Harsha Thachery, Founder & CEO and Liya Verghese, Co-Founder represent the perfect ying and yang of starting a business. Harsha has many years experience of working with startups and is a CA by qualification while Liya used to be a tax consultant. They both are extremely passionate about food and that lead to the establishment of MasalaBox that brings customers a unique home-to-home dining experience, from the kitchens of some incredibly talented home chefs. We chat with Harsha about the venture. An excerpt from the interview:
- What made you start your venture?
I have been mulling over this idea for nearly 5 years. It dates back to the days when I was pregnant. We were on the lookout for ‘healthy’ eating out options and realised that there really isn’t one available that offers preservative and additive-free fresh food. At that time I got busy with my new born and didn’t really act on it. Later, when she was old enough to eat solids I became concsious of what she was eating and started experimenting with a lot of healthy recipes at home. It was then that my husband suggested that we do something commercial on these lines. Also, during our travels we came across similar models and the business idea took shape. Then, one day I sounded the idea to my friend Liya and from then on there was no looking back.
- What has been the key to your business’s success?
The quality of the product would be the most important factor along with the passion of the team and chefs to provide a superior service. Apart from this the novelty value of the idea at the time it was launched (Aug 2014) also helped.
- What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
One of the major challenges was to find the right packaging. We were clear that we did not want to package our food in cheap plastic/covers like in most restaurants and wanted to go in for an environment friendly material. A lot of research later we finalised the plant based fibre packaging we currently use. Another challenge was attracting the right talent to build the core team as Kerala didn’t really have too much of a start-up culture unlike in Bangalore and other cities. Getting the initial pool of chefs to sign up with us was also a challenge as our idea was in paper and we had to work a lot to convince them.
- Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
My husband, Jugul Thachery, is our greatest source of inspiration. We always pick his brains when we get stuck and he also motivates us to achieve our goals.He also advises us extensively on tech related matters and helped us in putting the tech team together.If not for him we wouldn’t have reached where we are professionally and personally. Also we have a Panel of Advisors and Industry experts helping us in startegy and scaling up etc.
- Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
We have a strong tech team which has built our apps and the site and our logistics software. To get to market fast we initially used open source prestashop to launch but we are currently migrating to our own proprietary system.
- What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
Customer satisfaction is the key to our business and we take their reviews very seriously and act on it. We work on various online and offline marketing strategies like referral programs to discount coupons etc to grow our customer base.
- What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?