Many a startups in the food industry have been built around the popular and loved ‘biryani’. Shayan Italia is out to challenge the way people cook and serve biryani with his Biryani 360.
How Biryani 360 came to be conceived is a great story in itself. One afternoon, Shayan came up with a fun video about a fictitious biryani place. Everyone who saw the video wanted to order from the fictitious place that served biryani in a fun, novel manner. Biryani360 literally grew into a business from that very moment. In effect, it was an idea that happened entirely by accident.
Shayan is a musician who was based out of London till recently. Post the death of his parents he moved to London where music became his life. A fun video gave him the idea to get stated and after much trial and research Shayan is geared to take on Mumbai with the launch of his Biryani 360 next month.
Biryani 360 is based on the concept where Shayan plans to service 60 biryanis per hourly slot and have six slots per day which makes the total to 360 biryanis a day max. So by limiting quantity he is planning to optimize on quality.
Order and delivery
The customer chooses a date, a delivery time slot, type (only two options available veg and un-veg), and quantity of Biryani 360 and make payment online at their website or via their cross platform app which will be available on launch. Shayan claims that the entire checkout will take only 90 seconds for a new customer, while for an existing one it will take half the time as previous details will be saved.
There is no Cash-On-Delivery and no phone support as he feels these are inefficient ways of doing business in India and have “taken us backwards than forwards.” According to him 95% of the phone support in India is really bad, and to defend his argument, he says, “As a test, we ordered biryani from over 25 places (just one veg and one non-veg) and the average ordering time was over 10 minutes. They could neither get the order right, nor the landmarks, nor the building name nor the address. It was a learning experience!”
When asked if Shayan was comfortable turning customers away, he said since Biryani 360 is a startup, it is better for them to do a few things, do them right again and again till they feel they can securely scale up, rather than try and take on a heavy load at the start and grandly “screw up the entire process.” He adds, “It is also unlikely we would sell 360 biryanis in a day when we start. That is a highly optimistic scenario.”
Questioning the traditional method of cooking
According to Shayan, “The ‘layered’ biryani methodology is dated, impractical, inefficient, and a waste of resources when using the latest cooking technologies one can achieve far better results. And that’s what we’ve done.”
The differentiator Shayan claims are the Michelin grade ingredients, blue flame technology that cooks meat in 20 minutes and gives the effect of it being marinated over 72-96 hours. Along with the Pyramid methodology of cooking with real saffron strands, no garam masalas, colourings and preservatives and virtually no oil give a flavourful and wholesome dish.
The last two months Shayan has been running tasting sessions in Bandra West, Mumbai, to the tune of about 12 people a session. They have crossed over 300 people now.
Challenges in building a business in the food industry
Entering the food business in Mumbai is like building any other business according to him. What he finds challenging are the multiple licenses the government has in place to start a kitchen. Most of these licenses require building plans and documents to be provided while the authorities know, says Shayan, “ that 90% of all buildings in Mumbai are constructed or “extended” illegally.”
He further adds, “Hence, it is hard to find a space which is clean, legit, and where people from different government bodies and other groups don’t come and harass you daily is near to impossible. This drives people to start dealing in cash, make hand-offs and get the work done in an ‘under-the-table’ manner.”
With regards to investment too Shayan has been on a rollercoaster ride. He is unhappy with way banks got him to fill up paperwork and run around, and despite meeting all the criteria for a loan he still could not get one.
As the future unfolds
He is working with the mantra that there will be pitfalls and hurdles going forward. According to him, the attitude one should have while working in India is that -- expect the worst, hope for the best, give it all you’ve got.
“I’ve always said that if I start something, it has to change the marketplace forever or it’s not worth starting at all.”
We will track how Biryani 360 rolls out in the market and the reception it receives. Meanwhile, Shayan believes that if your passion is to achieve world class excellence then you can transition into any industry as long as you have the correct mindset. Positivity is half the battle won!