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Musthafa PC CEO & Co-founder iD Fresh Food

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Mr. Musthafa is an engineer of Computer Science from NIT and alumni of prestigious IIM-B. He spent a few years working with other organizations in India and abroad. He very soon quit to start iD along with his 5 childhood friends, one that transformed their idea into a business reality and also ensured financial independence to many from their hometown. iD Fresh Food was a perfect merger of social and business ambitions.

Musthafa, the CEO of iD Fresh Food, is driving the dream of all 5 co-founders. The team vision of building a food company that made preservative-free, delicious, home cooked food is a successful reality in the form of iD Fresh Food in only 10 years! Quickly climbing the popularity charts with homemakers iD is a 500 crore brand with its footprint in South, East of India and UAE.

Born in Kerala, Musthafa loves to travel and explore. His work is his biggest passion. He has a keen eye for spotting trends and new innovations. He also enjoys sports and is an avid reader. Calm, humble, well-travelled and impeccably well-mannered, Musthafa is a people’s person. He strongly believes that there are no short cuts to success and no substitution to hard work and also values the homemaker’s contribution to a household.

Mr. Musthafa has also been lauded with many prestigious awards like JCI national award, Vocational excellence award, Entrepreneur India award etc. to name a few.

In your own words what is iD Fresh Food?

iD Fresh Food is the perfect professional assistant in the kitchen for the homemaker. It helps smart and busy people, rustle up 100% natural and authentic tasting Indian meal. It produces and delivers an array of ready-to-cook, fresh Indian home food to its customers every single day and takes pride in its home-made style of preparation.

How did you come up with the idea of iD Fresh Food?

While studying at IIM-B, I started to discuss business plans with my maternal cousins. My cousin, Shamsudeen who ran a kirana store noticed that dosa batter that was then sold in plastic bags tied with a rubber band in nearby stores was in demand, especially among working women but was of poor & inconsistent quality. We decided to try selling batter, but with the difference being that we will use the best of ingredients and be consistent in quality.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up iD Fresh Food?

iD’s journey so far has never been an individual’s contribution. Five of us cousins- Nazer, Shamsudeen, Jafar, Naushad joined hands, took on a role each. We found a small place of around 50 square feet and started with two grinders, a mixer and a sealing machine and I decided to invest Rs. 25,000. And thus iD Fresh was born and our entrepreneurial journey.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

We honestly faced a lot of challenges during and after the inception of the business.

  • The concept of fresh, natural, preservative free was hard for not just the consumers to believe but also the retailers and employees. There is no brand in the ready-to-cook segment which offers products that are free of additives and are 100% natural. It took some time for us to convince people and educate them about our core brand values which are- fresh, natural, no chemicals, traditionally made and authentic.
  • Besides we cater to the fresh food segment and hence the wastage is high.
  • Another main challenge was none of us having any sort of background in food technology or food industry.
  • As a team we adhere to certain principles and hence we always believe in growing business ethically aligned to our core values.
  • Cash flow too was a challenge as I had invested whatever savings I had to kick start the business

How have you been developing iD Fresh Food since startup ?

It’s very challenging to create a category, especially in the fresh food space which is crowded with local and regional players. iD has been a differentiator over the rest in the market with innovative packaging and unique product delivery which is offering fresh, natural preservative-free products every single day consistently.

What kind of feedback did you get for iD Fresh Food so far?

We get a lot of anecdotes from our consumers. The most often feedback we receive is that iD is a ‘life saver’ as it has reduced the arduousness of the homemaker and brings in harmony in the family.

Another feedback we receive often is that iD is as good as homemade and tastes authentic.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?

The task at hand differs from region to region. For instance Chennai is a mature market with a lot of competition. Whereas Bangalore is a nascent market where there are not many players in the market. Our strategy differs region wise.

iD as a brand is known for its quality and we ensure we stick to our brand philosophy of providing fresh, chemical-free, natural food to our consumers. As per research we are a stickier brand over most large FMCG brands.

What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

RTC(Ready To Cook) segment is witnessing double digit growth. RTC will continue to grow faster compared to RTE(Ready To Eat) as Indian home makers need their credit. Fresh food and authentic ingredients like batter has great market potential in India.

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

We are very clear about our brand philosophy and we will continue to add products to our portfolio which is fresh, natural, preservative-free, authentic, Indian home-style food.

The future of ready-to-cook/ ready-to-eat industry in India is expected to grow exponentially with changing lifestyles, higher disposable income and increase in working population who are time crunched.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

We were getting 90% unsold market returns in the first few months of our inception. It took us 9 months to sell 100kg daily.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? 

In Asia, parents and families have slowly started accepting the concept of entrepreneurship which wasn’t the case few years ago.

What is your definition of success?

If results are helping you to achieve the purpose of your life, it is success.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

The main reason of becoming an entrepreneur was to provide employment opportunities to the rural folks.

Another way of giving back to the society was by touching lives of millions of people across households by providing healthy, nutritious and fresh meals every single day.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

  • Being honest in the way we make our products (i.e.) make it the way a home-maker would make it
  • Trust & the faith in the capability of the team
  • Unconventional thinking
  • Old fashioned love for good Indian food
  • Interpreting modern technology and knowledge to serve our unique business model

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

  1. Listen to your heart – may be completely against the existing eco-system but that works.
  2. Stay true to your values and principles even if the going gets tough.
  3. Treat your team as family – respect their needs.
  4. Take help from anybody who is better than you in any field.
  5. There is no shortcut to success, hard work is the key.
  6. Trust your gut & take the leap of faith.
  7. Don’t let anybody bully you trusting their ideologies.
  8. Use technology – interpret it to suit your needs.
  9. Involve all trusted people in decision making.
  10. Reply to mails from anyone in 10 to 15 mins – plays a huge role in building your credibility & trust.

 

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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