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Saurabh Dhanuka, Founder & Chief Eating Officer at Jab We Ate



Please write us a short bio of yourself.
I belong to a conservative business oriented family and have been born and brought up in the city of joy, Kolkata. Kolkata has always been famous for its food culture and that brings out a big foodie in me. After completing my Exeuctive Planning in Business Management from IIM Calcutta, I started Jab We Ate. I have always been involved into digtial marketing and have worked with top class digital agencies of Kolkata, handling sales and marketing there. I am big Nachos addict and I love writing. I am also working on my first book and will release it soon. For me my failures are my biggest strength, I believe if you haven’t failed in something, you haven’t achieved anything. At Jab We Ate, I call myself as “Chief Eating Office” (CEO).
In your own words what is Jab We Ate?
Jab We Ate is an on demand food solution providing company where we are serving typically home cooked food with varied cusines like Indian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai and so on. Along with this, we have our own set up for bakery where we are baking and making customized cakes, cupcakes, desserts for any occasion like Birthdays, anniversary, baby shower, Bachelor parties, wedding etc. Moreover, we are also running an initiative that is called “Be your own chef” where anyone who is enthusiastic about cooking can register with us for free. They cook as a home chef for Jab We Ate and we get those dishes delivered to the right belly across Kolkata.
How did you come up with the idea of Jab We Ate?
Someone very close to me told me one day, “Love cannot be described, it must be tasted”, so I came up with an idea to fill the foodie’s belly with most relished home made food!!!
If you are someone staying away from home, you may relate to this. What do you miss the most about home? For foodies, the answer to that would be of course ‘Maa ke hath ka khana’. Often, we are challenged with the question – ‘Aaj Khaane mein kya hai?’ It is a crisis, no less, for many who are in a situation where there is no time to cook and eat healthy, home-cooked food.
I started Jab We Ate on a mission to solve this problem. We are on-demand, food delivery startup with a special focus on healthy desi style, home-cooked food which could be eaten on a daily basis. I wanted to bring simple home-made food as opposed to the lavish exotic sort to the corporate community as well.
I was in Mumbai for a project when after few days I started missing my home cooked food. I realized like me so many people shift their base from their home town in search of job and living. Most important thing which they miss is their home cooked food and hence Jab We Ate happened.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Jab We Ate?
There are no big shots involved in Jab We Ate. I seed funded it and have invested everything from my savings. After 6 months of extensive research on business models, opinion polls, and deciding on the various intricacies like the vendors, the venue, the brand name, taglines, color combination and every minute things, I started Jab We Ate with a dream in Kolkata.
I had to understand everything from the working of a kitchen, the sourcing of ingredients, the food storage and the menu. The work that we put in, from fixing the menu to the daily running of the place has probably been my biggest strength.
Soon I hired bikers and started delivering food from one location in Kolkata to another. Slowly we also started delivery food post mid night specially for IT class and BPO sector. It became a hit and we started cooking in two shifts. We deliver all cuisines, desserts and we are specialized into customised cakes too.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?
The biggest challenge in this industry is serving good quality hot food with complete freshness. At Jab We Ate, we work on a zero inventory model and start cooking food only when the order is placed, avoiding any kind of wastage. Hence, the food is cooked fresh every day, and that is what makes us stand out in the crowd.
Second most challenging factor is retaining of delivery boys. It was not at all easy to find people who were good with road sense as well as educated enough to operate smartphones. There has been lots of time where I have myself went to deliver food to customers.
We did lot of R & D to overcome these challenges. The first step was to cook fresh food everyday. We decided that we will cook only when the order is placed. Serving hot and fresh food to your customer has its own advantages.
Secondly motivation is key for people and apart from commercial interests, freedom of working on your own way becomes very important i.e. to do things the way they want. We taught the delivery boys the advantages of using watsapp and sms. They appreciated the fact and understood the efficiency of these technologies.
How have you been developing Jab We Ate since startup (i.e. what’s the developmental direction)?
It is very important to keep a track what your competitors are doing. I always try to avoid what they are doing and try to bring something new out of it. Who will deliver you “Ghar ka Khana” post mid night? This was something gave us a good rise. At Jab We Ate, I am managing sales, marketing and operations while I have outsourced logistics to another start up friend of mine. I have my chefs plus I have other home chefs who are always excited to work with us.
What kind of feedback did you get for Jab We Ate so far?
Touchwood not a single negative feedback in regards to food till date. People do complain about timely delivery but then it all depends upon traffic. There are many customers who asks me, “Saurabh, why do you charge extra for delivery”? Very politely, I answer them “Sir, I wish my bikes could run on water”. I believe you cannot afford to eat outside everyday, you need that home cooked food too. I started with lot of variety in terms of thali system like Punjabi Thali, Rajasthani Thali, Chinese Thali, Only Rice Thali, Italian Thali, Mexican Thali, even only starters thali and so on.
