a Journey from one Birthday Celebration to 10,000 Celebrations and counting...
A Midnight Celebration of my Birthday organized by 3 MBA Friends which gave the Birth of an Online Celebration Store and helped spread Happiness to Thousands of Customers in 175+ Cities and counting...
(the below story of mine is actually, a Case Study Drafted by Professor Manish Parihar of Shanti Business School, Ahmedabad to whom I will always be Thankful and Obliged)
Imagine for some time that you are in a deep sleep after a tiring day at work and are in the middle of a dream where you are just about to discover a great treasure (because you saw the Tintin movie on DVD the other day). You are feeling so happy and blissful when suddenly, your dream and your sound sleep is shattered by the sound of the doorbell ringing. It’s exactly midnight and your table clock just beeps 12:00. You are shocked by this interruption and bungle your way to the front door to find out who it is and are secretly planning to strangle the person at the door.
But, after opening the door, you are pleasantly surprised to find a team of six decent guys, all in a specific dresscode, one in the front carrying a delicious cake of your favorite flavor with candles lighted on it in one hand, and a beautiful flower bouquet in the other hand, second one starts singing your favorite song, third giving the background music with a guitar, fourth taking your video in a truly celebrity style, fifth having an SLR camera capturing candid photos from different angle and sixth one giving the direction to the team as an Anchor. You now realize that it is exactly 12 o’clock and it’s your own birthday and by this time your family has woken up and they are delighted as well as confused to see you like a super star hero, as they have never experienced it before !
By the time you have blown out the candles, cut the cake, received the flowers and opened the card, the realization sets in that someone far away has arranged for all this and now you feel so happy and blessed to be having this unique experience. You have long abandoned your plans to strangle the strangers at the door!
Thanks to midnightcake.com, hundreds of individuals have undergone one of this kind of unique and fascinating experience in the past five years of its inception.
Midnightcake.com is an internet-based company founded by a young and dynamic management student named Malay Sherasia (born 08th January 1988) who is from Ahmedabad City in the Gujarat State of India. It is a Brand owned by small registered partnership firm called Proton Multi Services, that caters to the target audiences of 30+ Major Cities of India (as on December 2015).
However when the services became live in March 2010, it was serving a single quantity of cake, a single flavor, a single city – Ahmedabad and a single time – midnight, as Malay had to attend College during day time.
The business model of midnightcake.com is simple yet fascinating. It does not manufacture anything. It is purely a service-based firm which focuses on delivering cakes and other valuables sharp at 12
o’clock in the midnight to unsuspecting clients. The cakes are ordered by customers who want them to be delivered to their friend’s or relative’s place as a surprise gift. These customers may belong to any place in the whole world – because they can essentially order this service through the eCommerce website viz. midnightcake.com. The occasion for ordering could be anything: from birthdays, to anniversaries to any other event that is worth celebrating.
The cakes are sourced from the local branded cake shops/bakeries and some people are hired on part-time basis to carry out the operation, which mostly includes students who are enthusiastic and want to earn their pocket money without compromising their study or daytime activities. The cakes are delivered sharp at 12 o’clock in the night and this is the unique selling proposition of the business.
The cakes might be supplemented by other goodies as per the demand of the customer who has ordered the entire event, which will now also include the Handmade Masterpieces like hand crafted Greeting Card – which is actually outsourced from various Artists across the Country.
Inception of the company
Incidentally, it was his own birthday experience that got Malay to start midnightcake.com and he founded the company when he was in his second year of MBA – in the month of April 2010. 8th January was his birthday and the memory of getting a surprise birthday party by his friends at the midnight hour of the previous day was still fresh in his mind.
He thought how happy he had felt when three of his friends (Kunal Odedra, Ankit Shah and Jinal Patel) had brought that cake along with all the candles and decorations and had woken him up from his deep sleep. They had lighted up the candles, decorated the flowers and set up the cake outside his door and just rang the bell at sharp twelve o’clock in the night. All Malay had to do was to blow the candles and cut the cake. This was a breath taking experience for him and it just amazed him.
After all these years, Malay still feels that the effect that one gets after being woken up from deep sleep, and exposed to such a surprise is really long lasting, and it synergizes the positive feelings associated with such a celebration. It feels like a dream.
