Interview with entrepreneur Shachin Bhardwaj–founder of Tastykhana.com

TastyKhana started as an online food ordering website wherein menus of all restaurants would be put up online and customers could pick, choose, and order. This was TastyKhana in October 2007. As the time progressed, there was a need to offer the complete package: an end-to-end solution for any food requirement in the city of Pune.

tastykhana.com

TastyKhana now offers its customer food delivery, table reservation, information about offers, deals, events, directions, buffet, facilities, photo galleries and probably anything that would help you make the right choice. TastyKhana sounds tasty in the very first place of its concept.

We had an email interview with Shachin, the founder of TastyKhana.

Shachin BhardwajQ1. The brand name itself sounds very tasty? Tell us how you thought of starting tastykhana.com?

It was a personal need. When was working in Synygy (my last company before starting TK) I was usually responsible for managing all team parties, food ordering and getting deals and discounts. The only way I could do this was either call each restaurant ask for the menus and prices or visit nearby places and negotiate the rates. The thought came in that, life would be much easier if I had all this information online, that’s how it started.

Q2. What’s in the name! I mean could it be tastybhojan.com or tastyfood.com or something like that: Was it a choice or just domain name limitation?

It was a choice that we made. The idea was to have a generic name related to food; we didn’t want to restrict it to food ordering, restaurant guide or Pune city. The thought was we should be able to help people have the right food at the right place. Tastyfood was also an option but the domain was not available.

Q3. Who are your customers or targeted audience? Is there a market size that you are targeting? Do you collaborate with corporate houses or companies to advertise on your website?

Our customers are typically 25+ year olds, working couples, with average income of 50,000 per month (entire family). The restaurants we have online are mostly non-fast food outlets (whole meal places) so the student audience is less. We plan to primarily focus on this group as the average spending per order/meal is higher. We haven’t actively pursued corporate tie-ups but have a very good list of companies (their employees) ordering from us. Kingfisher and BigFlix are the only companies that have advertised via TK (Food + Beer and Movies + Food – there was a match). We don’t actively pursue advertisements from companies.

Q4. What is your business strategy?

Our primary revenue model today is food ordering and we process orders worth more than Rs.1.5mil/month today. Our focus today is to automate our processes and achieve scale of operations. The strategy is to get this system right in Pune and then replicate the same across cities in India. Once this system is in place we will also look at the catering to the Quick Service Restaurants (fast food) with high volumes.

Shachin BhardwajQ5. Food is a very popular business right from streets to starred hotels. Do you feel you have the first-mover advantage for an online shop?

There were/are others who are in the same space, but we did certain things differently that helped us grow. There are various online shops catering to various needs, but we identified one pain point that we thought affected both customers and restaurants. The pain point was food delivery (or logistics), customers could order food from only neighboring food joints (typically 1-2 Km) and that too was not very reliable. Restaurants at the same time could not invest in bikes, fuel and manpower to manage deliveries. We merged technology and logistics to have business model where we charge both the customer and the restaurant for the service we provide.

Q6. Do you feel there is a space for competition in it and is there anybody presently in the Indian market venturing into this segment?

There definitely is space for competition and we already have local competition in Pune. With regards to other cities, there are sites which offer subset of our services but we are yet to come across a site that provides complete end to end solutions. Logistics is the most difficult part and hence the entry barrier for most new comers.

Q7. What you feel is the value of innovation in your business?

Innovation lies in execution, as I mentioned earlier we were not the first ones but we focused better delivery of services. I believe we have innovated in the following

  1. A robust and scalable back-end: This allowed us to focus on details of customer usage and improve as per their needs. This is the most important point and has innumerable advantages today. Helps us in statistics, usage, complaint tracking etc.
  2. Offline touch points: Phone service, in house restaurant branding, door drops, delivery boys with TK bags roaming across the city, all added to our customer base.

Since ours is a service business, value of innovation is pretty high, only if you add value will you be able to grow.

Q8. What is the scope of expansion and what is your vision about it?

If you had asked me this is the first year, I would not have had much clue… only when we got into the delivery business did I realize the huge potential of this business. My vision is to make TK the one point destination for food ordering. If you want to order food, be it Dominos or your next door restaurant, you must think of TK. With this being the primary driver we will have many other value adds (such as deals, offers, reservations etc) for customers to make TK their first choice for any food related information.

Q9. How you liked the journey till now as an entrepreneur, being able to start an online concept that appears unique?

What I have loved most is the steep learning curve, you think you know things but what actually happens is invariably something else. You get advice from 100s of people/books/blogs etc., but the best learning is your own mistakes. When I was testing software all I knew was my small world of module/domain or code, with TK I learnt what happens when your bank balance is nearing zero and you have to shut business. From finance, recruitment, raising money, selling your idea, strategy, planning to be the delivery boy handing food at customer doorstep, have seen it all.

With regards uniqueness, that was accidental! As I said the first year we had no clue where we were heading, starting the delivery service was the turning point and this again was something that we learnt when we were almost broke!

Q10. Any advice for future entrepreneurs from your personal and professional experience?

Focus on revenues from day 1, may not be profit, but money has to come in month on month. Have seen many friends focusing on how to handle scale, having that perfect code (before release) etc. only to realize that neither the customer volume is there immediately nor is perfect product accepted, as planned by you.

Second–listen to your customers and change when needed. Your entire plan may change: do that if needed, but don’t be headstrong that your idea is perfect and doesn’t need any change.

Both these points have been oft written and documented but not only am I guilty of making both mistakes (learnt on time!) but also seen others go down because of this.

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