We’ve all heard of them. The food strikes. The war of hunger. The constant grudge for acquiring the cake over breads. If you are envisioning the French revolution, then you are at the wrong threshold. We are talking about the insides of hostel life which, in often times, brings around a new definition for food.
An alumnus from NLSIU, Aruj Garg started his food startup Bhukkad while he was in college. He wanted to serve the market with fresher and healthier food for all the students of his campus. Later, on scaling his business model, he escalated the production to serve the entire food market of Bangalore. Read this exclusive tete-a-tete with the Founder and CEO of Bhukkad.
highlights of this episode
- Aruj Garg found his inspiration to build Bhukkad after confronting the mutual problem we face in college – the gruel served as a regimented military meal by the hostel to the students subjected to it.
- The Startup Festival in Bangalore and later a contest for student entrepreneurs by Beard Design.
- The metrics he used to scale a food startup to Bhukkad which gives more than 50% return.
- How he decided to hustle with whirlwind of startup life.
Quotes And Takeaway
- “If you hear of instant successes, they are always a handful and using them as guiding points, is not advisable.”
- “There was only one thing which was relevant for us while hiring- ability of people to get their hands dirty.”
When did you find your first footfall towards forming Bhukkad? Did you always want to venture out in entrepreneurship or was there any incident which influenced your decision?
The first thought behind Bhukkad came from general boredom at college in the beginning of third year and the itch to do something of my own to utilize the time creatively. All of us in college had faced issues regarding food, so it seemed like the easiest problem to solve. There was no real thought given to it. There seemed an opportunity and I had time.
How has been your experience with Bhukkad so far?
It has been a roller coaster ride. Throughout the last 5 years, I have learnt and experienced so many new and varied things. Also got the opportunity to interact with so many smart people. The joy in solving a problem, or coming up with an innovative solution or delighting a customer is unparalled.
the nascent years of an entrepreneur builds a tale everyday. Do you recall any specific memory which you carry forward with yourself?
There have been so many serendipitous moments while working on Bhukkad which I will always carry with myself.
In early 2014, the Start-Up festival was organized in Bangalore. I attended a talk by the team at Beard Design as part of the program. I was very impressed by the talk by Abhisek, founder of Beard Design. Immediately after the talk, I wrote him an email praising him for their incredible work and the impact of the talk on me. At the same moment, I wished to get the branding for Bhukkad done by them. Their minimum charges for that were Rs. 50,000. I could not afford it but told him that the day I can, he will be the first person I contact.
A couple of months after this conversation, Beard Design started a Student Start Up venture competition where they mentioned that they would do branding for three student starts up for free. I applied for this and I am guessing my email and the fact that I initiated contact with them helped, as I got selected for this competition. A couple of weeks later, I had a shiny new brand identity for Bhukkad which we continue to use till today and got amazing accolades for.
While scaling an entrepreneurial venture, what are the key metrics which you lookout for in a food startup?
In a food venture, while scaling up, quality and revenue/cost metrics become very important. The quality of the food and service has to be maintained. Most food ventures fail at that juncture and no matter how big a company becomes, this is something which will always remain challenging. It becomes easier while you go along but still remains a challenge. In addition, the scale up process has to work out with respect to the numbers. A lot of startups scale up immensely without heed to unit economics. Suddenly they are faced with a situation where there is no money left in the bank and funding is not available as the environment has changed. So the business goes kaput.
How did you go about structuring the team for Bhukkad?
Team building has been a challenge for us like any other start up. We have not figured this out completely and it is something we are learning even today. There was only one thing which was relevant for us while hiring- ability of people to get their hands dirty. Once that is established it is easier to choose. Also, these folks don’t need to have a background in food. We were lucky to have some people on board who reached out to Bhukkad directly and helped it to grow.
do you think pursuing law was beneficial for your present work?
The study of law was not applied much with respect to Bhukkad. Wherever there was a legal question involved, I ended up consulting a practicing lawyer as the law is dynamic and I did not want to trust only what I had learnt in college. At the same time, I didn’t want to rely on my limited knowledge for something as important as Bhukkad.
In a startup life, people confront highs and lows as a regular ritual. How do you personally debacle this constant hustle?
The highs and the lows sometimes happen in the span of a day also. I used to get affected by the lows quite a bit before. However, with the help of mentors and friends, this has become manageable now. One learning has been on reaching an acceptance which is bound to happen, so if I get bothered by it, I am the only who will get affected. And because of the nature of my role, the whole team will get affected. So in a way getting affected will only make things worse. I have recently started working with a business coach. This has helped me in providing a new framework to deal with lows both personally and at work.
What is your message our readers who are choosing entrepreneurship?
Two important things. Firstly- one needs to be persistent with the activity. Most big things become an ‘overnight success’ after toiling for a number of years. If you hear of instant successes, they are always a handful and using them as guiding points, is not advisable.
Secondly, for a lot of business models, do keep the unit economics and revenue in mind. A lot of folks in the last couple of years have not kept this mind while choosing to do what they do. Even though the business might not make money in the beginning, it should have a plan in place for achieving the unit economics in a reasonable time frame.