7 Fun and Easy Ways to Enhance Internal Communication With Your Team

By Amita Baheti

Start-ups generally assume that good internal communication is a natural product of a small, young, vibrant team. Often communicating and sharing information with colleagues is overlooked as most of us work hard to build beautiful products and wonderful services. The focus is on warding off challenges, striking off numbers and fire fighting with situations; and more often than not, the more subtle (yet essential) messages get missed.

Interacting with your team facilitates:

  • Trust within.
  • The communication that needs to flow out.
  • Absorption of ideas which are vital.

Good internal communication is not just about town halls and major company announcements but it’s an ongoing, open dialogue (formal or informal) between all those who ‘need to know’. I bring to you 7 easy ways for start-ups to connect with their teams.

1) Create a Blog. Enhance it to a V-Blog.

Create animated characters or tell a story via videos. You may record fun interviews with your team member and deliver a subtle message or ask your Finance team to teach a life hack to save taxes! Share these videos internally or on the blog; and make it interactive by letting employees (or regular readers) comment, like and share.

2) Knock down office walls

Drop a colleague home who is going the same way or call for an impromptu dinner to the resto-bar in the next lane. Join gym together or how about some soccer time on weekends? Be present out there. Engaging in activities beyond work fosters relationship and builds trust.

3) Conduct stand-ups!

A 10 minute stand up meeting at the commencement of day or at the beginning of a shift goes a long way in keeping communication an ongoing process. A brief meeting with your team, providing just key updates and a to-do list is effective in reinforcing values, purpose and targets – individual and organizational.

4) Organise a book-a-thon

The team-lead or the CEO can let out a book to 5 people. Each one prepares a review of a chapter and conducts a joint session to be talked about over a cup of coffee. This exercise will enable the team to learn the business concepts, language, management skills and strategy which you would want them to emulate. Read outside the emails to think outside the box!

5) Write personal notes!

Why don’t you stop coding over that MAC and write a personal note to a team member? It can be a simple, whacky one liner or a genuine “How exciting those numbers looked in your presentation!” Indira Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, went to the extent of writing letters to employees’ parents thanking them for the beautiful gift of their child! This gesture is bound to create ripples of emotions and tons of loyalty.

May be you can simply have a message board in the centre of the office. Anyone can put up anything they like once in a while, to add a bit of humor, crack an internal office joke or may be to compliment someone.

Creates a great vibe in the office. It’s known!

6) Generate warmth

John Neffinger, the author of Compelling People, writes, Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.” Foster warmth. Warmth is not easy to fake and a polite smile fools no one. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod or a smile, can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns.

Works well when you are trying to foster team-work as second nature amongst your team.

7) Weekly updates over lunch

Meet weekly to share updates and progress as an organisation. Club it with a lunch (or preferably a lot of desserts) or may be mocktails! Celebrate wins and acknowledge losses. It’s a great way to recap the week and set the stage for the week to follow.

Leaving you with a video that Saurabh shared with all of us at the beginning of this week. This blogpost was the result of the inspiration I gathered by watching this video! You see, it works!

About Amita Baheti 

Amita is a potato-lover and works at Holachef. You can follow her on Twitter at @AmitaBaheti


This post is part of Holachef’s Write Ho! program which is open to Holachef’s fans, critics, customers and their loved ones! To participate, write to [email protected].

Holachef goes HyperTrack


By Krupa Sonecha

“With great order numbers comes great responsibility!”

– Saurabh Saxena, Co-founder & CEO, Holachef

That was the only ‘problem statement’ that came to our tech team from Saurabh who, by the way, is always pulling our (social media team included) ears about making everything better for each and every Holachef user.

In 2015, when our orders stood at over 1000 meals every day with a just a handful of locations in Mumbai (at present we are available in 100+ PIN codes across the city), we had, by then, started building our own kitchen. The idea was to empower our chefs to really scale with the space, equipment and ease of operations that we were creating for them. It was at this point that we had to focus on dual goals of ‘increasing orders’ and ‘ensuring smooth and timely deliveries’.

While some of us were tracking daily sales and growth numbers, Saurabh was tracking if each and every order was getting delivered on time or not.

For customers, this might seem like the problem of ‘order time pe nahi aaya’  (the order did not reach on time) but for us, tracking an order is a lot more than just that. We wanted to track:

  • Whether deliveries reach customers on-time relative to the delivery slot promised
  • The percentage of time in a shift that delivery executives are idle
  • How far are delivery executives from the hub after delivering their last order
  • Where exactly is the order when a customer complains (80% of our support calls are about where they’ve reached) and what is the accurate ETA(expected time of arrival)
  • The exact path taken by the delivery executive for an escalated complaint escalated and the ability to replay the trip to see the progress in time and space

We can trace the actual path and replay the trip using the Play button at the bottom

Not just this, to optimize the resources (manpower, vehicles and time), each delivery executive leaves with multiple deliveries in a trip. We also wanted to:

  • Find available delivery executives nearest to the dispatch hubs so we could assign them the orders and then track them with an ETA until they arrived for the pickup
  • Get upfront ETAs for all deliveries in a trip and then track the trip progress
  • Re-order, cancel and re-assign deliveries on the fly based on changing circumstances
  • Get alerted when drivers were running late due to traffic, unscheduled stops, moving away from the destination, or going off-radar due to network or battery issues

Bird’s eye view of live trips with status alerts

Therefore, between every ‘mera order kahaan hai?’ (where’s my order?) and ‘ladka nikal gaya hai’ (it is on its way) conversation, there’s a lot that gets tracked in real time for each and every confirmed order at Holachef.