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry ? What is your strategy against your competition?
I see lot of people starting same line of business in Kolkata i.e. the Thali system. I have also seen people selling thalis almost at 50% lesser cost to which I sell.
Still I was firm I will not reduce the costing. It depends on quality of the food. We only cook food in refined oil and our main USP is we work on zero inventory model. You need to pre-book your meals and we cook only if we get an order. None of them delivers food post mid night so that is something we are beating them out at.
There are companies who are selling either 1-2 cuisines or veg/Non veg. We at Jab We Ate selling all the cuisines, desserts, ice creams, platters, etc.
What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
I have always believed that a hungry customer is an angry customer. Food in India is a very big deal and if its reaching you at your doorstep it definitely stands out.
The food delivery market in India is worth $1.6 billion, growing at almost 32% a year. At Jab We Ate, our average order size is Rs. 400.
In food delivery industry main consumer might be a workaholic, a DINK (double income no kids) or maybe a complete family. Many consumers are too busy or too lazy to cook. I have seen that most consumers prefer ‘clean and well-packaged’ food for office orders. Unfortunately, most orders are placed in narrow time bands during lunch and dinner, making it difficult for us as well as for our delivery partners. We used to stand in front of IBM office in Sector 5 area of Kolkata with questionnaires to better understand food needs of our customers,”. No wonder, Even if you aren’t a hardcore foodie, you can’t but help notice that India’s food tech startup sector is as hot as Indian food itself and growing rapidly.
What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?
The food ordering industry is also subject to wild price fluctuations due to volatility in fuel and agri markets. Challenges will always increase, it will never stop.
But what is important is an attitude of thoroughness, quality and creativity which will help Jab We Ate to succeed. There are new opportunities not just in food, but in food for thought i.e. analytics. For example, Pizza accounts for only 6-8% of India’s food market – but there is no single Indian player who is even a tenth of Domino’s size. And once you start with servicing the home kitchen market, you can scale to the office and canteen markets and expand from cooking food to marketing restaurants too.
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
When we started we had difficulties in delivering far off areas. Logistic is still a very big challenge in Kolkata. I wish we had some really good startups for delivering food in Kolkata. After I tied up with a logistic partner, things came to track again. It was a big headache for me. That time I realized and learnt that you should focus only on things you are good at. You cannot do everything alone.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?
Nothing is easy in life. I wish being an entrepreneur was a cake walk. Being passionate is very important in life. If you are passionate about what you are doing, even  putting your luxury on risk becomes smoother. Secondly, Patience is a key to fight against any challenges that comes your way. Most importantly, Team Work -It should  be there. It makes work faster and more efficient.
For me starting Jab We Ate was not easy at all. Lot of R & D was done before I officially started Jab We Ate. I met lot of people in the same industry across India,  met so many logistic companies to check how delivery of food actually works.
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
I believe we Asians are born with better ideas, but yes as compared to western front, we are restricted in terms of support and technology. Western people have average ideas but have freedom to implement and freedom to experiment. They are not forced to give up upon failure, and here people started blaming and forcing not to make mistakes again. Also I believe the funding opportunities in Asia is much better than in Western countries.
What is your definition of success?
I believe success is when – Whatever you do should make you feel happy. Everyday you should have a motive to wake up in the morning. You should always do 1% things extra than what you did yesterday. If you are able to do this, it defines your success.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Coming from a traditional business marwari family is one of the prime reasons I stepped into this journey. Moreover, I have always followed people like Ritesh Agarwal  from OYO, Bhavish Agarwal from Ola. It was always so inspiring to read their success stories. If they can do something so big at such a small age why can’t we?
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Keep working hard!! Be a doer, not only a dreamer. You have come a long way to start your startup, don’t give up!!
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
Please do not depend entirely on technology. People believe e-commerce is everything and going on only mobile is a big thing. I will never let Jab We Ate go only on mobile apps. Catering to every type of audience is a key to success. There are people who still feel calling and ordering for food is most effective and efficient way.
One most important lesson that I have learnt – There should be a balance between your personal and professional life. Spending time with friends and family is very  important. It is the most relaxing and the best stress buster.