Malay, being the final year MBA student of marketing was a bit of a day dreamer in his class. He was pursuing his MBA from a good management institute under the Gujarat Technological University and during this time, there was an event organized at his college which included a business idea contest. The memory of his birthday was etched into the mind for quite some time now, and he thought that just as he had so much fun during his birthday, could he not develop a business model which facilitated such experiences to his prospective customers? This flash of idea came to him when he was attending an HR class where the professor was explaining the mutual connect between the management and employees. The possibilities seemed endless because at this age, even bohemian ideas seemed like a very real possibility!
Thus, Malay began preparing for his business idea. In the process, he got caught in the belief that he could actually create a sustainable business out of this idea and this gave birth to the entrepreneurial streak which still runs very strong and deep in his psyche. Thus, the inception of a modern day internet based start-up was rooted in the personal experience of the founder, Malay Sherasia.
Idea behind the company
Malay confesses that he had a bad habit of forgetting names and birthdates. And after this incident, he had a firm belief that when a person wishes you a Happy Birthday, it is a liability to wish them back, if not in the same way then at least remember the birthday and wish them back. Thus, it became a moral responsibility for him, being an IT graduate, to develop some program or application through which he could remember his friend’s birthdays.
He thought that he should make some application which intimates him one day before the birthday. By this time, a cultural festival was taking shape called “Adventure” at his college which required participants to submit some business idea. It was at this platform that he thought of launching this application and making it commercial. The business idea was to create a web-based application that could send reminders about the upcoming birthdays of people, who’s data was entered.
But at the time, a professor (Mr. Abhijeet Singh) guided him that such an application would be very common and would not work out. This proved to be the “Version 1.0” of the entrepreneurial venture of Malay. Anyways, there was negligible market research done and Malay had hardly asked anybody about such an idea – as he later justified that he could not ‘dilute’ his idea.
After about two months, after a lot of thinking, Malay finally dived into the realm of entrepreneurship. He says “I stepped till the last point to take the plunge many times, but couldn’t do it. Finally, during an entrepreneurship class (by Prof. Mr. Abhijeet Singh) at college, something inside fired and that day I finally took the dive.”
There were two sessions, followed by tea break and again two more sessions. After the second session, he bunked the day and went to a web hosting company to register his domain name. “I used a very well-saved thousand rupee note and there was a story to it.” He had earned it during the summer vacation of his 12th Standard, as a part of some clinical trial company (LAMDA Institute, Ahmedabad) which took a unit of blood from few invited donors in exchange of money on which some drug tests were carried out later. That experience of donating a unit of blood is in controlled conditions which went on for a complete day. (involving blood collection using 26 small injections of blood).
This one thousand rupee note had been saved since three years and Malay had made a mind to use it only for emergency or for very important purpose. Hence, a young-looking person in search of domain name entered the IT firm (Synergy Softwares, Ahmedabad) and started looking for a suitable name. After some deliberations, on the spot, the name “Midnightcake.com” was selected.
The sales person (Mr. Prakash Joshi) in charge had given a quotation for creating an entire website for Rs. 8,000 in March 2010 and he asked Malay to pay 25% upfront. That was when he gave him the Rs. 1000 note (after photocopying the note so as to remember it by – the lucky note) and subsequently paid him entire money from the pocket money that he saved out of few part time jobs he did during his Graduation tenure. So after thinking about it for 3 months after his birthday in January 2010, he finally got it registered in March 2010.
Persona of the founder
Since his school days, Malay possessed a rebellious nature and was always trying his hands at odd jobs along with his studies. For his basic needs, he never wanted to depend on his father, a renowned academician (Dr. N.K. Sherasia – M.Tech and PhD from IIT Powai) at one of the finest engineering colleges of the country located in Ahmedabad.
He believed in earning while learning and that was the experience he wanted to deliver to the other youngsters in the city who are spending hard earned money of their parents and their own valuable time in becoming roadside Romeo. He wanted to let them feel that they can also earn a handsome amount by taking a 1 hour 30 minutes part time job which starts at 10.30pm and get completed at 12.00 midnight once the delivery is successfully done, which does not hamper their daytime schedule and yet help them to fulfill their basic financial needs.
Initial difficulties in registering the company – this was the first time when Malay visited Registrar of Firm (ROF) office in Ahmedabad to register his firm called – Proton Multi Services
Lack of seed capital to invest – a thousand rupee note – earned out of selling blood and approximate Rs.5,000 from his pocket money, was the only seed capital which was consumed in booking the domain and making the 5 page black and white website – Midnightcake.com
Opportunistic Marketing Communications
During the college festival ‘Adventure’, Malay had in place a rough marketing plan which he executed single-handedly. The canteen area of the college was the confluence of students from various institutes of the University. A large group of students used to gather there for their meals and it also served up as a hot-spot or a hangout just like most other colleges.