– Anil Gelra, Co-founder & CTO, Holachef

As the number of orders increased at Holachef, so did our search for a system or technology that would help enhance our customer’s experience.

It was at this point that HyperTrack came in and worked closely with us to integrate the desired features and dashboard that would enable us to manage the order deliveries seamlessly.

Our team wanted to provide a consistent end customer experience and was concerned about enabling order tracking on a map if it was only going to be available for a small subset of deliveries. HyperTrack was already being used heavily by one of our logistics partners and we knew it was working well for them. It helped that the APIs allowed for delivery partners to seamlessly integrate tracking of our portion of deliveries into our internal dashboard and our notification to customers. We are able to optimize the performance of our delivery staff and soon will be able to compare the performance of our in-house deliveries with those of our delivery partner.

Real-time order tracking is a big boon to food-delivery services like us where time is extremely critical. With Mumbai’s complex geography and over 100 PIN codes to serve in this city alone, there’s a lot that we are able to do because of HyperTrack.

Krupa SonechaKrupa Sonecha is VP, Product, Holachef. She manages and heads the consumer facing product. She has been a part of the team since the last one year. In the past, she has worked with many reputed names such as Sony Entertainment Television, Leo Burnett, etc. 

To China and Back

By Saurabh Saxena

As an entrepreneur, I had always been intrigued by everything that I had heard about the Chinese: their work culture, growth stories and business acumen. So when I got the opportunity to be at China and meet some of the companies there and be one of the speakers at YourStory’s The China India Story in Beijing, I was thrilled!


The trip started in Shanghai where I spent a couple of days. The agenda was simple – meet people, meet founders and investors immersed in the Chinese story and explore the culture and food.

From Shanghai to Beijing to HongKong – the trip was an experience like no other. I, for one, am totally smitten by the infrastructure on display; the thoughts of the entrepreneurs and investors alike on what differentiates the Chinese markets from Indian ones and the sheer magnitude of the domestic consumption economy in China and the ambition of it’s entrepreneurs. Language barriers to communication aside, this trip has left me wanting for more.

1) China’s uber architecture & infrastructure is breathtaking.

The skyline in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are a sheer reflection of China’s financial progress and business mindset. It’s the infrastructure that gives you the very first impression of a place you visit. This was out of the top drawer.

An interesting view point shared by most people I met there was that it was the relentless focus on infrastructure by the government and also the manufacturing sector that got the effects of the growing economy to benefit a much larger section of the society. Come to think of it, it is a very interesting thought. Service sector (like in India) while capable of growing the economy; tends to benefit a more ‘educated’ set of people. Manufacturing and infrastructure on the other hand benefit people across a larger skill set, not necessarily gained through formal education alone.

View from an office in Shanghai. Breathtaking!

This is what I meant by ‘uber’ architecture, you see! #Humor

2) The food is amazing and what we get in India in the name of Chinese cuisines is highly Indianised!

From what I had read before, I knew that China has 8 different cuisines and a couple of them (Sichuan and Hunan) are known to be very spicy. But never had I thought of anything to be so loaded with chili! One can imagine how hot it must have tasted – but it was irresistibly delicious! There is something about using the full chilies as against chili powder that we are used to in India – it renders the dish hot but doesn’t really leave you with a burning sensation in the mouth (if you can avoid biting into one of the chilly pieces).

A local delicacy made of braised pork and chilies (loads of them)


Roast Duck in black sauce – it was delicious!

The meat was tender and completely soaked in the sauce; making it a juicy and flavorsome meal. I believe it was a very simple recipe, one that can be turned out with very less ingredients and very quickly too. And yet it tasted so good!

I am often amazed at how simplicity wins over, even in food!

3) Streets are where the best local food is – often!

You’d agree that it’s the best way to explore any new destination. The experience of eating food that’s made right in front of you with multiple spices and sauces can’t be matched with anything else. It was a pain though that I couldn’t communicate in their language. Most of the locals have no spoken or written communication skills in any other language other than Chinese and it doesn’t help that Google’s services aren’t working for the most part of the Chinese Mainland.


All this with a locally brewed beer elevated the food experience multiple notches up!

5) The local bars have plenty of character…

Hong Kong is famous for its nightlife and bars. This one had these loyalty mugs for customers and a stewardess that remembered most of the patrons.


