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Entrepreneurship

Vinay Menon – Founder, Meratiffin

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Please write us a short bio of yourself.

vinay

A very easy paced entrepreneur. Strong believer in delegating power and creating sense of ownership within the organisation is vital to its success. Teams can make or break a business. I am very aspiring and believe every problem can be solved and larger the problems bigger the opportunity to build solution around it. Took a sabbatical for a year and completed Post Graduate (Diploma) in Marcom from St.Xaviers Kolkata at a late age of 40. Traveled length and breadth of the country and I am amazed by the potential, India as a country has to offer to her citizens.

 
 
In your own words what is Meratiffin?
 
Meratffin is an order and pay platform on handheld devices, allows users to discover delicious home cooked food in their neighborhood. It facilitates foodprenuers to scale their businesses by bringing them online and help them connect with their potential customers. Meratiffin is also micro entrepreneurship enabler.
 
 
How did you come up with the idea of Meratiffin?
 
Hunger pangs is a concern because “Hunger can strike anytime”, different day parts will have different food cravings for a human. Discovering gourmet to quench your hunger is a pain,  one needs to consider so many things like place, options, price, safety, packaging, food temperature, time and many more factors. This consumes a lot of mindwidth and one may give up the idea of eating or consume wrong food at wrong time. This trend is mostly seen amongst Migrants. On the other hand there is a latent need for a woman to become self-sustaining. These women may have worked earlier or had to give up their job to bring up their children or some issues which lead them to job loss. Many of these jobless women have good culinary skills which can create a tongue twister and some have even commercialized their skill, they can be found everywhere. We just needed to bridge this gap. The opportunity we saw was in connecting hunger pangs with nearest home kitchen. Meratiffin was conceived to bridge this Gap. “With Meratiffin no more Hunger strike”. We empower micro food businesses (including women entrepreneur) to adopt IT to improve their business processes and grow their margins. Enabling them to come to mainstream and help them compete with big players and gain traction in the ever growing demand for safe food is our motto.
 
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Meratiffin?
 
Finding home chefs or home kitchen was the first on our agenda, these businesses don’t have advertising budgets and discovering them was a concern. Classified and social media sites were handy. We connected with quite a few and spoke to them about their business plans. Interestingly every kitchen wanted to reach out and grow, they are aware about the opportunity and knew the demand is growing. The only thing they lacked was marketing. We started checking how they were managing deliveries and was surprised to find they had no issues, their support staff in the kitchen doubled up as a delivery runner. We could now stitch our business plan from here. We enrolled kitchens with logistics support in our phase 1 roll out. The insights we got from the home chefs helped us design and develop a product which was close to market fit.  The best moment for us just began.
 
 
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?
 
Difficulties came in galore. Financially we were sucked. We shut down consulting projects to stay focussed on Meratiffin, consulting was our Cash Cow. It was a Big risk and we were ready to live with it. We reached out to experts and they laughed at us, nobody gave us a chance, nobody encouraged us or had a word of wisdom. No encouragement, no support, the fun had just began. We knew we were staring at hugely competitive marketspace. Big names had deep pockets and could burn us out. Our release dates got delayed. Nothing seems to be working. But we stayed put as a team and were grounded. We believed in ourselves and believed that we could make a difference to human life and wanted to create an Impact.
The opportunity came from NASSCOM, we got selected for their 10K Startup incubation program. This gave us the deserved boost. Its a long road ahead and we are ready for it. We were awarded as the best startup by Nasscom 10K in October 2015. We were on the winning side of the first startup realty show (Egiye Bangla) to be hosted in our state.
 
How have you been developing Meratiffin since startup (i.e. what’s the developmental direction)?
 
We launched only one platform (Android), feedback helped us improve the product. We are launching iPhone version soon, we get constant request from iPhone Fans and it can’t be ignored it makes us really happy.
 
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What kind of feedback did you get for Meratiffin so far?
 
Our playstore reviews speak for themselves. Large numbers of our users are happy with the App performance, these feedback are vital, we have listened hard and have used our learning’s to improve our User Experience. We are aware the road ahead is interesting.
 
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry ? What is your strategy against your competition?
 
Competition is stiff in our industry. There are competition with access to large capital base and can disrupt any marketing plans. We believe we are ready as have carved a niche for ourselves in the space we occupy. The insight is “if you are Hungry you buy Food, you don’t buy discounts”.  We facilitate food discovery at affordable prices which suits our user base and it is delivered on premise. No need to discount. Our User base needs food to taste similar as home cooked and we are focused on bringing the best home cuisines online. This is the biggest differentiation. 
 
 
What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
 
Food has been the busiest sector overtime and is growing at 20 – 30% year on year. With large internet penetration and more people accessing internet on their mobile device it is good time for the industry. Online food delivery market is pegged at $ 15 billion and there is space for everyone who can add value. Having said this entry barriers are low, which is why there are so many failures in this sector. To succeed reaching critical mass early is very important and the cost structure should be driven around customer retention. Your sticky customers are your paying customers. They spread the word. Last mile delivery is also a critical component to succeed. We have figured that out early and are devoting all our effort to attain customer delight. We expect to see Big Businesses build around the Food Tech.
 
What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?
 
The industry is poised for a robust growth. Dual income families, more disposable income, lifestyle change, peer pressure, growing middle income families, convenience all these factors will drive demand for online delivery. Innovating our product and spreading across more channels and staying relevant to the user group will drive engagement and brand value.
 
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
 
Disappointment for me is a state of mind. I get disappointed when I raise my bar and fail to achieve it, having said this as long as we learn from our failure and improve, I am happy. I take disappointment very constructively. It is an opportunity to introspect. It is also important to realize that in a team environment not all things can go right all the time, there could be a slip here and a miss there, as long as we recover and restore things asap all is well.
 
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?
 
Asian Entrepreneurs are like toughened glass. They are hard core, they can take crisis like a KISS and come out scratch free.  I suggest global aspiring entrepreneurs to work in a Asian Venture for sometime before embarking on their own. We at Asia we are a different breed. For us there is no Give Up, we just do it.
 
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
 
Business Schools and Businesses are poles apart. West may have the best B School, we have the best Businesses who employ from these “B” Schools. This I guess speaks for all our Asian entrepreneur’s.
 
What is your definition of success?
 
Success is the start of any journey. With success one become responsible and to remember it is a label which others give you. It is also a motion you set for yourself. The motion can be happy or disappointing, one needs to balance expectation associated with success.
 
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
 
Entrepreneurship is a bug, it bites everyone, those who get infected turns entrepreneur. I wanted to be in charge of my destiny, I believe I add more value to the society being an entrepreneur, so the infection stayed. 
 
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
 
You need to be humble, smile at your hardest time, to realize that time will change and favor you, keep faith and push yourself to the limit. Also to realize that the luck quotient is only 1% and to make the most of it when you have it on your side.
 
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
 
Never give up. The Gold is not at the end of the rainbow, you need to collect small nuggets on your journey to the top, when you pause to review your count you will be surprised to see there is so much that you have accumulated. Don’t miss the small nuggets, they are the fundamentals on which you will build your enterprise. Stay relevant to your customer all the time.

Entrepreneurship

Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?

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An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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