From the slums to the Foodking
Sharath Babu is not just the star of a true underdog story he is also an inspiring entrepreneurial tale for those who come from similar backgrounds. This is the story of someone who dreamt big, and gained an incredible education while living in a slum. Today he is a successful entrepreneur and proud owner of ‘Foodking’ with branches in five cities across India. Sharath Babu was also adjudged the Pepsi youth icon in 2008. Yourstory found out how he went on from the slums to become the Foodking of entrepreneurship.
He was born and brought up in a slum in Madipakkam, Chennai with two elder sisters and two younger brothers. Raised by a hard working mother who was the sole breadwinner of the family he never let his circumstances soil his dreams. Sharath recalls his mothers’ sacrifices saying “It was really tough for my mother to bring up five kids on her meager salary. She sold Idlis in the mornings, worked for the mid-day meal at the school during daytime and taught at the adult education programme of the Indian government, thus doing three different jobs to bring us up and educate us”.
His Formative Years
Sharath did his schooling from Kings Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai, and graduated in Chemical Engineering from BITS, Pilani. After working for 3 years in Polaris Softwares, he went on to complete his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. While working at Polaris he paid off his loans and started preparing for the CAT. Sarath Babu spoke of those times saying, "When I was in my third year at BITS, I organized an event. My friends thought my management skills were very good and suggested that I pursue a course in management."
The first time Sarath appeared for the CAT, a mishap occurred and the paper got leaked. He came home feeling confident of success and the moment he knew the paper had been leaked, he got really upset. However, he sat for the CAT again and got interview calls from all six IIMs.
He graduated from BITS, Pilani on a Tamil Nadu government scholarship, and IIM, Ahmedabad too gave him a scholarship. His relatives also pitched in with money for him. This was not new for him as even in school, his teachers would help pay his fees. Impressed by his intelligence and hard work everyone wanted to help Sharath Babu.
Foodking- his Business Idea
Sharath’s mother, a 'mid-day meal' worker in a government school cooked idlis, which he and his two younger brothers used to sell. He believed that there lay a business idea under all the experience he had gathered in selling idlis which would help him make a successful foray in the catering business, Sharath refused an offer of Rs 8.5 lakh from a reputed IT firm to pursue his hunch.
Foodking was setup with a vision to offer employment to illiterate and semi-illiterate people and bring up their living standards. Foodking started its operations on May 16th, 2006 by supplying snacks to corporate sectors, banks and software firms. It undertook Event Catering, Industrial Catering and Institutional Catering and also has Retail Outlets. Today Sharath is CEO of Foodking Catering Services which is provides services at BITS, Pilani, IIM, Ahmedabad, BITS, Goa, BITS Hyderabad and SRM, Chennai among others and has a turnover in Crores.
Sharath says that serving someone food is an extremely satisfying feeling. The smile you get after giving good food to someone is an experience to cherish. Food King www.foodkingindia.com is an entrepreneurial dream come true for Sarath Babu.
His firm, Food King catering services, was inaugurated at Ahmedabad by IIM-A chairman and chief mentor of Infosys N.R. Narayanamurthy. Begun with just Rs 2,000 of seed money and started from a mess in Ahmedabad his venture today is spread across several locations to the tune of Rs 9 crores and is geared to double by the year-end. Through Food King he desires to give quality employment to the poor. In the next 5 years he aims to make Food King a source of employment for 50,000 people by opening 400-500 branches all over the country. For 28 year old Sarath, his mother, who once sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai and worked as an ayah (nanny), is a pillar of strength. According to him his mother is the true successful entrepreneur.
The entrepreneurial selling point
Food King was specially designed for the customers to serve them good food at nominal prices. “The specialty of the food king is to serve good food at a nominal price. We design the menu according to the customers” says Sharath.
Sharath admitted that even for a fighter like him Foodking has thrown some hard challenges. The novelty of the business and the need to understand people’s tastes and the business were hurdles he had to level up to overcome.
The Road ahead
Yourstory asked what’s in store for the future and Sarath said that the future lies in spreading his business to every part of the country. In addition to that Sharath also wants to grow his political career. Very few know that Sharath contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and managed to get around 15,000 votes which is a great achievement for an independent candidate.
Sarath Babu has had political aspirations for almost three years. "I saw the poverty and illiteracy and decided that the city needs someone who is actually concerned about people's welfare". He aims to improve employment opportunities and provide education to all. Top on his list of goals, though, is poverty alleviation. He states "I know what real hunger is ... the pain of not being able to afford food."
He said that it was a great experience although he lost the elections but he feels satisfied that in the first year he managed to collect a respectable number of votes. The results gave him the courage to contest in the elections again. Sharath Babu has also started edu bharat an enrichment programme for local management students.
Yourstory is proud to have brought you the true entrepreneurial tale of E. Sharath Babu the Founder & CEO of Food king. We believe his inspiring tale has just begun and wish him many more successes in life. To learn more on Foodking go to http://sarathbabu.co.in/in