Tag Archives: Start Up

Breakfast-in-Bed

Start Up Ideas that You Can Use (BUT PLEASE LAUNCH IN HYDERABAD)

Cigarette Delivery App – Paanwala

Cigarettes.

You can’t live with them. You can’t live without them.

The government has been doing its best to get smokers to quit. There are the annoying ads before movies, Rahul Dravid speaking Hindi and sounding like the evil rulers of Lagaan, there are warnings telling people that smoking could lead to cancer, impotency and death. And yet, a smoker will smoke.

However, buying cigarettes is a pain.

In India, we don’t have the culture of buying the entire pack of cigarettes, hence they’re sold loose. Most people who look to quit smoking refrain from buying an entire packet too.

From the seller’s point of view, there’s really no profit in cigarettes. It’s staggering how they even run their business, knowing that a single cigarette offers a margin of a rupee. Which means you have to sell a pack of 10 to make a profit of ten rupees.

How the App works:

There are millions of paan dabbas around the country, in every lane, every street, every locality. You connect the nearest paan dabba to the customer. There’s a minimum order of 100 rupees and every cigarette is sold at a margin of 5 rupees.

It doesn’t require a kitchen, or preparation – or even an outlet. It could be a service than runs 24×7, and the seller could make a profit of 50 rupees per pack – 5 times what he’d make from his shop.

Also, if the shop offers other goods (like cool drinks, glasses, paan, etc.), customers can order those too.

Cigarettes are a necessity in every party, and they always run out – I haven’t attended a single party in my life where there were too many cigarettes. This app will connect smokers to cigarettes and ensure a long and happy smoking relationship between the two.

PS: If you’re making an app for this, please give me credit. Also, please start operations in Hyderabad, in the Madhapur – Gachibowli – Kondapur area.

Thank you.

Jai Hind.

                                     HumsurferA Co-Travelling App

Travel.

Hyped by the rich, fantasised by the middle-class. Unheard of by the poor (except when they migrate for work – which is a beautiful common ground between Tourism and Labour Migration).

With rising disposable incomes, and a population that is mostly young – India will see a huge surge in local tourists travelling around the country (and abroad). While apps like Oyo and MakeMyTrip handle different specific aspects of travel such as hotels and travel – there is one unanswered question in travelling.

We in India do not have a culture of traveling. It is not till recently, when hashtags such as #WanderLust and #TravelIsLife became popular.

However, the biggest pain with traveling is making a plan.

Most often, your partner is busy. Or friends have plans. Or some of you did not get a leave from work. Which results in a million plans going to dust every year.

What the App does:

The app is targeted at people looking for other travellers.

When you register on the app, you get to choose your own requirements:

  1.   Number of people in the group (from 2 to 5)
  2.   Gender of the people (either same gender or the other gender – though I doubt Indian women are dying to invite stranger Indian men to travel with them. But you never know – this app could be revolutionary!)
  3.   Age group of the people you want to travel with
  4.   Destination and dates that you are comfortable traveling between.

The app verifies your profile using a number of profiles – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – and you get to choose the people you travel with. You can choose solo travellers, or groups – depending on how comfortable you are with strangers.

What’s in it for app users:

  1.   No jhijhak about traveling. Make a plan – find people travelling to the same place – pack your bags and leave.
  2.   Cost savings. Travelling in a group brings down your costs by half (or more!). This is ideal for youngsters/hitchhikers/budget travellers.
  3.   You get to meet new people along a journey and make friends.

I still don’t know how this can be monetised, as every aspect of the travel can be planned and customised according to the needs of the people traveling. But also, does every app need to be monetised? I mean, is earning money the sole purpose of every single endeavour in our lives?

I still haven’t been able to figure out the answer to this question!

*

So there you have it, reader. Go ahead, make in India. Bake in India. Rake in India.

I am quit shit at running my own life, leave alone a start up. The only time I had tried one, we wound up in a month because we were both stoners who decided to get stoned with our customers and suppliers. Sometimes, at the same time.

But life is a constant stream of learnings, and through the experience I learnt that one must never get stoned with one’s customers and suppliers. However, the incident has kept me away from the Start Up Revolution, and hence I have decided to pass on the baton to the next generation.

Jai Hind. Jai Yugoslovakia. Jai Shree Allah.