I visited Blue Marlin in Beijing with an acquaintance, Shan who hailed from Tamil Nadu and had spent the last few years in China completing his engineering and working on various real estate projects there. Situated in what the locals call the ‘Diplomat Street’ – this place was full of expats. The live band was pretty good and so was the food and the company.

7) Train travel brings the journey alive

It was an exciting commute from Shanghai to Beijing on train. The speed, the convenience and the comfort of the train were brilliant. Both Beijing and Shanghai airports are known to have innumerable delays in flights and hence the train seems to be one of the most reliable ways to commute. It helps that the train infrastructure is very well maintained and is almost airport like.

8) Local culture and art is immersed in everyday life

Beijing’s 798 Art Zone is a fantastic place, famous for unique art installations. Many large business offices are located in the vicinity too.

I got a chance to witness this local street performance. Loved the artsy colors and music. The vibe was great!

9) The Lama Temple visit 

The Lama Temple (Yonghegong) in Beijing was absolutely serene and peaceful. The temple is famous for a huge statue of Buddha which has been carved out of a single trunk of a Sandal tree.

Buddha statue carved out of a tree trunk

The layout of the Lama Temple

10) Loved Hong Kong’s majestic geography! 

Looking at the Hong Kong topography from up above, one cannot help but imagine what can be made out of an island.

Aerial view of Hong Kong

And those were some of the many memories I got back with me from China. It’s fascinating how visiting a new place can open the lid on so many new experiences. It can leave us inspired in so many ways!

About Saurabh Saxena

Saurabh Saxena is the founder and CEO of Holachef. You can follow him on Twitter at @saursax



This post is part of Holachef’s Write Ho! program which is open to Holachef’s fans, critics, customers and their loved ones! To participate, write to [email protected]

Dear Holachef Fans..

Each time we tick off a task at Holachef – whether it is meeting a target or achieving a laudable feat – a question silently surfaces. Is the ‘issue’ resolved? After all, everything that my team does here is to solve just that one ‘issue’: how-to-eat-a-wholesome-meal-while-ordering-in!

This problem statement inspired us to make Holachef what it is.  And that’s precisely why this year we want to focus on creating efficient solutions as much as celebrating our achievements. 2016 is going to be about Holachef surprising you with everything – innovation in food, technology and your experience!

The last few months have been a constant loop of accomplishing one milestone and dreaming of another one. From getting together the best chefs, putting forth innovative menus and upgrading the tech experience – we have seen a sort of revolution backstage. It was one of those crazy days at work when we realized we had served over 1 million meals in Mumbai. It was a big moment for my team, one that was believable yet so exhilarating.

A handful of meals at the start have now transcended into a global menu. Along with our home chefs, several professional ones have joined the force. From our home turf, Powai, Holachef now serves at every PIN code in Mumbai. Amidst all this, we always wonder: Didn’t we just begin?!

Food quality concerns, delays in delivery and tech problems have continuously emerged at every stage and in turn challenged us to only better ourselves. One of our endeavors to eliminate these issues and bring in effective solutions had us opening our own kitchen facility at the beginning of January 2016.

This facility has the best cooking infrastructure for our chefs and a tight control over sourcing best ingredients for the preparations. This is a facility from where our chefs can operate with 100% peace of mind and have a single-minded focus on making their recipes come alive. This central facility was an important milestone in our quest to create an extended personal kitchen for our fans, for you!

Holachef to me is romance. It is the romance of getting great food and many choices at an amazing convenience. It is to serve food that reminds one of a heartening emotion and not just a ‘tummy full’.

Reiterating  my team’s dream, Holachef was born out of a personal need of being able to order good food on a regular basis. The idea was to detach from the compulsion of kitchen chores twice a day in exchange of some leisure-time and wholesome food.

While we have just launched breakfast and evening snacks too, there’s a long way for us to become your wholesome extended kitchen – one that can fulfill your every food need, but we are getting closer to that dream with each passing day.

I feel so humbled when I see your encouraging appreciation or angry scolding.  In all of that, I see a connection that you have built with us and, more importantly, with our chefs.

My only urge to you is – please share your feedback, reviews, ratings for each dish or experience you have with us. It only makes us closer to what you desire us to be.





Saurabh Saxena is the founder – CEO of Holachef.  


When In Greece, Here’s What To Eat

By Nehal Tipnis – Quality Assurance, Holachef

Nature has lent me an enormous appetite for food and the culinary world. My first hit was at the age of 12 when I made granny-taught ‘just about perfect’ besan laddoos & she exclaimed at the finesse of them. I knew then, that I’m in love with food.

Having travelled and explored cuisines over the years, a 10  day trip to Greece – my first international destination, remains a very special one for the exceptional food I could explore.  Greek food is so much about olives (they extend much beyond the plate too) especially the Kalamata variety – being the king of olives, fresh herbs, wines, delectable juicy fruits, plump tomatoes, and my most favourite Greek honey. Travelling through  Athens, Mykonos, Santorini & Crete islands, here is a list of food I tried at these lovely destinations and which made me fall in love with the places all the more.


