Executive Espresso with COO, New Supply at Swiggy, Joseph Cherian

What happens when you combine food, science and research? You get a team of passionate foodies working on some complex problems in the industry, aspiring to create the most delightful food experiences. All this while ensuring that they are able to curate and bring to consumers some of the best food brands through a spread of business models — that’s the New Supply vertical at Swiggy. All these sound good on paper, but what does it take to orchestrate this in reality? COO of New Supply at Swiggy, Joseph Cherian, spills the beans.


It’s been close to two years since you’ve been a part of Swiggy’s incredible journey? How would you describe the experience, as against your earlier rendezvous?

Time does fly. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I started my journey at Swiggy. It’s been an incredible and fascinating ride — one with exciting new challenges and a high scope for growth. So-much-so that it feels like it’s just the beginning.

I have always been in the food business, and have been quite fortunate to witness the remarkable evolution of the food industry in the country over the last two decades. Watching this evolution closely, gaining precious lessons from it, I was inspired to start my own unique food venture, 48 East, a platform which brought to consumers the most delectable cuisines from over 48 countries of Asia.

After 18 impressive months at 48 East, it took me a while to decide on whether to join Swiggy. After string of discussions with the Swiggy team, and contemplations that lasted over eight months, I was convinced to join the bandwagon. What inspired me the most about Swiggy was the audacious vision of the founders — to Change the way India eats. They were also backed by marquee investors who found value in their ideas and aligned on the long-term vision. These, I realized, were the typical ingredients for success. 

I vividly remember the day I joined Swiggy. We had five people in the New Supply team and around 100 people on the ground with just five  kitchens. Today, we have thousands of people and over 500 kitchens across Access and Private Brands. That definitely screams ‘massive growth’! We have also developed a set of robust multi-pronged capabilities along the way. As I look back at our humble beginnings, I feel happy and astonished about the rapid pace at which we have grown.

Today, we are transforming the way the kitchens operate, enhancing capabilities and producing best-in-class results. We share our learning with our partner kitchens, and they see immense value in this. For me, to witness the transformational effect we have in the overall food industry, is highly gratifying. However, we are also cognizant of the fact that our strategies over the last two years might become redundant for the next phase of our growth in this rapidly changing macro environment. It requires constant dynamic and innovative thinking with a laser sharp focus on the evolving needs of our consumers. That’s what makes my job even more challenging and interesting — constantly managing the unknown!

As the COO of New Supply, we understand that you oversee the end-to-end operations of the business. Can you share some of the exciting things the team is working on within the Kitchens, especially around the sustainability and quality front?

At New supply, it is all about creating quality supply at a disruptive pace. That can only happen when we build certain core capabilities within the organization. Our team is constantly engaged in building newer and better capabilities, catering to the growing needs of consumers which will change the face of the food industry in India. We are building capabilities spanning across Culinary, Operations, Procurement and SCM which helps in getting great quality ingredients at the right price. R&D – Innovation in Food,  finding intricate delicacies and converting to a more efficient and delivery friendly model are other areas we are working on, every day. Our efforts are also focused on kitchen tech, equipment re-engineering, location intelligence, infrastructure development, talent acquisition, quality assurance, building funnel for increasing kitchen workforce and packaging innovation.

We have opened 500+ kitchens over the last 18 months. That’s the kind of impressive capabilities we have built. Our kitchens are no longer mere kitchens. They are tech-backed, state-of-the-art manufacturing units with high order throughputs!

An exciting part of the New Supply endeavor is also about our rapid pace of growth. We expand and build operating models in parallel. Additionally, we are constantly re-defining our operating models. Tapping the latest digital technologies for their cutting-edge benefits, we have some exciting work happening on the usage of AI and Machine Learning at our kitchen sites. For instance, we are working on image scanning machines to identify dishes at the time of their dispatch to avoid mismatch, facial recognition systems for attendance, etc. In short, we are building kitchens of the future — the truly smart ones!

Another interesting work we are doing is on the sustainability front. As market leaders, it’s only fair that we make significant investments in becoming a responsible brand. Today, sustainable packaging is not accessible to most restaurant partners — either due to lack of functionality or price. However, having resolved to act in a responsible way, we are closely working with a select group of vendors in solving both. In addition to packaging, we are undertaking eco-friendly steps like building kitchens which are carbon- and water-neutral to help reduce our carbon footprint.

So, most of us are pretty familiar with the Joseph at work. Now, tell us a bit about yourself that Swiggsters are not too familiar with. What keeps you ticking outside of work?

Some of the Swiggsters who know me well, know that the only other passion outside of work is biking. I’m an avid biker, and biking helps me explore my most loved passions — food, nature, adventure and cultures, especially those tucked away in the hidden interiors of the country. While on adventure trips, biking through the tough terrains like the high and rugged mountain peaks of Leh and the lesser known territories of North East help me test my endurance and the ability to manage uncertainties and adversities. Biking through different seasons gives me the unparalleled pleasure of witnessing and experiencing the uniqueness of varied climatic conditions. Earlier this year, I covered the North Eastern part of the country. I rode through the rugged mountainous terrains of Kaziranga in Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland with my fellow riders from the ‘Bikers Gourmet Club’. The group is called so because we are a bunch of adventurous guys who combine riding with sourcing exotic food. We ride for the good and rare culinary delights! Truly, some of the best places for food are best explored on road.

I also love staying fit, and I start my day very early to balance my fitness, work schedules and family time.

 If you were allowed to eat only one dish for the rest of your life, what would that be and why? 

Fish is something that I love. Coming from Kerala, fish is like an everyday delicacy. There is a dish called ‘Matti Fry’ which is really close to my heart. Everytime I visit my hometown, my mom ensures there is Matti fry on the table no matter what time of the day. Any meal with ‘Matti Fry’ is complete for me.

What, according to you, are the key ingredients of a Swiggster? What’s your message for someone who is looking at building a career at the New Supply team in Swiggy?

Unconstrained thinking. When you are in the business of disruption, one can’t be restricted in their thinking. Boundless thinking helps you find solutions which could be game-changing. I keep telling my team that OKR’s and AOP should be BAU, and one should spend more than 50% of their time on thinking through ideas and solutions that will succeed in the years to come.

You need to have the fire in your belly. Without that you lack enthusiasm and your enterprise tapers off sooner than later. If you don’t have the passion to overcome failures or to motivate yourself to solve the most complex problems, you will never have the grit required to manage the long haul. 

Entrepreneurship relies mostly on audacious thinking and the crucial spirit of determination and passion to realize those seemingly unreachable goals. We look forward to that entrepreneurship spirit in every Swiggster.

Don’t be afraid to fail. If you have a fear of failure, you will never push your limits and take risks. And at Swiggy you are not here to make some step changes, but to make transformational changes on how you operate.

While at McDonalds where I worked in the initial years of my career, what inspired me the most was the famous saying of its founder, Ray Kroc — “If you have to succeed in McDonalds – you need to have ketchup in your veins”. At Swiggy I would say,  ‘The Swiggy Values should be the way of life!’ If you live by those values, there is no reason why you would not excel.

Over the last two years, we have built a super talented team at New Supply, doing some phenomenal work and we constantly look forward to adding enthusiastic, visionary, and ambitious people who can be part of our incredible journey.

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