*****

Suggested Reading: Why I Had to Shut Down my Start Up – By Hriday Ranjan. Start-Up Enthusiast. Venture Socialist. Devil Investor.

Why I had to shut down my Start Up Company

2015.

Narendra Damodardas Modi had swept to power, his popularity at its highest peak. Modi was blazing across the world, encouraging investors, businessmen and conglomerates to ‘Make in India’.

Freshly admitted into the MPhil course at the University of Hyderabad, my department sent me on a trip to Gujarat for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, where I rubbed shoulders (and elbows and toes) with some of the biggest Indian business heads who chose not to live in India. Perhaps it was the exposure to their business heads that sowed the seed in my own head.

Or perhaps there was always a silent entrepreneur in me. I had never seen anyone run a business from close quarters, and all my transactions with friends were limited to drugs. But sometimes, you just know.

On that winter day in 2015, I basked in the confidence that there existed an entrepreneur in me. Silent, but strong.

*

Part 1 – The Idea

Every great business idea attacks the roots of a common problem, and we were no different. The University of Hyderabad offers its students a range of benefits – from taxpayer internet connection to taxpayer coconut chutney. However, the dining hall – appropriately called ‘mess’ – leaves a lot to be desired.

They serve breakfast till 9, which is when classes begin in the departments. Students have to rush for breakfast, and by 8.15 the line resembles a queue for National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Long winding lines for soggy bondas and liberal dosas that chose to transcend barriers of taste and feel. Food stalls on campus were all far away, and didn’t open till 11 AM. This was where me and my friend come into the picture.

Our plan was simple. We would deliver breakfast to rooms, on a daily, weekly and monthly subscription basis. There existed a number of vendors just outside the back gate, and since both me and my partner had access, we could provide fresh, hot, healthy breakfast to students for as cheap as 30 bucks.

We discussed the idea with a few friends, and got their approval. We printed posters and pasted them across the campus. Pamphlets were slipped under every door, WhatsApp and word of mouth publicity was also used to spread the word.

A few MBA friends spoke to me on the value of ‘scaling up’ and ‘claiming the verticals’. We discussed angel investors, mergers and 2nd round of funding’. Publicity material involving Jackie Shroff (with arguably regressive ideas) were circulated among friends and well-wishers.

Breakfast in Bed

In a week’s time, Breakfast in Bed was raring to go!

 

Part 2 – The Team

At this juncture, it is appropriate that I introduce you to my partner – Rahul – you must have heard the name. Rahul was a part time MPhil student, full time rockstar. He had Jimi Hendrix curly hair, wore yellow John Lennon shades at night, and lived life on his own terms. Rescuer of stray kittens, roller of pristine joints, and a daily challenger to Yama when he rode his bike.

We had met a few years earlier and connected over a common love for the holy herb, psychotropic substances, and all matters transcendental. It was his idea – and it must have been the conviction in his tone, or the dexterity in the joint – I agreed.

As a lurker of the subconscious terrain, it is important to note that a number of ideas strike you on a daily basis, but some stay longer and knock on the insides of your brain. In a few days, I saw the light of his argument. He was Steve, and I was Wozniak. He was Duckworth, and I was Lewis. I had no culinary experience, and my know-how was limited to the fact that I know how to eat; but I’d been a lifelong eater of dosas and vadas. I couldn’t make a good vada, but I could tell a good one from an excellent one. Roger Ebert never made a movie, but his contribution to cinema is far greater than most who did.

 

Part 3 – The Idea in action

And so we set off on this adventure of a venture, our only capital being confidence and the wishes of our friends. The plan was to have a vendor right outside the gate, take orders from customers, and deliver hot, fresh food within 25 minutes.  

Me and Rahul would share the load – alternating between taking orders and delivering them. Every half an hour, one of us would collect the orders (at a shop five minutes away), and deliver them to satisfied customers.

There was something inspiring about the process. For someone who lacks even an iota of discipline, this seemed like a cause worth waking up to. We would be up by 6, and wait for calls. They came slowly at first, and then in waves. One of us would roll a quick joint, while the other took three quick puffs and plunged into action.

Our customers – both friends and strangers – were glad to see us. We provided relief from the corrupted food in the mess, and they greeted us with sunshine smiles. ‘Don’t have change? No problem, bro! Give it tomorrow!’.

Hesitant teenagers who opened the door surreptitiously because their girlfriends lay inside thanked us for the few hours they got. Some customers invited us in –

‘Smoke one? Sure, bro!’