We had the most amazing Greek salad with freshly made thick, white & creamy slices of feta and drizzled with humongous amounts of olive oil, fresh rosemary & other herbs at Athens. The scent of it all still lingers on my mind! Another delicacy here were the gyros that we ate in the local road-side restaurants. Gyros are typically a roll stuffed with meat (vegetarian version were rarely available), accompanied by fries and house-made sauces. These are best had with local beer made in their wineries (one named Mythos was my favourite).


An island created by a volcano and notched atop a cliff, Santorini overlooks the beautiful and blue Aegean Sea. So every restaurant or hotel is perched on the hill in such a manner that from anywhere you look, you face the never-ending horizon of the sea with it’s cool air blowing over your face at all times. The view is enough to make you forget your hunger, but alas we felt the pangs more than often! Here we had some of the best pasta dishes, made by local top chefs, who used the freshest of herbs right from the plants lined at the restaurant garden- plucking them in front of you and allowing a whiff so you know you are in for a magical treat! The dish is relished with the finest of rose wines (a Greek local speciality), a house salad with plump red cherry tomatoes, feta, olive oil & other local ingredients along with the mesmerising view of Aegean sea, we couldn’t have asked for more!


Although every island in Greece is blessed with unexplored, rustic, un-touched and beautiful beaches, Mykonos is a favorite tourist attraction due to abundant coasts, exciting nightlife, a lively town (town-side as they call it) and lots of fun activities. Seafood was in abundance here, and of the finest taste & quality. Being a vegetarian, my meal choices were limited to pizzas, salads and pastas but certainly not disappointing at all. So, here we dug a lot into pizzas. I had some amazing hand-made, thin crust, yummy & supercilious pizzas at the local restaurants. Most of the places in Greece like to keep their pizzas simple – plenty of fresh tomato puree, olives, fresh herbs, lots of feta or other local cheese and vegetables with an abundant splash of olive oil!


A mix of beauty and bustle, Crete has a pretty port where all ferries ship passengers coming in from other islands. Certain parts of Crete have extremely beautiful beaches with pristine & clear blue-green waters. Having our fill of pizzas and pastas during the day, we also ensured on a king-sized breakfast to pack us with all the energy and power to hop around. Greek breakfast is truly meant for kings. The fare has fresh pickled olives, golden juicy peaches, creamy and super healthy yogurt, oodles of pure golden Greek honey, fresh & juicy sliced tomatoes & cucumbers, creamy olive oil & herb drizzled feta, fresh oranges and nectarines. This is paired with different breads, house-made tea-cake, pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate spread, preserved fruit, dried nuts and much more. This is infact a typical breakfast spread at any of the island restaurants in Greece. Peach-n-yogurt with honey was my personal favourite. And yes, Greek honey is the most awesome honey that I ever had so far. it’s taste, texture & intricate detailed aroma is simply unforgettable.

Here are a few locally made items the foodies can bring back home –  wines (made in-house), a variety of cheese, cooking herbs & spices and I would strongly recommend Greek honey. Apart from these, do try olive oil soaps, hand-crafted items from olive wood, stone/pearl jewelry (exclusively found in Santorini), bath salts (they have one of the most aromatic and tantalizing ones) and olive oil cosmetics.

In addition to beautiful memories and experiences, the trip has surely added an all-that’s-Greek compartment to my kitchen shelf!

A Startup Worth Craving For: Employees Speak

If you are wondering what makes Holachef so awesome, here are some of the guys from our various teams who make it happen. Check out their exciting journey at the startup.

Sadhna Raj Kanoria (Marketing, Sales & Growth)

My journey at Holachef began in May 2014. Those were the early days of our startup and I took up responsibilities of the supply chain at Holachef. This is only a part of the story, as being with a small team and at an initial phase meant that I had to look into practically everything from customer care to delivery. Managing 80 chefs was the most challenging but at the same time, it was a task that helped me grow professionally. Watching the team scale from 4 members to a 100+ over a few months is a proud achievement and indicative of the crazy journey we are on. Eating and working evidently go hand in hand here and I absolutely love everything by Chef Shahzad and Chef Ramani.

Sahib Singh (Strategic Business Analytics)

I joined Holachef during the summer of 2015 as a part of the analytics team. My main responsibility here is to predict the demand and supply of dishes and help bring in new recipes that customers can try. The journey so far has been an interesting one with a lot of experimentation on food along the way. I love the friendly atmosphere here and I am proud to have over utilized all the bean bags and recliner chairs in office, apart from trying all possible dishes – the red velvet pastry being my all time favourite!

Abhilash Krishnan (Tech & Design)

My first day at Holachef was a complete flip over from my previous corporate work life – totally crazy, chaotic and food filled. And like everyone else, I am completely in love with this place where I have seen ideas become decisions and then goals within no time. The opportunity to debate, decide and execute things so quickly, motivates me the most here. The Star Wars campaign, for instance, was done overnight and our customers loved it. Also, an interesting custom I have started when we have guests over at home, is passing around the Holachef app on my phone and allowing each one to add his/her meal choice to the cart. I mostly end up adding the mouth watering bhindi platter by Chef Ravi Saha, one of our many awesome chefs.