Malay seized this opportunity and got some bills printed (hand-outs) and started sticking them a couple of days in advance before the big day. He got the help from his younger brother Naman Sherasia (born 10th October 1994) who was still a Teenager School going buddy and pasted more than a hundred bills and this painstaking work took almost six hours for both of them to complete on the eve before the event.
Many times they both simply moved out of home and went to famous hangout places on the streets of the city like IIM Road – AMA Parking Area – S.G.Highway – C.G.Road – University Road – H.L. College Road and a few more wherever they found young crowd standing or sitting on their parked vehicle, they simply started distributing those single page handouts which had 33% Printed Area covered with “12:00 at Midnight !” which was a strategy to catch the attention at first sight. This not just worked at spreading the news, but more of it helped them to get the actual feel of what is market and get the direct touch of potential customers – when few of them just laughed at their concept. This slowly made the confidence stronger and stronger that no matter how loud people laugh out on your idea, you need to have a strong confident to execute it without getting worried about the success.
Taking advantage of the college event “Adventure” to promote his own company
RJ covering the event and talking on the radio
Press coverage in Times of India and Divya Bhaskar
Word of Mouth Promotion
“The biggest promotion that we got was through ‘Adventure’ – the Annual Cultural Festival in his college in March end or April”. People presented big budget business ideas like 10 crore, 100 crore – but Malay’s capital investment was just Rs. 10,000/-. It was very humble but the idea was such that from the very inception, revenues started coming in. Surprisingly, no formal business report was prepared.
Malay’s professors (Prof. Abhijeet Singh & Prof. Bilva Desai) were the first ones to inspire him into the business. They allowed Malay to put up a big hoarding on the venue which generated free brand exposure for his business. Almost 2500 people participated and hence this resulted into valuable exposure. The photos of this hoarding at the event were also uploaded on Facebook where it attracted attention of his friends.
The responsibility of Media Coverage of the event “Adventure” was given to Malay and through this work, he could get in touch with a Divya Bhaskar reporter – Mr. Ketan Rajput. As the idea was liked by the reporter, he called Malay to his office for a small editorial story in City Bhaskar. The next days, a
news story appeared in the newspaper on the front page of City Bhaskar and because of this publicity, interest in his business soared and orders started pouring in – so much that entire two months were booked, this is where Midnightcake.com recovered its 100% Investment in first week of launching. The first order worth Rs.499 was executed by Malay himself, on the second day of Cultural Festival, by delivering a cake on the footpath near Prahlad Garden where his classmates planned a roadside cake cutting ceremony on the eve of one of the friend’s birthday, this brought in the first profit of Rs.100 after deducting the material cost of Cake and delivery. Since there was no professional team to get the deliveries done, Malay, his brother Naman, his close friend Kunal Odedra, another friend Deep Patel along with his friend Meghal Joshi all jumped into delivery on a daily basis. It not only helped them to make money, but also gave that feeling of satisfaction when they delivered happiness and got the smile on the customer’s face in return. This was giving more satisfaction than just a money could give.
One of the RJs (RJ Ankit) on “MY FM” radio channel also read the article in the news paper (Divya Bhaskar) and he caught up the story and invited Malay to talk on his show. This generated further interest in his venture and one more article appeared in large-circulation newspapers namely the Ahmedabad Mirror (Times of India). Malay was starting to enjoy the attention.
Subsequently, an RJ (RJ Dhvanit) of “Radio Mirchi” – a popular radio station also called Malay to talk about his venture and this added spice to the promotion curry.
Other promotional efforts
Midnightcake.com has been carefully picking the promotional elements based on its ‘fit’ with the target audience. Malay purposefully does not allow advertisements on local cable TV like GTPL as they do not cater to the right target audience. His target audience is the net-savvy young and busy professionals who spend a lot of time online and would like to order a birthday cake sitting in their office cubicles. The promotional mix of midnightcake.com consists of the following:
1. Direct Marketing
2. Out-of-home Media (Autorickshaws)
3. Event Sponsorships
5. Print Media (Divya Bhaskar and DNA)
6. Strategic tie-ups with professional communities
7. Digital marketing and SEO (search engine optimization)
8. Membership of database marketing companies (JustDial)
1. Product can be customized in terms of weight, flavor and extra accessories like cards, candles, soft-toys and other small gifts.
