of the week!!
I am Rituraj. In below paragraphs, you would be going through the lessons we learnt as entrepreneurs in food sector, running a delivery-only service.
In brief, Mukesh and I belong to an educational breed which is bashed so many times here that it is almost scary to share. Yes, you guessed it right, we are bloody MBAs :-). We worked in corporate sector for about 10 years and kind of hit a glass ceiling, both in terms of growth and job satisfaction. So we launched BurpFest in Apr, 2013 in Hyderabad. It is a food delivery business and India’s first online only Paratha delivery service. We successfully exited the business in May 2015, at a good valuation and deal was closed after about 1 month of discussions. (We rebranded BurpFest as Paratha Post in Jan 2015)
I first met Alok in Dec 2011 and was part of the first Rodinhoods Open House at g2w. (Alok recently posted a photo of the first open house and there I was, sitting and looking all sincere :-). I had never imagined this platform to become this HUGE and kudos to Alok, Asha and the volunteers for that)
That’s me in the Green Checked Shirt 🙂
So here are a few of our learnings and I hope this helps people. These in no way are THE things/lessons. It’s just our take on what we learnt and is open to debate and disagreements… 🙂
Close down your business the day you realize that you have gone wrong in this area. Your co-founder is your Parent-Sibling-Spouse-Offspring-Enemy-Guru… All in One package.
We laughed, cried, shouted, traveled, ate, celebrated together. In fact, except for beating each-other and having sex, Mukesh and I did everything 2 human beings can do together! This bond kept us going when chips were down. And trust me that it will be the case most of the times.
Also, if you are not there for each other when struggling, you would certainly not be together when success comes your way. And there is no fun raising a bright kid without the spouse, is there?
Mukesh and me celebrating our first anniversary with employees, after close of day at 11:30 pm.
29 Minutes delivery. 500 Stores. 500 Cr Revenue. That’s the target we had set. So when we achieved successes like opening new stores, a few thousand deliveries with 25 minutes average delivery time (better than Domino’s pizza) and few lacs in revenues, we knew we still had a long, very long way to go.
Kept us Focused and Grounded.
But at the same time, celebrate these small milestones as you would need to keep your energy levels really high for a long time and these celebrations will provide you with the adrenaline, the steroids, the Glucon-d you would need every day, every minute.
Also remember, most things start very small and very unattractive. You need to feed it your time, blood, sweat, brain and everything else that you have to make it what you want it to be. Looking at our first kitchen, first call center and first web page design (we were an online only restaurant for god’s sake :)), no one can believe we could achieve what we actually did. What we started with was nothing short of trash for real world, but we did what we could afford and we loved it then, we love it now…
This is how we had started
Laugh off the screw-ups which you can’t help:
There will be lot of things that you will plan but elements will still play the tricks which will really frustrate you. Just Hang On. We bought a generator to keep our fridges running during summer power cuts, to provide cool jal jeera to customers. To our dismay, the fridge compressor decided to go bust and we bought cold mineral water bottles from grocery stores to make jal jeera. We made a loss on those jal jeeras but these are the stories that bring a smile to our faces when we look back (and boy, we have plenty of them).
Entrepreneurship, as life, is about enjoying and building great memories. Success is very important, but not the only important thing.
Innovate and Solve Problems:
Startups always need to save money & time, but still serve the customers like an MNC. So they need to Innovate every day. You know that you don’t have money to compete with Pizza Hut and Domino’s so you have to compromise on certain things. But the customer does not care. She wants the same level of service for the money she is paying.
Whatever you call it, innovation or JUGAAD.
We could not buy automatic sealing machines for our containers carrying liquids because they were beyond our budget. So what did we do? Designed a wooden mould and used Iron box to seal the containers.
Be Ready to Clean the gutter:
Entrepreneurship is not sexy, period. You would do things that you have never thought you would; you would feel the pain that you cannot even imagine you would go through.
We have cleaned the ice from a fridge to make it work again at 12am, the drain that got choked with our waste, repaired the generator, the bike and what not.
We have personally done deliveries at 11pm completely drenched in water, having walked for about 100 meters in knee deep water.
We have pleaded our delivery boy’s case when he hit a car and caused a financial loss.
We have also made parathas when short on manpower.
And at the end of it all, you would also feel the achievement that you have never felt before. So hang on….
Mukesh making parathas
Something we always struggle for in life is accentuated for startups. Balance between launch v/s first time right, profits v/s customer delight, family v/s business, expansion v/s standardization and many more.
It is almost impossible to attain the balance, but try to. No point delighting a customer if there is no long term benefit in it. There is no point in earning money if there is no time to enjoy spending it. Life is short, time doesn’t stop neither it comes back.
Mukesh had his second baby on 14 Oct and I had mine on 17 Oct, same year. Sep-Nov was a mess, but life doesn’t stop just because you are busy with your business.
Choose very, very carefully. We made a horrible mistake in this and had to pay a really heavy price for it. Our mentor was an industry leader in Hyderabad, someone like Mr. Narayan Murthy of IT, but we did not get the guidance that we needed. Result – We could not get the crucial inputs for a first time entrepreneur but we could not change our mentor too.
Just remember, there are no free lunches, so we paid in terms of agony, frustration and growth. Also, the time the mentor spends with you is more important than the reputation he carries. Don’t get influenced by the image the mentor has. Find out how he built that image and if he is genuinely interested in building your business with you, through his money, time or expertise.
If you are going for investment for your startup, the first thing that you need to be very clear on is “Investor Exit”. It doesn’t have to be immediate, but you need to have thought about it and the pitch should definitely have some minutes spent on this. After all, the investor doesn’t love you nor s/he is your parent. Investor is investing, so only interested in the returns, short term or long term. At the same time, the investment cycles are long so your business has to show growth during that time. Again, try to maintain a balance between investment activity and business growth.
Know your Neighbors:
It’s very easy to not bother about people around your office. They don’t know what important things you are doing or how big you are going to become. It’s not essential too. But it never hurts to know people around; say just a hello may be once in a while and have tea together if you happen to meet at the tea stall. You never know when you might need that friendly neighbour.
Take it as a bit of networking exercise, which will come very handy when you approach investors. It might also help your loneliness that comes bundled with entrepreneurship.
One night, the power went at 9pm in the night and was not back until 11pm, our closing time. With the risk of frozen material worth a few thousands getting spoiled by the morning if the power was not back, we shifted a fully loaded deep freezer from our first floor shop to the medical shop across the road. The guy was just an employee so we had to remove the freezer before his manager came at 9am in the morning, but it saved our material. A filter coffee next day was reward enough.
Transferring the loaded fridge
There are many more things that we learnt during our journey. We would love to share our knowledge, best practices to anyone who has an interest in logistics business or any other. Please always feel free to connect.
Take care and remember, it always ends well….
The press conference of acquisition