“Easiest thing on earth is to come up with an idea. Hardest thing on earth is to put it down” (in reality). No one would know it better than entrepreneurs, the special breed of people who believe they can move mountains despite all odds.
All wannabe entrepreneurs have loads of ideas but only a daring few take their idea to reality. Far fewer succeed in turning them into profitable ventures.
Chirag Thaker and Akanksha Prasad who were batchmates at IIT Kharagpur are amongst their rare few who not only turned their dream into a profitable venture but did so in 3 months.[hero heading=”Chirag Thaker, Founder and CEO of Falfael Factory”]…the store became cashflow positive in 3 months[/hero]
This is their journey.
On-the-go exotic food is rare to find in India. Times are changing and so are people’s palates. In recent times, the number of working class people traveling on short-term assignments has increased dramatically not just in India but world over. Rising incomes (or rather dual income households) are leading to an increasing number of people who want to experiment as they eat out. They yearn for variety and want to try out new and exotic cuisines. But such cuisines are usually found only in fine dining restaurants and clearly there is a huge gap, especially in this space of exotic foods.
Falafel Factory which launched recently addresses this market and provides authentic middle eastern food on the go. The young startup aims to bringing falafels, the world’s favourite street food to India. The fact that falafels are vegetarian is a bonus for a country with a huge vegetarian population.
It was started by two friends Chirag Thaker and Akanksha Prasad who were batchmates at IIT Kharagpur. Bit by entrepreneurial bug, Chirag and Akanksha left their jobs at Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital respectively to pursue their dreams and do what they really love; cooking & serving exotic fast food to the masses.
Even after graduating from IIT Kharagpur in 2011, Chirag has always been interested in pursuing something more than a routine job. He was driven to create something of his own and contribute something meaningful to the society. In essence, he wanted to make a mark on this world in his own way. So, after a 2 year stint at the Strats division of Goldman Sachs, he left his job to start-up.
Reminiscing his journey Chirag says,
In our travels outside of India, falafels are something we frequently encountered and liked. After coming back, we soon identified a gap in the Indian market where these could be sold with value-based pricing and in a fast food format, just like some global chains outside of India. We decided bringing middle eastern food to India in a QSR format was a great opportunity. We then did a few trial runs over a one-month period in different societies and offices. We analysed what people liked more and how much they would be willing to pay for this kind of food. Based on our market research, we prepared a menu and a plan to implement it across multiple stores in a scalable format. We wanted a name that is simple and easily recognisable, hence Falafel Factory.
Falafel Factory’s became operational with its first brick and mortar store around Dec 2013 in the IT hub of Bangalore. The product feedback was excellent and the store became cashflow positive in 3 months. Home deliveries were then started in Jul 2013 which led to an increase in sales. Encouraged by the initial success, they launched their second outlet in Jan 2015 at Bangalore’s Phoenix Marketcity mall.
When asked about their experiences starting up and their learnings so far, he says
Being from engineering and banking backgrounds, numbers and processes came easily to us. The biggest learnings however came in terms of people handling – team, vendors and customers. The other challenge we faced was in designing the menu; we had to keep it authentic and yet relatable to Indian palate. Through several iterations of the menu and processes, we now have a product that is very process oriented and is highly scalable.
Ambiente Foods, the company behind Falafel Factory didn’t go for a formal round of investment yet. The initial seed capital to setup the first store came from friends and family.
The startup wants to grow their team as they continue on their growth path. Chirag explained that they are always looking out for good team members and hire team members mostly based on recommendations. He adds,
the most difficult positions to fill are Operations Managers, as our startup is very operations intensive. We are looking for help with marketing, spreading brand presence and funding to ramp-up operations.
On the topic of latest trends in food industry and what they are doing, he says,
The recent trend in food is the delivery only model ; where the barrier to entry is very low because of the low fixed costs. We have enhanced our delivery fleet and have started a new marketing campaign to keep ahead in this market. Our latest delivery marketing campaign is – 7 days 7 offers. As the name suggests we have 7 exciting offers running on 7 days of the week. We have received a tremendous response on this from our customers.
Having a strong support system always helps. Startups, especially the ones in early stages thrive in startup hubs which are vibrant and supportive. So, how did being in Bangalore helped Falafel as a startup? Chirag explains.
Whenever we look for any new vendors, we first check out the startups in that space. Bangalore specifically has a great startup ecosystem, and we have been able to leverage from it. Our main vegetable supplier is a startup, so is our main transport service provider. We are also listed on all major food ordering and delivery websites. We are getting our website made by a recently funded startup service provider.
He then adds,
An ideal startup hub should be an online/ offline space where people can share their ideas and services they have to offer.
As we end, Chirag shares this piece of advice from his own experiences with fellow entrepreneurs –
Don’t wait for the ideal time to startup. Keep iterating and fail fast, this will help improve your offering.
Falafel factory’s vision is to provide authentic middle eastern food to people wherever they want it; be it a food court in a mall, a store near their homes or at their doorstep. Their mission is to make falafels a common item in the Indian food industry. Visit them online @ falafelfactory.in[Edited by Publisher]
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