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NEW DELHI/BENGALURU : Licious has raised $52 million from IIFL Asset Management Ltd’s private equity fund at a billion-dollar valuation, making the online fish and meat store the 29th Indian startup to enter the unicorn club this year.

In the process, Licious, operated by Delightful Gourmet Pvt. Ltd, became the first direct-to-consumer startup to achieve unicorn valuation. “The fresh meats and seafood sector is still largely underserved and unorganized and holds a vast opportunity of $40 billion. As the category leader, we aim at paving the way for the second wave of young startups that can join hands in fully harnessing the potential that the industry has to offer," Licious co-founders Vivek Gupta and Abhay Hanjura said in a statement.

The company claims to have delivered its products to more than 2 million customers across 14 cities. Earlier this year, Licious allocated ESOPs to over 1,000 employees, including its blue-collared workforce. This was followed by a buyback worth 30 crore in August. “Today, Licious is among the fastest-growing D2C brands and is one of the few consumer businesses in India with very strong revenue retention metrics. We are excited to partner with them in this journey of creating India’s most-loved meat and seafood brand," said Chetan Naik of IIFL AMC.

Bengaluru-based Licious plans to use the funds to launch new product lines in the ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook category, steer an omnichannel presence and enter newer smaller cities. “The pace of our growth after the last round of funding earlier this year has accelerated, and we aspire to do several new things in the coming year. Expansion in tier-II cities will be a focus area. We launched in seven small cities last year, and the response has given us the confidence to go to another 20 new tier-II cities the coming year," Hanjura said in an interview.

However, given the restrictions and focus on health post covid, Licious, which controls the entire farm-to-fork supply chain, is going slow on plans to make an overseas foray.

Hanjura also said that an initial public offering is on the cards, but it won’t happen very soon. “We will look at an IPO, but only in another 2-3 years’ time," he added.

Avendus Capital acted as the exclusive financial adviser to Licious for the transaction.

Avendus has also invested in the round from its Future Leaders Fund-II, which was closed recently.

Licious last raised $192 million in July this year at a valuation of around $650 million. The round was led by homegrown private equity fund Temasek Holdings and Multiples Alternate Asset Management.

Multiples invested around $32 million to pick up a 10.5% stake in the company, while new investor Brunei Investment Agency contributed nearly $15 million to own a 2.5% stake in Licious.

Existing investors Singapore-based Vertex Growth Fund, 3one4 Capital, Bertelsmann India Investments, and Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India participated in that round.

In the five years since its launch in 2015, Licious claims to have seen a 300% growth and served over three million packs of meat products to consumers across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, NCR, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kochi, Puducherry, Vizag, Vijayawada and Kolkata.

Licious serves over one million orders every month with over 90% repeat consumption across markets, according to its website.

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