A Journey From Taj to Startup of The Year 2018

“When something is important enough you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” —- Elon Musk

That’s exactly what Raka Chakrawarti did when she set out to start Gourmetdelight. Having spent 10 years at Indian Hotels, she quit the organization in 2013 as Director of Public Relations for Taj and Director of Content Marketing for Indian Hotels to follow her passion – to set up an outlet that provides differentiated food items.

At that time there was not much happening in this domain. There was a fledgling awareness about organic and free-range produce. Only a few outlets in five-star hotels were dealing in organic and free-range produce. For the common household awareness and accessibility to such produce was limited.

The Taj group had previously explored the organic/free range food concept with its restaurant ‘Pure’, however the concept did not have many takers at that time. Raka liked the concept of Pure and wanted to do more with it. She could gauge that the tide would change and with increasing levels of awareness the Indian consumers would very soon want to know more about what they are consuming and where it is coming from. This self-awareness would create a need for natural produce and that’s what Gourmetdelight would cater to.

Having spent a decade in a job she loved, shaking her comfort zone was not an easy decision to make. Raka experienced a lot of turmoil and kept pushing her decision to take the entrepreneurial plunge. Finally, her passion trumped.

Armed with an experience in the hospitality industry and a good network of friends to fall back on, she set up Gourmetdelight from a flat in Chembur in 2015, financed with her savings and help from family. The idea behind the business was to find good suppliers, unique items, find products in small batches, and make ‘farm to table’ accessible to more and more kitchens. Within a year demand for her products grew and she decided to take the business online. Gourmetdelight.in was launched in 2016, providing delivery in South Mumbai, initially and then expanding to suburbs.

Entrepreneurship is not a smooth ride, it comes with its fair share of toil and tribulations. There are long hours spent at work, lot of missed family time, weekends are often spent at work. Coming from the hospitality industry long hours and working weekends are not new to Raka. She finds greater joy in the long hours now as she is creating value for the business, the customers and the employees.

As of now Gourmetdelight is completely bootstrapped. Limited funds have made the team highly creative. The business uses google advertising very judiciously, there are tie ups with various companies for loyalty programs, mailing lists and even banks have been approached to include gourmetdelight.in in their mailing lists. Double hatting comes naturally to the employees here.

Gourmetdelight.in caters to about 10,000 customers and the customer base has been growing at a rate of ~10-12% per month. Raka confesses that as of now, hers is not a convenience business that offers 2-hour delivery, however she is determined to get there soon.

Organic and free range produce right now is mostly an urban phenomenon and Rakas’s vision is to take the business beyond Mumbai to other metros and abroad as well. There is a large untapped market in places like the middle east and she would like to expand there in future. She also plans to provide catering for meals to customers depending on lifestyle and diet preference.

On the business front Gourmet Delight is seeking strategic partnerships, people who can get the right connections, people who can bring expertise, help connect with other businesses etc. Within a span of 2 years, Gourmetdelight has met 75% of its targets and is a few months away from breaking even. There are plans to bring in investment eventually, but only after the business has attained a certain scale. There is a lot of investor interest, already. Raka however wants to be associated with the business as long as possible.

Wherever there are trials and tribulations, triumphs are not too far. In Jan 2017 Sundar Pichai came to India to launch Digital Unlocked which is Google’s digital program targeted at SMBs to enable them to go online using Google’s Digital tools. Gourmetdelight was one of the 5 start ups featured in Google’s Digital Unlocked platform. A team from Google came down to Mumbai to shoot a video at the Gourmet Delight facility at Sita Estate in Chembur.

(Link to Google’s video featuring Gourmetdelight: https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalunlocked)

This year itself at the Retail Startup of the year award 2018, Gourmetdelight was adjudged the first runner up. Gourmetdelight competed with 10 startups in the final round to receive the award from a panel of judges comprising the likes of Biju Kurien, Future Groups’ CFO, Reliance’ s Head of retail to name a few.

Being a woman has never inhibited Raka.  At times she goes to Dadar market at 5:00 AM (to get familiar with what is selling) and has never felt out of place. Women bring a lot of creativity to the workplace, she says. They have an uncanny ability to create something out of nothing. Not denying the fact that men have their own set of strengths.

Looking back at her journey she feels she should have taken the plunge 5 years earlier. She kept pushing it far too long. “I would be at no other place but here”-she says.

Being a fitness freak, she can often be seen running at Worli sea face. She ran her first Marathon last year. Most innovative ideas have come to her while in a workout.

Raka says that if you truly believe in something you should go ahead and do it. Once you put your heart and soul in it, things will fall in place. Gourmetdelight has not always been a smooth sailing, there have been plenty of rough times, however she says something or the other would always come by to help sail through, sometimes a bulk order, sometimes a large corporate order. Her tip to entrepreneurs/aspiring entrepreneurs is to be consistent, to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking your chosen path. All big businesses were built by consistency. Learn from mistakes and move on, do not give up.

Raka greatly admires Elon Musk and feels he is a true visionary. So, its apt to sum up with one of his notable quotes, that best describes Raka’s journey…

“People should pursue what they’re passionate about. That will make them happier than pretty much anything else.”

About the author:

Monica – is a consumer insights professional based in Mumbai. She has worked with FMCG organizations like Colgate Palmolive and Reckitt Benckiser in India and Coca Cola and Unilever in the UK. She has also done stints with organizations like Nielsen, Hewlett Packard and the Lodha group in India.She took a maternal break and is currently freelancing with Nykaa.com and also running her own startup called Ubicon, wherein she intends to connect with people through the virtual medium for garnering insights. Apart from work, Monica loves barb-e-cueing, networking, swimming and yoga.(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

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