What do you call a person who goes from one high profile restaurant to another, regales the restaurant owners with what he believes is the future of the industry and convinces them to prepare gloriously sumptuous feasts to take photographs of them. We called him a superstar. We were foodiescompass.
There was an idea, the one which I believed could change the way we choose what to eat. It killed me everytime I thought how can I have so limited means to make a decision that is so important – after all you must know what you are putting in your mouth. Pun unintended, well maybe a bit was.
After mulling over it for about a year and taking inspiration from the legendary movie Shawshank Redemption, I recited 100 times ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’ before I quit my job to devote myself to the dream. There was just one problem though – I had no money. I was recently married and yes, I quit my job for the dream I felt immensely passionate about.
But things do happen when you have good will. I got support from two of my friends and we finally started it in Nov-13. We hired people for sales team to begin with. While starting with sales, we’d no site and were working from home. Before this, I only had experience with fancy mathematics people often call analytics in a much cozy corporate setting. Real life selling experience was a completely new domain. I felt as if I was standing in big dark room trying to find a way out with no light whatsoever. For our job, we’d to convince restaurants to prepare their food for the photoshoots so that we can show it on our platform which was not yet ready. Selling to restaurants for menu was an easy job but convincing them for photoshoots required meeting each and every important member in restaurant organization hierarchy. We realized the real challenges faced by salesmen and the importance of right sales pitch and product.
It took one month to get the first photoshoot, we improved when we did 4 the next month, further improved when we did 40 the third month. Sales pitch became much easier with the introduction of tablets, brochures, pitch deck and past references.
We soon launched the product but didn’t have a marketing team. Sales team and I had to play the role of marketing guys. We all were reading marketing books, doing research and getting lessons from friends working in internet marketing. We even learnt basic photoshop and other design tools to get the things done. When things are going little dry, coverage on YourStory and few weeks later on, ET, gave us new push and energy.
When stars somewhere in the sky swayed a little, VCs started approaching us for understanding our B-Plan and idea. Talking to VCs and industry professionals gave us new perspective about internet business and brought fresh learning. These lessons were important and taught us to stick to basic when sometimes one get too carried away with the idea. These meetings gave us momentum and made us push further.
But things rarely go as smooth as you plan them. Our technical lead had personal emergency and had to go from our team. After a while, we got two friends who agreed to help us out in technical and social media on a part time basis. Both of them were highly experienced and initial conversations regarding product gave us good vibes. What was looking as tragedy last month soon became a fortune. Within few weeks, we got call from radio for interview and this made everyone pumped up for next level of journey. We were moving in full swing with new team, new idea of picture menu and right frame of mind. We even got first full menu photoshoot of 150+ dishes. It was an experience in itself for someone who is foodie. With one photo shoot, we soon had more full menu photoshoots of many of the respected food chains in Delhi. We also hired 4 interns from DU, new members for social media and content. Finally, it seemed like our team was shaping in place and we are making right progress.
But the Gods must be crazy, now, new tech partner started having health problems and it became difficult for him to continue further. Then came a news from the friend who was an angel investor and mentor – he got financial troubles and was not able to contribute further. The modicum of money supply we had dried up too. Our product was not ready, expenses were high, product validation was pending and the team broke apart. Earlier we were able to sail through the troubles but this time all forces of nature got together and put a ‘Stop’ sign right in front of my face, there was no respite. But the mighty internet in all its profound wisdom told me, ‘when the going gets tough, the tougher gets going’. So I learnt to code howmuchever I could within a month to implement the pending changes. I even had to do what I hated the most, borrow money for keeping the sales team intact.
This was not a sustainable situation and there comes a time when one must decide when to call it quits before you start running to a shrink, who is far more costly and prepares you for a bypass surgery. So with a heavy heart, we decided to let people go and put foodiescompass on hold. FoodiesCompass will now be a Not for Profit platform helping people on “what to eat”.With earlier focus on customers going inside a restaurant, our future focus will only be on travellers. We will cover “must have things” in every tourist place in India and help them find out best at every place. I’ll pursue this as a hobby and keep sharing my experiences or provide a platform to users to share their food experiences while traveling around. I would like to use this platform to pursue our interest in food and travel and help people in some way or the other.
Importance of family: Earlier, I was always careless and carefree about family. But, continuous support from family made me confident and focus on my work. I really request everyone to spend some time in a week or fortnightly with your family. you might not realize it now but, will surely in the future.
Life Partner : I can say with proud heart that Sristy is the best thing happened to me. I left my job just after marriage and start working on this idea with no money. When a newly married wife look forward to relax just after marriage, she was the one who was with me in all the rough situations. She kept me moving in every situation and made everything else look easy. With this startup, Sristy has given me the reason to live for.
Team – I have now realized the real value in people. Team is the one that can make or break any company. I’m thankful to everyone who were being part of our team in some way or the other. Without them, it was never possible. I’ll advice everyone to invest in people – this is the best investment you can have.
Friends – Everyone should know their true friends and thankfully, this start-up gave me opportunity to find the right ones whom I can trust for lifelong. If you haven’t find anyone, start finding atleast one.
Patience – Patience was never my skill set and I was always intolerant. Many times, things are not in your control and you have to wait for the right time. Patience and composure is something that will remain with me for rest of my life.
Integrity – Sometimes you might have to take decision which are short term solution but, might hamper long term future. People are remembered for their integrity and one should not loose it any cost.
Technical/ Analytical ability – While wearing so many hats, I was working on many fields – sales, marketing, operations, analysis, team management. With so many fields and temptations, I was trying things which are not my strengths. I realized that we have done engineering from IIT, premier college in India and we are good technically and analytically. These are our strengths and will give us edge against others. One should do other things but, always play the game with these strengths.
You can do things – I’m sure I was not able to solve lot many simpler things that I should have while working on this start-up. But, I’m confident that there are many things I’ve done that I was just thinking and not sure how to do it. Before starting up, showcasing food menu by full photos was just an idea and was not sure how to do it. This might sound easy for someone but, it took us efforts and rigorous planning to make it feasible to cover lot many places.
Do work which will help people in positive way – I realized that my work, if succeeded, will help people and fulfill the need which is a part of luxury. Unless you don’t do anything – which makes some positive change in society, there is no point. Also, there was lot of food wastage while doing photo shoots which made me feel bad – every time I asked for the shoot. I’ll be much happier If I’m just part of small changes which is helping society in positive way. I’m sure this is tough financially in today’s world but, I’m sure I’ll find some way.
Food is my passion and not business – There is thin line between passion and career. People say do what you love but, I realized sometimes, while doing what you love, you forgot the joy you used to get while doing it. I think one should play with his strengths and enjoy his passion on leisure time. Also, some things should be kept for future otherwise there will nothing to aspire for.
There were many things that kept me awake at nights and still do. Peer Pressure, Fear of Future, fear of Failure, Financials issues – All these will happen no matter wherever I go. But, I lived every moment of the startup, and with loads of excitement & confidence, I’m a much better human being who look for other things beyond job and money. I ask everyone to move out of your comfort zone and try. I’m sure only few will fail miserably like me but in the end, Learning is what you need. Experts have said – Men mature only after 30 and do the best. I’ve not yet completed my 30 and I’m sure there are so many better things waiting for me to happen 🙂