MithaiMate – Sweetening up your life
In 2009, Akhilesh Bali along with few friends decided to go the entrepreneurial way and treat the world with Sweets. Their business idea seemed ludicrous to most and unconventional to all however it worked…In a country such as ours with festivals galore and its love for sweets on every occasion.
If you still cannot understand how they did it, Akhilesh Bali has the answers for you as he explains to YourStory how India’s first dessert gifting portal specializing in Indian sweets and other local delicacies came to be.
What made you come up with “mithai” as a business idea?
We wanted to do something in the online space as the start up cost is low second because it is a unique opportunity. We also believe that if the sale of flowers in the online space can have such a large market mithai can be a much bigger market especially with the propensity of the Indian consumer towards desserts. Also I feel that the online sale of mithai’s has not been addressed well in India with the consumer having issues about the quality of the product for which we decided to start with major brands on our portal and ensure a transparent and responsive system.
How often are your services called upon in a day?
On an average we fulfill 70-75 deliveries in a day including our affiliates, which may look like a small number but in the entirety of the picture we have built our business organically through word of mouth with a limited spend on marketing campaigns. I also believe that we are well positioned with the deliveries attained over a period of 1.5 years.
What kind of research and development did you do before deploying your venture?
We started with pilots in three cities i.e Delhi, Mumbai & Bangalore and once some encouraging numbers came in we scaled it up and now we do 150 cities, we spent the first year in building up networks in other cities and with courier companies, in understanding the turnaround cycle and what can be our product categorization. In the last four months we added up Canada, U.S and U.K to our portfolio and in another couple of months we should have presence in Dubai & Singapore as well. The idea now is to do global gifting, it is now possible to get mithai delivered in the U.S at a days notice.
What business model do you use at Mithai Mate?
To my understanding there are 3 kinds of business models in the e commerce space. a) platform model – which connects the buyer and the seller, b) a model where the name of the seller is undisclosed & c) retailer model, which is what we have adopted where we not only are selling the product but take responsibility and remain transparent about the source of the product. The USP of our model is that we sell only branded mithai or desserts, we are cost effective vis a vis our peers in the e commerce space and we have a committed delivery time line of 48-72 hours.
When did you discover the entrepreneur in you?
During my days at my engineering college we successfully ran a concept based on printed T-shirts catering to practically every college in Bombay, Surat & Pune region. I thought that the business was not scalable at that stage but now I see it being adopted and converted into successful business models.
I did not see the kind of happiness that I could associate with while I was part of this venture, with my desk job at Accenture plus our concept of mithai’s was unique as well. We also knew that in the long run we would be entrepreneurs so it might be better to start early in life to be able to experiment more & have the opportunity to recover from any setbacks.
What has been the biggest challenge in selling the Mithai Mate business idea?
We faced a lot of challenges with the logistics and in convincing the courier companies. Initially none of them agreed as they do not deal with perishable goods .We offered an explanation on the basis of their claim that if the goods could be delivered in a space of 24 hrs to a metro city we can ensure that our product can preserve its nature for 48 – 72 hours with the right packaging. We did test runs to further our claim.
We also had to incur a premium on the cost of delivery due to the fragile and time bound nature of our products which we are willing to pay as well. Though I would say that now the courier companies are “warming up" to the E commerce industry.
Some challenge was seen in convincing the suppliers who were old school as the concept was new to them.
What are your goals for Mithai Mate in 2011?
We want to get a lot more traction to our site. Diversification of the product catalogue by staying in the dessert category & scale up on line marketing activities. Increase Tie ups with companies & enter into Collateral tie ups with them. We also want to Engage & leverage social media though we are still in the process of figuring out what best suits us on this front.
YourStory wishes Mithaimate.com many more sweet successes in their entrepreneurial efforts, We thank Akhilesh Bali for taking the time to answer our queries and recommend those with a sweet tooth to visit http://mithaimate.com/