant after Covid. The app had features which have tremendous potential in current times. My anchor client – a vegan restaurant in Century Village called The Flipside Restobar was first to use this product, happy to highlight the healthy fare on offer.
‘VMenu’ as we called it, was truly innovative in its time but lost its value in the pandemic when all restaurants were obliged to discard printed menus and replace them with soft copies that could be downloaded. So, when the pandemic hit The Flipside Restobar and VMenu were casualties.
However, I was determined and driven to succeed. A big believer of Peter Drucker’s saying, “Resources are always outside”, I leveraged all the experience and resources that were already with me to set up VMeals. I tapped into the resources that were in place – a chef and a kitchen from The Flipside Restobar and technology developed for VMenu to generate information on calories and nutritional value of food. VMeals fit a niche in the meal plan industry by focussing on customisation to meet each individual customer’s need.
How has business taken off since the launch?
We have done well and continue to grow.
Tell us about your plans for the business?
We are now converting our central kitchen to a complete dark kitchen and will be launching multiple brands. Moreover, we are ready to move VMeals to the on-demand market where our customers will be also be able to order one time meals. Furthermore, we are looking at regional expansion and setting up health bars across gyms in the country! To add to this, as a part of future growth, the company will also soon be taking cryptocurrency payments!
What do you envision for the future of WeMeals?
I envision VMeals as a pioneer in the foodtech industry. We are constantly working on developing plans that not only help our clients achieve their fitness goals, but also creating meal plans that cure health ailments!