This interview was published originally here: http://yourstory.com/2015/03/saurabh-saxena-holachef-com/
‘We are a fine-dine restaurant in cloud’: Saurabh Saxena, Founder of Holachef.com
Started in September 2014, Holachef.com – which brings the world’s best cuisines from the master chefs’ kitchen right to your doorstep – has seen tremendous growth and an increasing customer base.
In an interaction with Founder-CEO of Holachef.com Saurabh Saxena, he told YourStory about his passion with food and tech and how they plan to make a difference in this space.
YS: What was the motivation to start Holachef.com?
SS: As ardent lovers of food, we were always in search of something new and delicious – a different cuisine, a unique dish, an affordable fine-dine restaurant, et al. But a great eat-out experience would either be too far, too expensive or wouldn’t score high on quality. The numerous order-in services available also get boring after a while – be it local restaurants or tiffin services; no matter how great they are. Most take-away services offer a limited number of cuisines – another pain-point for foodies when they want to indulge in different types of delicacies.
We realised that there was a gap in demand for fine-dine experiences and their accessibility. That led to the idea of connecting some of the best chefs in town with foodies like us in a convenient manner and at a price that is a fraction of the price at various fine-dining restaurants. A proposition that made ‘eating better’ an everyday phenomenon.
YS: Tell us more about the founder(s) background.
SS: I am the Founder and CEO. I graduated from IIT-Bombay. I was earlier the Co-Founder/Director, Sales & Marketing at Mexus Education Pvt. Ltd. I kicked off my entrepreneurial career with Mexus Education. Its brand, iKen, has touched the lives of over half a million students in India and abroad. When Mexus was acquired it had become an autonomous company with a strength of 1000 employees and over 300 franchises pan India.
He is also an advisor and a mentor to promising startups and budding entrepreneurs.
My Co-founder and CTO is Anil Gelra. He is also from IIT Bombay. He was earlier Co-founder / Database Architecture at Sodel Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Anil is adept at creating internet scale applications delivered over mobile and web. His previous venture, Sodel Solutions, has created applications that cater to millions of daily users, daily stream petabytes of data and analyze terabytes of data in real time. Some of his marquee clients are Thomson Reuters, Huffington Post and a couple of the fastest growing startups in the US, such as Sport195.com and HelpRX.
Anil brings to Holachef his acumen for designing, developing and scaling big data applications. Sodel Solutions is now an autonomous company; with over three million USD in revenues dedicated to developing big data applications.
YS: How does Holachef.com evaluate chefs who are taken on-board? Can I be a chef for Holachef.com?
SS: The chefs that come on-board at Holachef.com need to have a professional experience in cooking along with expertise in a certain cuisine. The idea is to provide a great mix of delicacies from around the world – but all prepared with finesse by coveted chefs. A passion for cooking is essential for all the chefs – they need to be absolutely in love with cooking and serving what they make. They also need to be able to design menus because that is crucial to our everyday offering – a new menu each day! Chef creativity is of key importance, hence. Having said that, we have a few chefs on board who have simply been amazing home-chefs and have found a great platform in holachef.com to reach out to a wider audience through their delectable cooking. If you fulfill the above mentioned criteria, welcome aboard!
YS: What are your sources of funding?
SS: Rs 2 crore funding has been raised from India Quotient in the form of convertible notes. We now intend to raise Rs 25 to Rs 30 crore to fund our expansion across Mumbai and spread our wings in six to seven other cities across India.
YS: How important is technology to your business model?
SS: We are a fine-dine restaurant in cloud! Thus, holachef.com is as much about technology as it is about food. Technology is crucial to our business model for enabling a simple ordering process for the consumer as well as a seamless backend automation. This allows us to service more people, more efficiently. Technology helps us in predicting demand as well as planning deliveries better.
Proportion of our user traffic between mobile to desktop is 65:35, which signifies that our target audience is more comfortable placing orders on the go through their handheld devices. This only goes on to reiterate that today’s consumer is more reliant on technology for overall lifestyle convenience.
YS: What is your marketing strategy?
SS: Word of mouth has worked brilliantly for us! So far, our marketing has only been customer rewards in terms of discounts on total order value, personalised goodies, etc. New customers come in through references from their colleagues, friends or neighbours who have tried our food.
Going ahead, we do plan to focus on expanding our customer base rapidly. There is a very high repeat ordering rate that we experience with our customers. When we do invest into marketing to expand our customer base, we would be serving more orders per month than other fine-dine or casual dining restaurants in Mumbai put together.
YS: What is the current market size of this industry in India?
SS: The Indian food industry stands at US $50 billion and is growing rapidly. The appetite for good food has increased tremendously; thanks to an upwardly mobile, increasingly busy and tremendously aspirational generation. The market is slowly waking up to the opportunities in the online food sector given that the home-delivery segment is growing at a whopping 40 per cent (CAGR). Hence, there is a lot of opportunity in this domain. Compared to international standards, Indian online food ordering is still at a nascent stage and has a long way to go.
YS: How does Holachef.com see itself growing?
SS: We started with the Powai area in Mumbai. That was our test marketing region when we launched in September last year. In the five months since then, we have expanded to Chembur, Andheri (East and West), Goregaon East, Vile Parle East, Jogeshwari, Ghatkopar, Kanjurmarg, Vikhroli, Mulund, Bhandup, etc. We will soon be expanding to the whole of Mumbai in the subsequent months. At the moment we are focusing on expanding our reach to all parts of Mumbai. Soon we will be entering other cities with the same model. As far as the team is concerned, we have a great bunch of people who are shaping and fine tuning the business. We have been able to quickly expand our team in the last few months and with increased reach of our service, the team will grow bigger too.
For more information, check http://www.holachef.com/