“With FoodKhoj, the panacea to hunger is just a click away” - Student Entrepreneur Swetansu Mohapatra

By Team YS|29th May 2011
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FoodKhoj is a one stop food ordering portal that allows you to place orders across various restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. FoodKhoj allows you and your friends to order the food of your choice from nearby restaurants according to your convenience of time and place.

In a conversation with YourStory.in Swetansu talks about building an online portal for food order and delivery, based on a Group Delivery Model, for students.

Swetansu, Tell us about FoodKhoj. How does it work?

FoodKhoj is an online portal for food order and delivery based on a Group Delivery model. FoodKhoj has the menus of the listed restaurants online, and the customers can place an order to the restaurant directly through the website. Partner restaurants set a minimum cumulative order value on the portal which would be required to offset their cost for the logistics. When someone orders food from a particular restaurant or group, the amount needed to deliver the orders keeps decreasing accordingly and is updated on the website real time. When the minimum total order value, pre-set by the restaurant is reached, the delivery is confirmed and orders are taken till the last order time for that particular delivery slot. The restaurants then deliver all the orders together at the informed time. If the total minimum order value isn’t reached by the last order time, the restaurant can choose not to deliver and the few initial orders are the cancelled.

Interesting. Is there a story behind FoodKhoj?

FoodKhoj

Lack of variety of cuisines available for residents of college campus, the high costs associated with traveling to restaurants far away to have good food, higher delivery charges asked by restaurants for food delivery while delivering single orders, the disconnect among different people even though they might be ordering from the same place and the issue of affordability arising out of ordering minimum cost of food for delivery in the campus - were factors that gave fruit to this idea - FoodKhoj. The sole motivation is to provide our customers a variety of options at reasonable costs and making food ordering process easy.When and where was FoodKhoj started? What is the size of your team? Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you based?

FoodKhoj.com was first launched in BITS Pilani, Goa Campus in November 2010. FoodKhoj team comprises of Hanu Prateek, Pradeep Kumar and myself, all senior undergraduates of BITS - Pilani, Goa Campus. I am presently pursuing M.Sc(Hons.) Mathematics and B.E(Hons.) Chemical Engineering, and I contribute to FoodKhoj in the domain of Strategic Planning and Business Development. Hanu Prateek is pursuing B.E(Hons.) Electronics and Instrumentation and attended the Summer Business Scholar Program 2010 at Booth School of Business: University of Chicago and looks after aspects of Finance and Marketing. Pradeep, who is the Lead Developer for FoodKhoj.com is pursuing M.Sc(Tech.) Information Systems in BITS - Pilani, Goa Campus. Although presently we are a small team of less than ten people, we are looking forward to hire more people and create a passionate and entrepreneurial core team. We are presently based out of Bangalore.

So, you guys(co-founders) are pursuing different streams at BITS Pilani Goa. How did the co-founders meet?

FoodKhoj

Although the three of us pursue different branches in science and engineering, we are from the same year and we had worked together in the past while organizing many campus events and festivals. But, what actually brought us even closer was the drive towards entrepreneurship and the idea of developing innovative new businesses. This was the seed to the formation of our company. We spent many nights discussing a lot of problems, possible solutions and feasible business models. What impacted us the most was something very close to home, a heartfelt need on campus for a cheap and viable option for getting food delivered to campus, as the food available on campus had very little variety and lacked quality. Coupled with the extra costs involved for students to travel to far off places to go and dine out, we felt our model would be a boon to the 2,800 residents of BITS Pilani Goa campus.Tell us about all the services that FoodKhoj offers in detail.

FoodKhoj solves the very important function of bridging the communication gap between the users and the restaurants, making it easier for both to give and take orders respectively. All flexibilities like Multiple Slot Delivery, 0 Minimum Order Amount, Flexible Timings have been addressed through innovative designing of the backend. FoodKhoj allows real time information updation, powering restaurants to add a special item or immediately delete an item which might be unavailable at that particular time. The portal has flexibilities of introducing combos, deals, discounts and promotional offers. As an important part of the model, we introduced Game Mechanics, allowing users to earn points and redeem them against different offers and gift coupons.

From what we understand, the back-end of FoodKhoj is exceptionally good, tell us a little more about it!

Our robust backend, which is usually hidden from the customer's eye, has helped us fully automate the process. We are able to exercise a finer degree of control, leverage detailed graphs and statistics that provide real-time information on what's happening on our site, and use the data to provide better customer service. It's built using powerful, open source software in order to reduce the cost while starting up. A host of concepts and techniques ranging from the field of Game Theory to Path Optimization, Pruning Algorithms to Delay Counters have been used to build the system which has made it highly flexible to adhere to all practical limitations and constraints.

Share with us a couple of success stories.

FoodKhoj, after its launch in BITS Pilani Goa Campus, with target audience of 2800 customers, presently has reach out in three campuses in Bhubaneswar, with reach out to 21000 customers. While on an average it takes less than 4 minutes for first time users to understand the system and order, second time users take less than 2 minutes' time. After the introduction of Game Mechanics, like Foodie Points, there has been an increase in the time users spent on the website increasing it from an average of 3.35 minutes to around 7 minutes.

What were the challenges you faced while starting up? Especially, you being a student entrepreneur.