Ragina Nair (Human Resources)

Like the chefs here, I too like experimenting with my food and go for some unique dishes on the menu everytime. Even though I am not a part of the food team, my journey so far has been really amazing in the company of some ardent foodies. My main task is to find appropriate people who would be a good fit for the organization, right from marketing to line cooks. I also make sure the excess food prepared by us does not go waste and finds its way to children and people at various NGO’s. I am a total foodie and there couldn’t have been a better place to be at, especially when my company offers me the luxury of maacher jhol (Katla fish) with steamed rice for lunch on several days!

Yash Bhatia (Foodie-Mentor-y)

In my current role within the supply team, my favourite part is getting to meet and work with a variety of food professionals from across Mumbai, apart from onboarding chefs that fit the Holachef mould. The opportunity to be around focused people, find solutions to continuous challenges and explore all kinds of cuisines is nothing less than a dream job. Not to forget, the delicious food tastings and all day eating that happens here. Opening our very own central kitchen and the first day spent there is definitely a memory that I cherish. Chef Nishant Pawar’s lamb in oriental sauce is my favourite among all the amazing platters I gorge on at Holachef.  

Shashwat Tripathi (Operations)

As a part of the operations team, it is my job to take care of fulfilment services and various daily processes that involve everything from the kitchen to delivery. From a handful of orders to managing thousands a day, it has been a  roller coaster ride so far. Infact we have eaten, worked and slept at the same place for days and that shows our determination to live up to the food demands of the city. It is equally delightful to be managing too many things parallely. I don’t need a morning alarm anymore and my WhatsApp chats are full of dispatch and delivery conversations. I must admit, Holachef has definitely increased our appetite and weight with awesome food all the time. Chef Ramani’s dal chawal and Chef Rachna’s drinks are on my list of favourites.

Samir Saxena (Operations)

It did not take much convincing on Saurabh’s part when he told me about starting up Holachef and checked my interest. I take care of operations that chiefly involve ensuring that the food reaches the customer’s doorstep on time. This includes a list of complicated processes that I may not be able to list in detail here, nevertheless, there have certainly been many sleepless nights spent, trying to get the processes in order. Starting out as a small team and having our very own central kitchen now, has been a proud achievement and an exciting journey so far. My favourite dinner picks include a simple preparation of dal and rice by Chef Ramani and Chef Nishant Pawar’s lamb barbacoa.

Divya Singh (Foodie-Mentor-y)

My journey with Holachef has been a fun filled experience with memories and lessons to last me a lifetime. I am a part of the chef management team here, which basically means that I am in charge of communicating everything that is required of them on a daily basis. A proper communication channel between the chefs and the team is important to offer our customers the best menus on a daily basis and this is what I look forward to every day. Being a true foodie myself, I get to try delectable dishes and new recipes daily. Infact, the food here is so good that I remember ordering lasagna every other day and distributing my homemade tiffin in office. These days I have been relishing on malpuas by Chef A. Rajbhar.

Shweta Jha (Human Resources)

I was one of the first employees to join the HR department of Holachef and set up various systems in place. A customer-centric company full of brilliant and fervent people, we emphasise on experimentation here and offer everyone the freedom to be themselves. Apart from getting to interact closely with others and work in a startup environment, it is awesome to be surrounded by delicious food to try out all the time. Each one has their favourite chef and dish in office, and I am currently in awe of Chef Ravi Saha’s murgh biryani platter and Chef Sandeep Harmalkar’s honey chicken delicacy!

Saurabh Sharma (Foodie-Mentor-y)

When it comes to preparing an appetizing platter and tempting combos, menu planning is an important step and as a part of the food team, my job involves working on the daily menus. Keeping track of constantly changing preferences and introducing new varieties makes my work more fascinating. Food festivals are the best times here and it’s exciting to find out appropriate dishes for each of these events while identifying the right chef who will prepare these dishes perfectly. Work is never dull for a moment, especially when desserts are so accessible, including my favourite moong dal halwa by Chef A. Rajbhar.

Read more about our smart, handsome, pretty and talented task force on the Holachef team page.

Startup India: Views & Expectations

By Saurabh Saxena

(This article was originally published on www.firstpost.com)

Saurabh Saxena, Founder – CEO, Holachef

I have been a part of the startup ecosystem in India since 2006 – as an entrepreneur as well as an angel investor. Having been on both sides, I have had an opportunity to see this space evolve over the years. Since then, there have been many changes that have propelled this sector ahead. Thanks to the internet and connectivity, things move a lot faster today than they used to. In fact, so many startups, including Holachef, are possible because of the way things have shaped up in the IT sector.

Today, the Indian startup sector is thriving and has a lot of brilliant minds as part of its ecosystem. What I have always appreciated about this space is that help is always at hand when you need it. The entrepreneurs in our country are always willing to share their knowledge or extend their wisdom to others who might be taking their first steps into the sector. Also, it’s a close knit community in India and hence connecting the dots is almost always possible. Startups and entrepreneurs reach out to each other to open up win-win avenues which is always a positive step forward. I have experienced such generosity of many entrepreneurs along the way and I continue to seek their guidance when needed.

