As the Indian startup market grows, focus on food delivery services and food apps have recently exploded. Twigly founded by Sonal Minhas, Rohan Dayal, Naresh Kachhi and Utpal Sharma addresses a niche in the ever-growing food industry- to provide great food at low prices without compromise! Currently operational in Delhi, Twigly aims to expand their business and delivery areas very soon. We chat with Rohan about the venture. An excerpt from the interview:
- What made you start your venture?
All of us are foodies at heart. While none of us have directly worked in food before, there is relevant experience that we have all drawn from our past lives that has helped us put together Twigly. Additionally, we realized a big white space in terms of tasty, wholesome, healthy options available to people working in offices. In our busy past lives, we ended up ordering fast food chains (which becomes boring very soon), from neighbourhood dhabas (local restaurants which typically serve very unhealthy food) or from brick-and-mortar restaurants (typically very expensive). Twigly was created to bridge this gap – provide fine-dining food at a fraction of the cost, without compromising on the experience.
- What has been the key to your business’s success?
It’s all about the food! We’ve spent days and nights making, tweaking, reworking recipes to make them just right. You can’t take a traditional recipe and just throw the preparation into a box and expect the dish to travel well and taste good after 40-60 minutes of it being cooked. We’ve rejected dozens of popular dishes, and tweaked others to travel well. When we try a new dish, we first keep it out for 40 minutes and then send it out for a bike ride over Gurgaon’s roads before finally accepting it. We’ve also put in a lot of effort to ensure a great customer experience in terms ease of ordering, tracking, packaging and delivery. Put together, this has given us a very high customer retention and repeat rate.
- What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
Delivery is probably the biggest challenge we’re facing. Demand is concentrated during lunch and dinner hours, and people want their food fast. At the same time, we cannot have an infinite delivery team. We understand that customers do not want food delivery to be a black box where they don’t know when they will get their order. We use a lot of technology to help us track orders and delivery boys and share this information with our customers so that they know when to expect. We introduced our ‘Order for Later’ feature to bring predictability for customers and for us, and it has really picked up well.
- Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
We’re very fortunate to have some very sharp minds as angel investors, including Amit Gupta, co-founder of InMobi, Sahil Barua, co-founder of Delhivery, Aloke Bajpai, co-founder of iXigo, Mukul Singhal from SAIF, and TracxnLabs. They’ve seen the journey we’re starting on (some of them many times of over) and they’re really great sounding boards for our thoughts.
- Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Online ordering is all about convenience, which is why we have built our apps and systems to make it extremely convenient for customers to place and track orders. Typically, 65-70% of our daily orders are from our Android and iOS apps, from which one can order in 3-4 easy taps. These have been optimized to work even on slow 2G networks. Most of the backend systems have been developed in house, which gives us more control and customizations to get the maximum output from our operations. We are using the Java based Play Framework for the backend as it allows us rapid prototyping and deployment, and Redis cache to reduce server response time. We’ve also worked hard to make our kitchen paperless – this is a significant move away from traditional restaurants in India where information flow is paper-intensive.
- What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
We’ve been growing 50% month-on-month, and most of this growth has been through word-of-mouth. We take feedback on each and every order, and take corrective action in case customer feedback on a particular dish or packaging reaches a tipping point. We’ve turned around ~10 recipes based on customer requests. We’re very close to our customers, many on a first name basis as they order regularly. While we understand this is not scaleable, we believe getting it right in our formative days will help us in the long term. ~95% of our deliveries are rated 4+ (on a scale of 5) for food and delivery.
- What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- This is very cliched, but you need to be super-passionate about what you are doing so that you can ride the business’ ups and downs (there are ample of both) and stay enthusiastic even when things do not go the way you plan them to.
- You need to understand the fundamentals of the business you are operating. This means having a good understanding of what customers are looking for (some of which is unarticulated), the financial implications of various decisions (making good food requires good equipment) and the technology that will help make a fantastic offering.
- You need to think big and be ready to accept failure (while, of course, ensuring that you succeed more often than you fail). Startups are all about breaking the status-quo, and if you start by just offering the same value proposition that others in the market offer, you will need to spend a lot of money trying to stand out from the crowd.