FoodKhoj

Greatest challenge has been the determination of not taking up a regular job and taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. As student entrepreneurs, we were constrained by the curriculum, the need to pass exams, we were constrained by location and time. The immediate unavailability of initial start-up capital needed to take the business forward had been one of the hindrances, probably this is something most start-ups grapple with, and we were no exception to this.What is your revenue model?

We primarily work on a revenue sharing model with the restaurants.

How much capital was required to startup?

We primarily used a bootstrap for our start-up. Like most other internet businesses, investment was in the range of 30,000, since all the design and development work was done in-house.

What’s the plan next for FoodKhoj? Share with us your expansion plans.

We are looking forward to making FoodKhoj a common household name in online order and delivery of food. Although, FoodKhoj presently works on a Group Delivery model, we also plan to introduce more features like acceptance of individual orders from households and corporate offices. FoodKhoj, after its launch in November 2010, in BITS Pilani Goa Campus, has expanded its presence in four months’ time to Bhubaneswar, by expanding into three new campuses: KIIT University, SIT Campus and Infosys Campus. More campuses including VIT Vellore, BITS Pilani Hyderabad Campus, ITER Bhubaneswar, Trident Bhubaneswar, LPU Jalandhar, DAVIET Jalandhar, are in the pipeline of starting FoodKhoj operations. We are looking forward to an exponential reach out to hundreds of campuses.

Are you looking at funding?

Although, we are still sustainable with the bootstrapping model, in order to grow at an exponential pace, we have started looking to fund raise.

Are you planning to roll out any new features?

Future development of the portal includes, features like table bookings, virtual restaurant using a 360 panorama and single deliveries. Some more cool features are presently in the Alpha development stage and are going to be rolled out soon after some in-house tests :)

Tell us about your backgrounds.

Hanu Prateek(a.k.a. HP) has worked for Nine Dot Nine Mediaworx Pvt. Ltd, as a Freelance Writer and writes for popular tech magazines like Digit and Fast Track. He has provided consulting in the areas of IT and Social Media Marketing to US based companies like Test Prep, New York and Almond Blossom LLC. He has also worked as a Freelance Graphic Designer and Web Developer for numerous international organisations. In 2010, HP was selected to attend the Summer Business Scholars Program held at the University of Chicago: Booth School of Business, for industry immersion and exposure to global business and management, with specialization in finance and marketing. HP brings his expertise from immersion experiences gained through different avenues of leadership coupled with skills of marketing.

I have previously worked as a Research Analyst with Green Power Development Partners LLC, a US based renewable energy firm. I also work as a Freelance Market Analyst for a number of Indian as well as International clients analysing various domains of investment in India. I have in-depth understanding of aspects of Finance and Risk Management, gained through diverse work portfolio. I am a StartingBloc Fellow and was named as a NSEF Author of Change and Twenty19 Student Rockstar. I along with HP was named the Mantra Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by Mantra LLC.

Pradeep Kumar started out as a Freelance Graphic Artist and Web Developer at Vipashyin Labs. He soon became the CTO of the company and worked on various projects like TheListingWidget (Flash-based Virtual Tours), TalkOfCampus (Social Networking Site for Students), Jobaphiles (Job Auction Site), to name a few. Jobaphiles LLC received $25,000 in seed-stage funding from business incubator, DreamIt Ventures, Philadelphia, giving Pradeep the opportunity to be a part of DreamIt Summer 2009. Back in India, he worked as Lead Developer for SchoolTek (School Resource Planner and Student Performance Optimizer) and NiteFly (Manhattan's Real-Time Location-based Night Life Radar). Pradeep brings to the table his vast experience with start-ups and in-depth technological expertise.

Going forward, how do you plan to outreach?

We have started to hire people from all over India for expanding FoodKhoj operations. Although, our approach has been campus based, we have moved into a more tested model of hiring the right kind of people(read agents), who would be able to create more layers of economy in the whole process of food order and delivery.

What is the size of the market that you are trying to capture?

The market is very huge, considering people need change of taste and people need more options to choose food. Its human psyche not to like the mess food after a few weeks, and at every such campus we see a great opportunity for FoodKhoj. By rough calculations, our target consumer base easily runs into crores!

Anything else that you want to share with us?

FoodKhoj has immense potential, primarily in the e-commerce sector. With an innovative blend of Game Theory, Loyalty Marketing, Automation and Analytics, FoodKhoj defines modern e-commerce business, by providing a high user experience and more value for money to its customers, more aggregated sales to its partner restaurants, an advertising platform for affiliate business partners and a great scope of growth considering the extent of internet and mobile penetration in India. We look forward to define a new experience in ordering food online.

What kind of support do you expect from YourStory.in's readers?

We are sure most of the readers of YourStory.in are people with the fire of entrepreneurship in them, and if someone would find a tinge of inspiration somewhere and would start-up their own venture, it will probably be the silent but greatest achievement of our team. We are a small team who follow open culture and therefore welcome suggestions and criticism alike from all the readers, and look forward to their support in making FoodKhoj a big success story. On a side note, we are looking forward to meet passionate individuals to join our core team at FoodKhoj, more details of which could be found on our website at http://www.foodkhoj.com/careers

We at YourStory.in love talking to Young, Ambitious and Passionate Entrepreneurs like the team at FoodKhoj and wish them much success!

Do check out http://www.foodkhoj.com/ and share your experiences with us by writing to feedback@yourstory.in

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