Strapped for time? Facing challenges in cooking? If you just have a frying pan and a ladle, the rest of your cooking odyssey is taken care by Being Chef. Startup Dunya Interview Series with Shubham Maheshwari, Founder, Being Chef.
When did Being Chef come into existence?
Being Chef started its operations in Gurugram in 2014.
Can you share your journey as the Founder of Being Chef?
I founded Being Chef 6 years ago. Since then, I’ve led the growth of the company. I had previously worked with a US-based consulting firm helping established companies with their sales and marketing strategies. I am a Mechanical Engineer from NIT Jaipur. I got the opportunity to be the Vice President of the college and was also awarded as the Best All Rounder of my batch. This was a moment of immense pride for me. I was also socially active and had led India against the corruption movement in Rajasthan. For my contributions to society, I was awarded the “YOUTH CHANGEMAKER AWARD” in 2010.
Which vertical are you operating in?
We are in the Food & Beverage Business, with our complete focus on Cooking & Nutrition segments.
What prompted you to enter the food business? I always wanted to live a life in which I could contribute positively to society. I didn’t have a clear idea initially on how I could take this idea forward. Right out of college in 2013, I joined a US-based consulting firm in Gurgaon. While living there, I realized that daily meals were the most important yet the most ignored part of an individual’s life. After our cook didn’t turn up for a month, I came up with an idea to empower every person to cook anything they wish to, without the dependency on someone else. I quit my job within just 8 months of joining and became a full-time entrepreneur. This is how Being Chef came into existence in 2014.
Who gave you the initial launchpad? We are a bootstrapped company and are net profitable. When we initially started our operations, we had 2 choices: Raise investment or Invest our own money. I belong to a Marwari family and have always learned that a business should always be cash flow positive and an external investor’s money should only be taken when you are sure about the plan. So, we decided to learn the market, gain experience, and understand the unit economics or rather, take a major risk using our own money. At the right time, we plan to raise the investment from outside for scaling up a profitable model. Also, we have a very strong advisory board having experts from various fields who have been a strong backbone in our entire journey.
What is the service you are offering? Being Chef’s Recipe kit empowers everyone to cook anything in less than 5 minutes. We provide our customers with all the ingredients (chopped & processed), which are customized as per their taste. This comes with a simple 8-step recipe card.
Who are your target customers? As we are a one-stop solution for your daily meal requirements, we have something or the other for all the age groups, but our main target group is working professionals in the age group of 22-32, either staying as bachelors or a nuclear family (including newly-wed couples).
Which problem are you trying to solve? We are trying to solve the daily food requirement, especially for millennials. Currently, millennials face a lot of issues when it comes to meeting their daily food requirements. The supply of good cooks is much less than the demand and the time involved in cooking is much higher than what is available with people in this competitive era. Fully cooked food ordered from outside is also a concern as it comes with quality and hygiene issues. However, people still continue to order cooked food as there are no alternate solutions. When it comes to cooking, the hassle of procuring ingredients in the right quantity, processing them as per the recipe, and the wastage associated with unutilized raw and processed food often push people to avoid cooking.
What is the range of products you’re offering to your customers? Being Chef is a pure-vegetarian and health-conscious brand. We also offer a choice of vegan meal boxes. We have a range of Recipe Kits, Fully Prepared Meals, Customizable Meal Boxes, Customizable Party Packs, and Subscription Meals.
How do you cater to unique customer requirements? All of our products are customizable and tailored as per an individual’s requirement.
What is your company’s core strength that sets you apart from other companies offering similar products or services? Convenience in both timing and complexity in cooking, along with the touch of personalization at a pocket-friendly price is our core strength.
Any milestones/recognitions that you wish to highlight? We have been fortunate to achieve a few recognitions and milestones in our journey of 6 years to date. A few of them are as follows:
- The first mover in the DIY Meal Kit segment in India.
- Received the “TRANSFORMATION OF THE YEAR” award at Amazon SMBHAV 2020 (the biggest event for SMBs in India) in presence of Mr. Jeff Bezos and other eminent personalities.
- Finalist of SMART FIFTY competition (from 15,000 + start-ups), an event organized by IIM Calcutta & Dept. of Science & Tech, Govt. of India where 50 innovative solutions to transform India were showcased.
- We’ve served 600,000+ meals so far.
Four years into the business, how does the financial strength of your company hold? EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) is a metric that measures a company’s overall financial performance. It’s gratifying that our company has been EBITDA positive over the last 2 financial years.
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What kind of additional support you’ve received from third-party sources? Our organization has been organically covered by 50+ national and international media houses. This is a major boost to our morale and reiterates our customer’s feedback that we’re on the right track.
What are the key elements that guide your hiring process? Our team is 25 members strong. The most important element that we look at before hiring is the hunger for creating some value in whatever work someone does. We truly believe in the quote:
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!
What are the qualities that you see in your team which reflect the unique culture of Being Chef? The most important quality that my team has, which I am very proud of is identifying with the idea and vision as well as the sense of belonging to the company. Most of our core team members have stayed with the company since our inception and have invested their days and nights to work on the vision of building a new India which is fit & self-reliant.
Your advice to other entrepreneurs who wish to embark on their startup journey? First, understand how big the problem is. Don’t ride the wave of entrepreneurship because it’s cool. Trust me, it is not as rosy as it seems. So, it’s really important to have a very strong conviction about your idea. Do proper analysis before entering this wave. And once you enter, just stick to it, no matter what. Make changes, get adapted to the market trends along with setting some new trends of your own too, evolve, struggle but stick to what you believe in.
Remember, to win a game,
you have to be in the game!Shubham Maheshwari, Founder, Being Chef