2. Day delivery of cake started in the month of February 2012
3. In 2015 August – Midnightcake.com came up with 3 more verticals
i) VDOting – Video + Greeting – It was a total new category of Animated Video Greetings specially for WhatsApp users, which anyone from any corner of the World can select the Video Greeting of his/her choice out of large collection of pre designed videos, get it customized with the Name and their personal Message for their Friend or Love Ones and get it in their Email as an attachment which further they can share on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or any other Social Network.
ii) Handmade Masterpieces: Handcrafted Items like Birthday Greeting Cards specially designed for a specific Occasion, Person or Relation.
Special orders – happy customers
Celebrating Birthday On-the-go (Online Cake Delivery in Train)
There was a group of 25 to 30 people travelling from Bangalore to Rajasthan via train. This is a very long rail-route and it takes normally more than two days to travel between these destinations. Incidentally, one of the group members had his birthday right in the middle of the journey. It was a bit awkward to celebrate his birthday before the journey and his friends decided to celebrate on-the-way. One of the friends somehow got the number of midnightcake.com from the database marketing company ‘Just Dial’ while the group was travelling on the train.
They were offered a great idea: people from midnightcake.com would come to the Ahmedabad railway station, where the train has a half hour halt – the longest in the journey. The birthday was on the same day. They would deliver the cake right when the train entered and docked at the Ahmedabad station. This planning was approved by the client and was executed without the birthday boy getting to know anything about it.
The entire group was surprised that someone was waiting for them on the station with a nice cake and candles lit. The birthday boy had the surprise of his life when everybody got down the train, celebrated his birthday and made him cut the cake with great fanfare. It attracted a lot of curious looks and even some unknown people came and wished the boy a happy birthday. The train left after the stipulated halt but this one unique memory made the entire group remember Ahmedabad as a special place. What is more, the guys at midnightcake.com uploaded the photos and videos taken on social networking websites and the group members could watch them on the train – before even reaching the destination.
Hence, this order was unique – from searching for a service provider to the final product being delivered to the after sales follow up in terms of photos and videos – the entire product life cycle – happened during the train journey from Bangalore to Rajasthan.
Midnight Cake Enters IIM-Ahmedabad
On of the final year students of IIM-A heard about the service of midnightcake.com from his friends. He was intrigued by this new service and decided to try it for one of his dorm-mates. The cake arrived sharp at 12:00 midnight and the entire group of students had a blast once the cake was delivered. Of course the photos and videos were taken and shared and liked by many people on social networking sites.
First Expansion City - Midnightcake in Rajkot
Midnightcake.com when launched its services in Rajkot, it was milestone event when Dr. RajendraKumar who was the Collector of Rajkot, for the first time in history gave the presence at 12.00 midnight and celebrated the cake cutting ceremony on 01st October Midnight – for Gandhi Jayanti. This was the first time when Gandhi Jayanti was celebrated at Midnight in the presence of almost 2000 people.
Real Customers Real Celebrations !
a Glimpse of some of the Memorable Celebrations from Real Customers
Official Blog: http://blog.midnightcake.com/
Read Full Story at: https://blog.midnightcake.com/cake-delivery-on-railway-station/
There are more than 1000 such Interesting Photographs of Real Celebrations which are the evidence of the Total Amount of Happiness Midnightcake has spread till today and still counting...
The Viral GIF of Happy Dussehra on WhatsApp by Midnightcake !
Read full story at: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-the-most-viral-GIF-on-WhatsApp
See the GIF at: http://giphy.com/gifs/greetings-whatsapp-l3vQYXs4GrjigLVPW
Midnightcake aims at becoming the one stop destination of Celebration Needs in India and gradually the World, with the upcoming introduction of International Delivery Services where Midnightcake will provide its Market Place as a Platform to connect the Buyers and Sellers across any part of the World, where the Sellers will be highly focussed ones like Cake Shops and Florists making Midnightcake the Biggest and Most Focussed place to find the Best Cake and Flower for the next Birthday of your Loved Ones and Friends, anywhere in the World !
Midnightcake being 100% Online with No Cash On Delivery option, supports the recent Government Initiative to curb the Black Money by making all small and big Transactions Cashless. Midnightcake make the Celebration Cashless with Cashless Cakes and Cashless Flowers :)
Midnightcake works towards creating the Cashless Society and take the Indian Economy to the next Level !