This is the final post in our Fuck Up Nights blog series. This post features a bunch of learnings and fuck ups shared at the event by Mr. Raghav Verma, co-founder of the very popular and rapidly growing chai retail chain, Chaayos. Chaayos was founded in November 2012 and aims to put chai back where it should be, at the forefront of our beverage cravings!
Now let’s focus more on Raghav Verma’s fuck ups before he started his ever so successful startup, Chaayos.
The first few learnings for him when he started his career were:
- After graduating from IIT Delhi, he was a management consultant for a whole two years till he realised how not cut out for that he was and that becoming an entrepreneur was his true calling.
- He then learnt that the success of a startup isn’t determined purely by the amount of funding they have raised.
- He found it hilarious that the most frequently asked question was “Funding kaise milti hai?”. When he’d try and talk about a product he’d be told “Woh sab chhodo, ye batao ki funding kaise milti hai?”.
He and three other friends of his (who had also realised that they wanted to be entrepreneurs) spent months figuring out what to do and what sector to get into. They analysed all the trending startups and were very interested in the model and offerings Coursera offered. The result of that was prepsquare.com, an online education platform that helped connect students who were preparing for competitive exams and help them with whatever kind of information they’d need. However, prepsquare.com turned out to be Verma’s first major fuck up.
Why did it turn out to be a fuck up you ask?
Well, it stemmed from the fact that all three co-founders had similar skill sets and the fourth was the CTO. The results:
- Everyone had an opinion on everything. This usually isn’t a bad thing but if those opinions start prolonging decisions and get in the way of productivity, it can prove to be quite detrimental to your business.
- It’s important for co-founders to have varied skill sets so that it’s easier to assign areas of ownership to each respective co-founder.
- There will be many a time when you think your startup is going to be the next big thing. However, you need to realise that sometimes it’s all about timing. Your idea may be the next big thing but if you put it out ahead of its time, it will probably fall flat on its face.
- The only way out is to stay informed and the best way to do this is by reading books, meeting people and learning from their experiences and also gathering learnings from other industry experts.
- There’s no need to reinvent what’s already out there. Seldom does that ever end up working out.
The other learnings from his stint at prepsquare.com were:
- The hardest thing to do when running a startup is to know when exactly you must call it quits. That being said, it’s also sometimes the most important thing to do. The last thing you want to do is keep putting in time and effort into something that isn’t headed anywhere.
- When you startup, you have to believe in your value proposition with your heart and soul. Or else there’s no way you’ll be willing you put in all the required blood, sweat and tears that a startup requires of you.
- Your startup is like your baby, it’s your obsession. It’s something you’ll be doing for hopefully the next 5-10, maybe even 15-20 years. There’s no way you’re going to be able to do that unless you really feel for it.
Then came the Q&A round that saw some interesting questions and even more interesting answers being tossed back and forth.
Q1. When is the right time to quit being an entrepreneur?
- Well, if it’s in context to being an entrepreneur, you never have to quit and instead keep trudging along. There will always be people trying to bring you down when you’re trying to do something innovative. In the case of Chaayos, did you know that in India for every coffee drunk, 30 chai’s are consumed. Yet for some reason we have 3000 coffee outlets for every chai outlet. Yup, you heard that right! Due to this high demand our first outlet broke even in the second month itself.
Q2. How did you go about marketing and branding initially?
- Well, we discovered that 4/6 coffee outlets were located in business parks. Hence, we knew exactly where you captive audience lay and we stuck to initially just targeting them. Also, in the first year and a half we did absolutely no marketing and branding. The best way to go about it is to have clearly defined roles between your co-founders and also have one CEO whose primary job is to keep in mind the long term vision of the company.
Q3. What are your views on brand ethos and customer feedback data?
- Listening to the customer and his wants and needs is key and your brand ethos must revolve around that. That being said, a feedback system of sorts must be created so that you know what’s working and what isn’t. Another thing you must keep in mind is that if there’s any revenue coming in at the price of customer experience, that isn’t scalable at all and will be short lived.
Chaayos now boasts of around 22 outlets spread across Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and Mumbai. They have achieved this in the span of a mere four years and seem to be growing bigger by the day. Now that’s what we call a highly successful startup!
This was the last post in this series of Fuck Up Nights.
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