Why Angel Investors are Shaking Up the Global Startup Scene



Candace Johnson is someone who has made a global impact on our modern international telecom and broadcast business. She co-initiated the foundation of SES-Astra and SES Global, which today owns a fleet of 54 satellites and broadcasts 6500 TV channels. And she founded the world’s first Internet-based online service, Europe Online, making it into one of the first broadband Internet services.

But it was in her role as president of EBAN, the European trade association of several hundred business angels, which brought her to Eindhoven’s High Tech Campus recently. She explains why angel investors are making a difference to the global start-up scene and explodes several myths that surrounds the way they do business. She spoke with StartupDelta’s Jonathan Marks.

Building the match between angel investors and hardware startups

“People often think that angel investors are people who do investments around the corner, locally, or in services like e-commerce. To be frank, when the HTCE management told me that they were focussing on the hardware side of things, I was thrilled.”

“What I’m trying to do as President of EBAN, and having incubated MBAN (MENA Business Angels Network) and ABAN (African Business Angels Network) under my presidency, is to extend the scope of angel investments. The vast majority of angels are already tech savvy. But we need to educate our successful angel investors to invest more in hardware and infrastructure. We also need to help start-ups develop a pitch that speaks to the interests of angels, so they can get funding for their initiative.”

“We run the EBAN Training Institute with the goal of raising standards. We’re seeing more and more that the best angel investors are serial entrepreneurs. They bring their trusted network, expertise and experience to the table.”

“Money is important too, but it is not at the top of the list. Business angel investors are high net worth individuals who usually provide smaller amounts of finance (€25,000 to €500,000) at an earlier stage than many venture capital funds are able to invest. They are increasingly investing alongside seed venture capital funds.”

Angels are more important than most people know

“We follow the guidelines and standards developed by the European Venture Capital Association. For over seven years, during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008 until the recent recovery started, it was the angel investors who took over the role of early stage financing. More than €7.5 billion are being invested annually in Europe, with a sustained growth in recent years. Of that €5.5 billion comes from angels. In fact we have had to professionalize our profession to meet the demand of the growth in this early stage ecosystem.”

We always have an exit strategy

“Angel investors can only continue to invest if they have exits. I hear many people talk about investing. Only a few discuss exits. I want to change that. I also stress that proven entrepreneurial success is essential in order to become a member of our association. We need to ensure that useful “lessons learned” are shared with the start-ups. They are always based on hands-on real-world experience. We have no time for people who are using new blood to try and correct mistakes they made in their own failed companies.”

“EBAN was started in 1999 together with the European commission. For the first ten years, I think people were too focussed on the investing part. Now we need to focus on exits and returns on investment. Without returns, business angels are out of business. And remember there is only a short window of opportunity during which start-ups can scale-up to becoming global success stories”.

“Our feeling is that you should not make an investment in a company unless you can see the path for the exit. The exit may be a trade sale, an IPO, etc. The exit also does not have to be 100 %. It does, however, have to bring you a return on your investment so that you can continue to invest. This approach helps you focus on building great companies. There’s always competition in healthy markets, so no-one can afford to waste time. We’re not a charity; we’re doing this because we love building and financing global success stories. We’re therefore looking for companies with a real marketable product, not a prototype or a collection of well-presented ideas.”

Is there specific advice you can share with high-tech startups?

