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Name: Shubham Maheshwari
Company: Being Chef
What are you building, and who benefits most from it?
Being Chef is a startup active in the food and nutrition industry. It provides an exhaustive solution to daily food requirements in a healthy and economical manner through flexible modes of subscription and on-demand nutritional meals. Operational since 2014, Being Chef is the first mover in the DIY meal kit space in India.
The main problem we are trying to solve is the daily food requirement, especially for millennials. Currently, they face many issues when it comes to meeting their daily food requirements. The supply of good cooks is much smaller than the demand for them, and the time involved in cooking is much longer than what millennials can spare in this competitive era. Fully cooked food ordered from outside is also a concern as it comes with quality and hygiene issues. However, an individual is still bound to order due to the absence of an alternative solution. When it comes to cooking, the hassle of procuring ingredients in the right quantity, processing them as per the recipe, making dough, and the wastage of unutilized raw and processed food push millennials to avoid cooking.
Being Chef’s recipe kit enables people to cook anything in less than five minutes. It provides buyers with all the ingredients (chopped and processed) customized as per one’s taste with a simple eight-step recipe card. Along with this, Being Chef has built other lines of business, such as delivery of fully prepared meals, customizable meal boxes, and customizable party packs, which have helped with absorbing the fixed costs and generating profits.
What is one of your startup’s most impressive accomplishments?
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Being Chef and myself have been recognized and awarded multiple times during our nine-year journey. Our accomplishments include:
- Forbes 30 Under 30 for Asia, 2021 (the only representative of the fresh food category in Asia)
- Young Achiever Award, 2021 by NIT Jaipur (the youngest alumnus to receive this award)
- Transformation of the Year Award, 2020 by Amazon (awarded in the presence of Jeff Bezos in SMBhav 2020, the largest event for SMEs in India)
- Mentor of Change by NITI Aayog, Government of India (for promoting entrepreneurship at the grassroots level in India under the Atal Innovation Mission)
- Youth Change Maker Award, 2010 (for my social contributions, at the young age of 19)
- Recognition by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Government of India (for our innovative model to make the masses fit and efficient)
- Organic coverage by 150+ national and international media outlets.
What has been the biggest challenge so far, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for any startup today is creating a model that can scale profitably. Being Chef has solved it by devising a very innovative model that uniquely combines profit, scale, and impact.
What tool or app could you not live without and why?
I am an old-school kind of person. I believe in connecting with things, places, and individuals in person instead of in a virtual environment. Thus, I spend less time on the phone and more on grassroots. In the limited time I spend on my phone, apart from seeing and replying to messages on social media, I prefer to use Google and YouTube to explore new trends, the latest news, and innovation across the world.
What marketing strategies have worked for you?
We were bootstrapped for eight years before securing investment and created a strong base by serving 900,000+ meals through word-of-mouth publicity.
We believe in building products and business models that solve an existing problem in such a way that we don’t have to push them extensively in an inorganic way; rather, they should rely on an organic pull to help scale things profitably. We have got a huge following on social media, which helps in spreading the concept to larger audiences.
What has been your biggest business failure to date? What did you learn from it?
We have had our own ups and downs in this journey. Entrepreneurship is all about failing, then learning, and finally evolving. We have failed multiple times and tried to learn from it and implement our newfound knowledge. I can’t think of something concrete to label our biggest failure as every failure (irrespective of its magnitude) provides an important lesson.
What’s the best specific piece of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship— and life in general—is a marathon, not a sprint. Never exhaust yourself too much and always try to strike a balance between your personal and professional life. Focus on incremental changes every day and never miss enjoying your life after work. If you feel stuck, don’t quit. Take a pause, evaluate without bias, pivot to make changes, and then restart with full energy. To win a game, you have to be in the game.
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