Shriyanka Hore used to be a black coffee drinker, eat junk food and work for long hours without enough sleep. She did not realise the importance of healthy eating, till pregnancy happened. Pregnancy opened her up to a new world of food and healthy eating. While researching about the food she was eating, she was surprised to know about the harmful effects of preservatives and carcinogens present in the food and the damage it could do to her body and the unborn.
As Shriyanka was unable to cook during her pregnancy, she used order food from home chefs. It was during this time that the idea of The Gourmet Food Co (TGFC) was born. Her own pregnancy was a good way for her to test the idea.
Maternity is a creative phase where you are looking for a new beginning, thinking afresh, willing to take on a next phase in life with little inhibition and most importantly making conscious amends to your lifestyle. This is very akin to the leap one needs to take into entrepreneurship,
says 33-year-old Shriyanka, Co-founder of TGFC.
From idea to reality
Founded in February 2016, The Gourmet Food Co (TGFC) is a food discovery platform that incubates and promotes local home chefs and artisans to e-tail as well as host culinary experiences. Her husband, Anchal Tiwari, who shared her vision, egged her on and single handedly built the site. Shriyanka shared her idea with close friends and confidants; Meghana Gune Patra and Madhusudan Patra joined her and became founders. Meghana and Madhusudan worked on the blueprint of the logistics model to the revenue model. Anchal, who is a frequent business traveler, designed the entire concept of culinary experiences and added the second dimension to it. TGFC become a store for artisanal food and culinary experiences.
Taking the gourmet route
Shriyanka is not much of a cook herself, but hails from a Bengali family who takes food very seriously. “After our marriage we have travelled to over a 30 countries and our experience with cuisines and cultures goes into TGFC,” she says.
“I look at gourmet as food cooked in small batches with high quality ingredients and served fresh and not as well plated fancy dish with names you can’t remember. For me this is food that appeals to your senses and that one eats beyond the basic instinct to satiate hunger.”
Shriyanka’s clientele is mostly urban upper middle class. However, they do get orders from a number of Bollywood and television folks who stock up on their preservative-free spreads and salad dressings. Even embassies and corporates feature on their client list.
Maternity and entrepreneurship
Shriyanka took to both motherhood and entrepreneurship in her stride. With instinct, stamina and fearlessness driving her, she was up for challenges.
Firstly, I learnt that it does not always require capital to start something. Secondly, creating value for people around you will always yield rewards no matter how long and difficult the run up is. Thirdly, your identity and values go into making an organisation, never compromise on that.
These three traits that she inherited from her father ‑ a school teacher who went on to build a real estate empire while supporting an entire village ‑ have held her steadfast in the face of challenges that she has faced not just while starting up, but in life in general.
While growing up in Jamshedpur, her parents wanted her to become an engineer and join the Tata firm. But, when she received a scholarship from the Ministry of Singapore at the age of 15, things changed. “My dad made the biggest decision that day by allowing me to make my own choice at 15.” She went to junior college in Singapore and worked the nights at the Changi Airport McDonald’s to compensate for low stipend. She also worked in a Chinese food court and then tutored English and Math to immigrant children from Bangladeshi homes. “My grades suffered and I came back and started afresh,” she adds.
The Gourmet Food Co
TGFC started with 20 home chefs and home bakers onboard and around 100 listed products at India’s only food book club run by Rushina Mushaw. They now have over 550 carefully chosen and tested products listed online being sourced from over 65 home chefs. An equal number of homechefs are enrolled in the incubation program or awaiting FSSAI license before their products get listed according to Shriyanka. “Products listed with us undergo tasting and product packaging checks,” she shares.
“We now have over 500 carefully chosen and tested products listed online. On an average, we have more than 300 new customers per month, with a lot of them being repeat customers. We became operationally profitable close to the 100-day mark and recovered our initial investments.”
As they operate on a zero inventory model, they don’t have stocking facility. A fresh batch is prepared only when the order comes in, and is delivered to the customer in Mumbai within 48 hours. Cold
Shriyanka is presently responsible for business growth, marketing, strategy, public relations at TGFC. She holds a marketing degree from IIM Calcutta. She previously worked as a product head for an IT company.
The company has a small team of eight members, excluding the delivery boys. Out of the eight, four are co-founders. Shriyanka claims that they have been supporting local artisans and mentoring the journey of over a 100 startup kitchens that power TGFC. It has not been an easy task for them, but the support from their seller base has been great. “They become our voice through recommendations, sharing notes with each other and powering the journey together.”
Run the mile
Currently bootstrapped, they plan to streamline their operations to minimise cost, enforce quality around the products and educate the seller community on standards.
“Building consistent growth statistics is our primary focus along with fine tuning the economics to establish scale. Our expansion plan is global but limited to a few key cities with our services remaining largely what you see today. We are enjoying the perils yet independence of being bootstrapped at the moment, but we do not see ourselves expanding without funding after a point. “
And this goal along with all the activity happening on TGFC keep her going and as she rightly points out,
I am the kind of person who will run till then very end if I believe in something. The discovery of the very end is what keeps me motivated. I am okay to fail but I will run the full mile.
A great thought for other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs that don’t let failure stop you from running.