“In the last few years we’ve seen the rise of the accelerators alongside incubators. They have helped raise standards because a good idea needs to be validated by the market before it is the basis for a high-growth company.”

“As investors, we always need to see a start-up demonstrate that they have first clients and initial revenues. We’re not saying that they have had to scale or show market traction. But if we are going to put in our personal money, then we expect the founder to be resourceful enough to work out the first product, to have found the first clients and show us evidence of the first revenues.”

“The incubators who help get an idea into reality and the accelerators have been good at making startups better prepared for angel investment, offering the right coaching to turn an idea into a validated business. That means angel investors are better able to select the growth companies and focus on making a good return on their investment.”

Hanneke Stegweg

“We recognise that young companies need to present their business proposition to the angels attending our annual conference. So we’ve created ways that teams get immediate, honest feedback on the quality of their business presentation. We have one full day of preparation and coaching followed by a Global Investment Forum. The best go on to pitch to the entire network. This year, the “company to watch” category was won by Hanneke Stegweg, who is the Dutch CEO of the iLost company. Together with Neelie Kroes, I am keen to see more women founders lead entrepreneurial teams.”

What needs to change for things to move faster?

“We held this year’s EBAN congress in Eindhoven at the recommendation of several members. They all work in the innovation and financing of innovation field. But this region also came up in our discussions with StartupDelta. We have worked closely with Neelie Kroes when she was with the European Commission.”

“We were tipped off to the High Tech Campus specifically by our Russian members: the Russian Business Angels and the Skolkovo Foundation who are building the Skolkovo science park just outside Moscow.”

“And last, but not least, I know Eindhoven from my work in telecommunications and broadcasting hardware field. We often came here to work with Philips on the establishment of the DVD and MPEG-4 standards.”

“During our visit to the Brainport area it was clear that there is more than enough money in the region and a healthy appetite to invest in innovation. But there are some caveats that we feel need to be addressed.”

“Frankly, I think we are rather tired of the “nice-to-have” e-commerce companies. We would prefer to reinvest in world-class companies who are building something tangible, solving a real-world challenge. They need to demonstrate they can scale and become global.”

“We can see that the efforts by many have helped to raise the bar in the Netherlands and that’s good news for everyone. But remember there is a difference between entrepreneurs and SME’s. Entrepreneurs are the only ones to change our world. They create large companies, worthwhile employment, and that grows into large revenues.”

Failure is not an option

“We should get rid of this talk of failure being an option. If you’re taking angel money, it is NOT OK to fail.”

“If you take third party money, you have a responsibility as an entrepreneur to do everything you can to make a return on the investment of your business angel. The media keeps talking about friends, family and fools. But that’s nonsense! Founders, families and friends build great companies!”

“I have always been a free marketer at heart. Europe and The Netherlands need to create nations of investors. I believe in the power of private sector-led investment. Government needs to follow the leads set by business angels, not the other way round. We are investing our own money and using our years of experience to scale up these companies. An entrepreneur who is not willing to work and dedicate her or his lives 24/7 to achieve the goal should look elsewhere for money!”

“We’re fortunate that the EBAN network acts as a magnet for excellence. We were honoured to have the President of the European Research Council and the Head of Technology Transfer of the European Space Agency address our Congress to show us where the technology trends are going and where we should invest.”

“From a venture and entrepreneurial financing perspective, we were most grateful to our colleagues from the United States who joined with our European, MENA, and African colleagues to set the bar high in creating, building and financing global success stories. Amongst those joining us in Eindhoven from the United States were the president of the Global Accelerator Network from the USA, the president emeritus of the Angel Capital Association of the USA, the President of Start-Up Angels and Board Member of Up Global from the USA. We also welcomed the President Emeritus of the Crowd funding association of the US as well as the chairman of New York Angels. And we were delighted with the presence of David S. Rose, the president of These are some of the world’s best experts in angel investing.”

“They all said they were pleasantly surprised by the high standard of the startups that came to Eindhoven from all over the world. It was well above what they had expected. Start-ups from Africa, Middle East and Europe traditionally explain what they do, rather than explaining to investors why their idea is important. But that’s changing rapidly for the better. Entrepreneurs are also getting better at defining what they need in order to scale-up.”