That is not the only challenge for this space. Starting a business in India has so many barriers and the processes are far from being simple. While this may not deter businesses from starting, it definitely slows down the process. Finding the first few customers is also one of the biggest challenges faced by every startup. However, the biggest strength of this sector is that in terms of technology and innovation the Indian start-up ecosystem has only just begun.

So far we could not have imagined an Uber or a Facebook coming out of India but I see that changing in the coming years. Technology and innovation will be at the crux of the Indian start-up sector.  Needless to say, we need more innovative minds to lend themselves to this space. Not just in technology, but on the whole, finding a suitable team is a big problem that all start-ups face. Perhaps working for a startup does not seem very lucrative to many and that needs to change. In fact, a host of new start-ups are in the business of finding suitable hires for other startups, which I think is great.

I believe there is a lot the government can do to channelize the resources in the unorganized sector towards a more startup-like structure.  Even in smaller Indian towns, so much innovation is left to be done in terms of raising money, marketing, use of technology and internet for business. India has a long way to go and support from government will play a key role in nurturing and expanding the sector. If they could build more incubators, accelerators and even give directives to B-schools about pumping up their entrepreneurial-cells, things would move a lot faster. There should be a provision for seed money to newer startups, especially in sectors that it wants to encourage such as healthcare, environment, farming, travel, etc. By investing in more startup-focused events, the government can provide a great platform to connect new ventures to their first set of customers.

Year 2015 has been full of ups and downs for the Indian startup sector, but 2016 is going to be all about consolidation. There will be mergers and acquisitions, focus will be more on building products and less on burning cash towards large scale marketing. We can expect more money from foreign investors coming into India this year. Another important trend to watch out for will be trickling down of many urban startups into smaller Indian cities. That will be a big game changer. There’s so much growth potential out there, it’s amazing.

The startup community is eagerly waiting to see how the PM’s StartUp India, Stand Up India program will unfurl. It’s a great step forward and we are hoping it will bring about some change for the better. I am confident that existing entrepreneurs will pitch in and take this campaign forward in the right direction. Having a young startup of my own, I see this as a very encouraging step forward because I understand the struggles a new venture faces. Any help is extremely valuable.

On the whole, we have a lot to watch out for and I believe the stage is set for an exciting play of events in this space.

Vegetarian On A Vacation: Food Trail Through Europe

By Shikha Lakhani – Marketing, Sales and Growth, Holachef

My first trip to Europe was no less ambitious than most first timers – too much to travel and too little time! The 15-day long itinerary covered 5 countries, several cities and lots of activities. Although we were quite comfortable keeping it impromptu with hostel stays, exploring places on foot and consulting locals for information, I was perturbed by one thought – good food. Being a vegetarian I had serious doubts on finding any options at all. My previous trips to South East  Asia had made me find solace in French fries and packed junk food. This time, I was going to be wiser and carry lots of homemade snacks with me. However, the trip surprised my palate and introduced me to lots of delicacies. Here’s a food-travel trail of my holiday for those who might want to know how these beautiful cities look food wise.

Day 1: Paris 

The city is full of desserts and breads, and from stations to quaint lanes, people can be seen grabbing them hot and fresh. Don’t miss out on delicious croissants for breakfast. Within desserts I loved macaroons.

Paris is quite expensive for food as compared many other cities we visited during the rest of the trip nevertheless, the cafes are cute and plenty all around the city.

Dairy products like flavoured yoghurt and caramel custard are super yum with a lot of variety. Veg food is extremely difficult to hunt so it was fruits & packaged foods that we survived on.

Paris streets are full of pretty cafes

Day 2 & 3: Rome 

Pizzas and pastas were everywhere and I had them in their most authentic version, bland and plain! They are served with no oregano and pepper, use a lot of tomato sauce and are not as cheesy. Don’t forget to try the gelato ice creams from any of the numerous stores spread across the city. It’s ubiquitous and with many many flavours.

Day 4: Venice and Day 5: Pisa 

Venice was one of those cities that were overloaded with veg options but of pizza and pasta. You can choose from a variety of fresh veg toppings for your dish. However, it’s a challenge finding any other cuisine in this city and all the local stuff is around tomato and cheese. The pretty cafes are by the water side and beautiful when lit in the evenings.

We couldn’t explore much of Pisa however the relatively small place did have fast food joints like Subway, which were nowhere to be seen in Venice or Rome.

View from a coffee shop at Venice

Day 6 to 8: Interlaken

I found this one a super expensive city for food including breads & regular grocery store products.

We lived in a cute hostel, that put out leftover food every day for free consumption once people checked out. We managed to find some awesome pasta sauce bottles, bread, spices lying there and preferred to cook our own meals using them!

Jungfraujoch, the highest train station at Alps has a nice Indian restaurant at the top. In fact, Interlaken was the first city where we found Indian eateries after days.