‘But I’ll have to leave early, huh? Have orders waiting…’

I understood what Nobel scientists meant when they said that their work wasn’t work at all. The smiles of customers, or the coy smiles of the girl in the pyjamas, who was surprised that a delivery boy spoke English like the Queen’s plumber.

I was a changed person. I’d wake up at 6 and ask my lady to leave as the orders would start pouring in. At night, I’d receive anonymous messages saying, ‘Hey, what’s for breakfast tomorrow? :-)’. I’d quickly put the phone on silent and go to sleep, for it would be a long day tomorrow.

Life was good, and there was a reason to wake up every morning.

 

Part 4 – The Bubble Bursts

2015 witnessed a number of economic crises, primary among them the Chinese stock market turbulence. Shanghai share index plummeted 8.49% of its value, and the billions lost in international stock markets were dubbed Black Monday and Black Tuesday by international media. The economy of Greece was also going through its bleakest phase, defaulting on a loan repayment of an International Monetary Fund loan.

All of this of course, had no impact on us. We picked up masala dosas and bondas from a small shop and delivered it to hungry students who smoked chhota Gold Flake. Our downfall was brought about by internal factors, rather than external agents.

It was in this process that I learnt the first hard lesson in doing business. It cannot be run when there are two partners, and they’re both sleeping partners. Since both of us were stoners, the morning proceedings began by rolling a joint. Since we’d partied the previous night, sleep was hard to fight off. The results had begun to show.

Orders were getting confused for each other. A horrified vegetarian professor complained about two bright yellow Egg Dosas that had shown up hungover on her table. When I messaged ‘Hey, tomorrow we have special Pongal for breakfast’ to my angel investor, I got no response. A customer complained that his dosa had some mud on it, a clear indication that it had touched the ground at least once. Rahul’s brother, who had graciously helped us with deliveries, refused to deliver in the Ladies Hostel, as his girlfriend had gotten suspicious of him getting breakfast for other girls.

Friends who’d supported us with weekly subscriptions, asked us to hang on for a bit. We mixed business and pleasure into a heady cocktail and took gigantic shots. We would sometimes gobble up a dosa with our friends, and stay back to smoke one, only to realise there were 17 missed calls on the phone!
Part 5 – How the High and mighty fall!

Breakfast in Bed, born from a million myriad mirrored dreams, began to unravel in front of our eyes. We were like Nokia, struggling to cope with a changing world. Meanwhile, evil capitalist money was being pumped in through organisations like Foodpanda and Swiggy. Our socialist-welfare model of cheap food and friendship (and one banana free!) couldn’t cope.

Like Ambassador and Gold Spot, we slowly faded out. Swiggy and Foodpanda had swanky bikes, uniformed-delivery agents with packaged food. Breakfast in Bed had two dope-heads with a bike, delivering food wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper.

And here is the second lesson I learnt from the experience – Accountancy. Rahul was a student of the liberal arts, and couldn’t be bothered with the debit-credit of things. But I was a Commerce graduate, with Honours in Accountancy.

In a month, our cash flow resembled the Hussain Sagar lake, our fund-flow the Musi river. The only incentive to deliver an order was that we could pocket the money, so thoroughly had we blurred the lines between revenues and pocket money! The orders began to dry up – the only orders were from friends who wanted Rahul to roll them their morning joints.

 

Part 6 – The Beginning?

With heavy hearts and light heads, we shut down Breakfast in Bed. It wasn’t ceremonial or momentous, rather like a cancer slowly playing out its destiny. We continued to get stray calls for a few weeks after, but the enterprise was more or less wound up.

Rahul was handling the vendors and suppliers, while I was battling the monsters within me. In a few days, I told the lady she didn’t need to leave early, and I couldn’t gauge if there was happiness or sadness on her face.

May be the business didn’t go all that well. But so was the case with Steve, Walt, and Spielberg. Rahul brought a kitten to the room, but like our customers, it left our room and returned to the Mess.

Maybe it was for the better! May be I wasn’t ready to handle the inevitable onslaught of Venture Capitalists and Mergers & Acquisitions that would follow. Maybe it was an indication that my Pixar awaits me in the future. May be there’s an idea lurking in the dark, waiting for me to stroll into the forest again.

*

Meanwhile, I hear the students of the University are struggling to buy cigarettes…