NEXT STEPS : It’s all about active networking

“I should explain that in expanding our reach in Europe, with have formed alliances with the European Space Agency and the European Research Council. They also have their own accelerators and incubators. I think the onus is on the angel investor community to help bring this scientific community to a higher level of entrepreneurship. They need to think about the market for their inventions from the beginning. I believe we can help these organisations filter out the very best ideas and give those the attention they need to scale ideas into real businesses. There needs to be a validated market need for the technology they are developing.”

“We have two main events. There is the annual EBAN congress, this year in Eindhoven and next year in Porto, Portugal. And we run the EBAN Winter University, this year running from November 17–19th in Copenhagen. We’re doing this with leading organisations active in Europe’s creative industries. And all this is in addition to individual events and competitions organised by EBAN members at a local, regional and national level.

Increasingly we’re assembling cross-border syndicates, both between European countries and increasingly inter-continental networks linking Europe with innovation hubs in Africa, Middle East and North America. As companies scale and go global, it is important they have access to an international shareholder network. It’s a softer landing when they cross continents.

We also believe there is a way in which we can build partnerships with techno-business parks around the globe, led by the flywheel initiatives shown by High Tech Campus Eindhoven over these very fruitful days in the Netherlands.


About the Author

This article was written by Jonathan Marks, Executive Director at Photon Delta. See more.

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Myths & Facts about Entrepreneurship



Today, there is a pervasive and nearly deafening mantra insisting that you quit your job and become an entrepreneur. The collective says you should do it today because every day you wait brings you closer to a life of poverty and regret.

A central theme in the entrepreneurial world is challenging the status quo and questioning conventional wisdom in search of new and better ways of doing things. If you’re just going to follow the pack, you may as well just get a real job and call it a day.

Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. Starting your own business may be the best decision you ever make. But it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and a lot of myths to expose, starting with these.

Let’s take a glance at some of the Myths of entrepreneurship:

1. You’ll be Happier

Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. Starting your own business may be the best decision you ever make. But it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and a lot of myths to expose, starting with these.

2. You’ll have more freedom, control and work-life balance

If you’re on your own, chances are you’re going to find yourself wearing all sorts of hats and working 24×7 for a very long time. Work will become your life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone feels more freedom and control that way.

3.You’ll be more fulfilled

Do we know what just about everyone loves to do? Great work that accomplishes goals they can be proud of. One can do that working for a big company, a small company, or their own company. Fulfillment has nothing to do with business ownership. If one wants to manage, lead, or run a business, it’s better off learning the ropes in a good company before starting your own.

4.There are no jobs; technology and outsourcing killed them all

It is shockingly untrue. If technology destroyed jobs, then which one will you call the most lucrative and fastest-growing industry on the face of the earth.That’s right: technology. If you can’t find a job, chances are you lack in-demand skills or education, in which case, yes, you might want to consider starting a small business which does not require much of exclusive skill sets in particular.

5.Entrepreneurs Live a Glamorous Lifestyle

That’s again untrue. Most entrepreneurs do not live a glamorous lifestyle; if they do, their investors should cringe. Entrepreneurs are notoriously frugal, hard working and opportunity-obsessed with little time for outside activities. These qualities are not hallmarks of the glamorous life.

Now,Let’s look at some of the facts of entrepreneurship.

  1. Most successful entrepreneurs succeed by exceptional execution of ordinary ideas: See Jiffy Lube, Starbucks and Charles Schwab.
  2. Most successful entrepreneurs concentrate on minimizing risk rather than taking huge risk at the time of starting their companies.
  3. Successful entrepreneurs use their innovative passion in many ways, such as buying companies, creating new ventures within larger companies and re-strategising nonprofits.
  4. More than 80 percent of new ventures are boot-strapped from personal savings, credit cards, second mortgages and the like. The median start-up capital is about $10,000. Waste Management began with a single truck; Sam Walton started with $5,000. So, in short access capital is not required to startup.
  5. Being first to execute well and delight customers is not at all important for success. A lot of startups have entered quite late in a particular startup industry and have done well.


About the Author

This article was written by Utkarsh Sharma.

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