Not to forget: Lindt chocolates with lots and lots of variety. One can also find a lot of gourmet chocolate stores around the market side, if not buy, do go taste them all.

At the Lindt chocolate making demo in Jungfraujoch

Day 9 & 10: Munich

The Bavarian culture with lots of alcohol all around the streets was quite evident here and Munich is a heaven for vegetarians. I finally could locate a variety of cuisines at extremely reasonable prices. Lebanese and Chinese cuisine is recommended for all those who miss ghar ka khana – they spice it up quite like home, theekha and masaledar, and is a great respite after having had what can be termed as insipid food according to Indian standards of course!

Day 11 to 13: Amsterdam

The home styled food journey continued and it was also an ‘easy on pocket’ city. Plenty of options for food across cuisines once again and even the fine dine places seemed quite affordable with some good platters for vegetarians.

Don’t forget the fries – fat potato slices with assorted topping are a must have, and you can find stores at short distances all around the city. We also happened to be there during a city festival so got to have some great pancakes and pizzas on the street with live dance & music.

8 Must-Eat Foods In Hong Kong and Macau

By Swati Maheshwari, Corporate Communications, Holachef

Hong Kong is known for many things. It’s a heaven for red-meat lovers and sea-food worshipers, or so I learned when I visited this larger-than-life destination. It is a melting pot of global citizens. It raves of a breathtaking skyline and even more inspiring way of life. Every morning, the territory is filled with a swarm of beautifully dressed people walking in and out of MTR stations. Everyone’s a workaholic. I loved this place more than I had expected to. The houses are meant only for sleeping – almost everyone eats breakfast, lunch and dinner outside; and days are spent at the workplace. I found that extremely bizarre when compared to the Indian lifestyle, where ghar ka khana is integral to one’s being and eating out for 3 days in a row can make one overcome with guilt of various kinds.  Needless to say, the kitchenette in Hong Kong homes are only for you to heat the water, store or clean the dishes, and occasional cooking. That was a bit of a cultural shock for me.

I enjoyed exploring the food in Hong Kong’s restaurants and streets. Luckily for me, I stayed with a friend and his Chinese roommate who took me around the local places where even the menu would be in Chinese. So that gave me an inside view on most things, a hard-find for a tourist who’s there for 7 days or less.

So if you are on your way to Hong Kong, here’s what you should must-eat: 

1) First thing’s first, dim sums. All kinds of them. On the streets and in special dim sum-restaurants all over Hong Kong.

Dim Sum in Hong Kong

2) Noodle soup. With all kinds of meats that you can imagine. Literally. Steaming hot, flavorsome, comforting.

Noodle Soup in Stanley, Hong Kong

3) Desserts with tapioca pearls. I didn’t quite like it but I recommend you try it and decide for yourself. I had it at one of the restaurants at its waterfront.

Coconut dessert with tapioca pearls in Stanley, Hong Kong

4) Traditional Chinese hot pot. This was one of the most memorable meals I had. They put an induction burner on the table and let you decide the stuff you want to eat. In the pot is some broth and spices with meat. More is given on the side. As the broth keeps boiling, you can add more meat, vegetables, water – and eat the soup for hours. Goes really well if you have great company to share it with. I did.

Traditional Chinese Hot Pot in Hong Kong

Traditional Chinese Hot Pot in Hong Kong

5) The greens. Well, not quite. I got tired of the meats one day and ordered the only veg thing on the menu for, mind you, HK $60. What did I get? This portion of boiled spinach with garlic seasoning. Well, all I can say is it was a welcome change to have a non-meaty dinner for once. The Chinese add vegetables to their food only to balance out all the meat they eat. So they randomly add some green, leafy veggies to their soups and other preps but avoid it as much as possible.

A Vegetarian Meal in Hong Kong

6) Street food.  Goes without saying. There’s pork floss and pork bun and dried sea food and sea food dipped in chilli. There’s just so much that you can eat, eat, eat and yet won’t run out of things to try.

Street food in Hong Kong

One of my favorite street food experiences in Hong Kong was at Graham Street. You will know the fun of it once you get there. It’s like the alleys are restaurants. People sitting out in the open, relishing their favorite street food. There’s no room for anyone else.

Street food in Hong Kong

If you have the time, do visit Tai O fishing village in Lantau Island. The fish balls there in a spicy dip simply hit the right spot; especially under a beautiful, drizzling sky.

Fish Balls in Hong Kong

7) Portuguese delicacies. Yeah, well, this one’s a surprise but Hong Kong (in Stanley region) and Macau have many popular Portuguese restaurants and the food is worth craving for. I visited Fernando’s Restaurant in Macau and I can never exaggerate how much I enjoyed the food there – freshly baked bread, the charcoal grilled fish with potatoes. I could cry just thinking about it. You could also try the suckling pig. I have heard it’s out-of-this-world. And, and, and don’t miss their sangria.


Charcoal Grilled Fish at Fernando’s, Macau

Freshly Baked, Warm Bread in Fernando’s, Macau

8) The egg tarts in Macau. It’s like a piece of heaven – warmly fresh, soft, sweet, buttery. It really is scintillating and worth all the fuss around it.

Egg Tarts in Macau


So that’s my personal foodie recommendation to anyone visiting Hong Kong for the first time.

A few words of wisdom for travelers:

  1. Giving tips to waiters, etc in restaurants is not a norm in Hong Kong.
  2. The place is not known for its hospitality so expect waiters to be quick, and often curt. But they don’t mean to offend – it’s just the way they work.




How Saurabh Saxena’s app made Ratan Tata invest in it

(This story was published in ET Panache on 21st October 2015. You can read the original here.)

Like the rest of us, Saurabh Saxena, CEO and Founder of Holachef, has had problems with domestic help. “What she cooked wasn’t necessarily what we liked,” he says, laughing. But, unlike the rest of us, he turned his frustration into something productive. Holachef, launched in September 2014, connects you to chefs to enhance your dining experience right at home. The company has a customer base in Mumbai and recently expanded to Pune. Earlier this year, they received Rs 2 crore in seed funding from India Quotient. In another fundraiser, led by Kalaari Capital, they raised Rs 20 crore in Series A funding. And then came another biggie. Holachef managed to catch the eye of Ratan Tata, who invested an undisclosed sum in the startup. ETPanache catches up with Saxena, the man behind nearly 3.5 lakh meals, to find out about his love for ghar ka khaana, his inspiration and just who he would like to call over for dinner. And of course, he’ll be ordering in.

You have been in the startup circuit since 2006, starting with Aakar Knowledge Solutions. Tell us about your switch from an educational startup to Holachef?

Even though I was in the field of education for seven years, there was a problem in the F&B market that I felt that I could solve. I reasoned that my friends and I were facing the problem, so why not try to solve it?

How did Holachef come about?

My wife and I are working professionals. Cooking and the kitchen are the last of our concerns. The domestic help wasn’t great and eventually we used to order in and go out to eat way too often. There was no place which offered quality food that’s not greasy. So, yes, in a way our domestic help was a breaking point for us (laughs). We couldn’t expect her to bake lasagna for us, so we can’t really blame her though.

Do you remember your first customer? Do they get special treatment at Holachef?

Our first order was from a very close friend of mine. I gave him a call and told him, “Boss. Download the app and place an order.” It was more of a command (laughs). He ordered South Indian fare. Nowadays, I don’t need to command him, but he does order frequently from us.

How did you build your army of over 200 chefs?

That’s the best part! Within the F&B industry there is a huge and thriving amateur industry. There is a good supply of chefs skilled in various cuisines, both at the amateur level and professional level. At the top restaurants, you remember the dish and restaurant but not the chef. With Holachef, they get direct exposure for their cooking. Getting them on board was difficult at first but once chefs started realising that this was workable, it all started coming together. Some of the chefs who have been with us from the start have served more than 20,000 meals. Our chefs come from Taj, ITC as well as a lot of home chefs.

How often do you and your wife use Holachef?

We use it every day. We’ve shut down our home kitchen.

What were the challenges you faced when you started? And what are the challenges you’re facing today?

Convincing the chefs that this was an alternate way of looking at the supply chain was one of our initial challenges. Now the problems are more operational. Making sure everything is consistent across customers, making sure the food is what the customer wants.

How did you first go about raising funds for Holachef?

Initially, the co-founder and I put in money. But we were fortunate that quite a few people had our food and were keen on the idea. That’s how India Quotient came on board.

How did Ratan Tata hear of Holachef?

I was fortunate to meet him at one of the events Kalaari had organised. We got talking. Given his experience in the hospitality industry, he had an amazing level of insight and asked us great questions on how we were planning on taking things forward. The conversation lasted close to 45 minutes. After that, we heard back from his team that he was interested.

Did he order any food?

He did check out the website at the presentation. But he hasn’t ordered food. I did take oatmeal cookies and some delicious South Indian condiments for him for the meeting, but I don’t think he ate it (laughs).

Has Ratan Tata sat in on any meeting? To what extent does he provide guidance?

With a person like him, it is more about the small interactions you can have with him. It’s not like he needs to sit on the board or attend meetings.

What is the best advice you’ve taken away from conversations with him?

That companies are built with a lot of effort and thought. He said while there is a lot of strategy, there should also be passion. Transferring that passion from the top to bottom is a priority.

Who would you like to call over for dinner?

Rahul Dravid. I would not make anything because if I cook, he would run away. I would have our chefs serve him authentic regional cuisine — food from Bihar, Maharashtra and so on. I will also be glad to host Ratan Tata.

Who are the startup entrepreneurs that you will be looking out for?

We have to look for real problems with our customers, not just a buying habit or trend. I look forward to startups in healthcare. There are a few in the personal nursing space and I think that is a phenomenal idea. Simply because we all have elders at home — personal healthcare is so difficult to find. If a startup like this succeeds, it will make a tremendous improvement in people’s lives.