From just dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur to achieving a million USD valuation for his company, read on to discover Rahul’s journey from a simple fast food kitchen to one of the biggest cloud kitchens in the region.
- You always planned on becoming an entrepreneur, how did you proceed with it?
Honestly, whenever someone asked me, all I could say was that I wanted to become an entrepreneur and I didn’t really plan on anything beyond it.
OSK happened out of nowhere and was very unexpected. I just started a social media page and things really took off. It was impromptu and I just thought about giving it a shot. A cloud kitchen was a new concept in Guwahati- then and I was never really sure how things would end up. I just went ahead with it, and the rest just worked out with sheer hard work, dedication, and commitment towards the company.
- When you started your cloud kitchen, there were hardly any others in the city. Now that there are so many cloud kitchens, how do you make sure yours remains a cut above the rest?
Since Day 1 itself, even in the pre-covid period, we have always been very strict about our hygiene policies and SOP’s. The precautions that other restaurants have started to follow, dut to covid, we have already been doing these from starting. Be it proper sanitization or washing of utensils. Now we have just upgraded those standards.
Secondly, food is the main priority of the company and its essence. We cannot forget that we are selling food. If we compromise on the quality, we are going to lose customers and it’s a downhill path from there. We try to make sure that every order tastes the same and the quality of food remains the same that we provided in the beginning.
Thirdly, we try our best to maintain a very active social media profile since we don’t have any store-front. I personally try to maintain our customer relations over our social media profiles so that I can be up to date and don’t miss anything Whenever we receive any feedback, we try our best to respond immediately and always try to prioritize customers’ needs.
These three things have helped us in building our brand.
- You are a great fan of different cuisines. How do you go about introducing new items to your menu?
To be honest, I am not a chef and I can’t cook many things, but I love trying out new dishes. The only good thing I have done in my life is that I have traveled to a lot of places and got to try out various dishes from different cuisines. My first venture was a fast food joint which I opened back in 2013 after my final semester in college but I went to Bangalore for my further studies after running it for a year. There, I tried to go to at least two new restaurants every weekend to try out different cuisines. This helped me to learn how different cuisines go together, how to mix and match and learn about flavors. At the same time, I studied wine and I am a wine connoisseur as well. This helped me learn about wine and food pairing, giving me a lot of exposure. I learned which wine compliments what type of food and lots of things about the food industry. I try to implement all these things that I have learned to the food that OSK makes. We take traditional recipes and add our own OSK twist to it. We try to make fusions. OSK is the only cloud kitchen which serves teriyaki bowls, that too, with in house original sauce recipes. Take for example Buffalo wings, there also we have added our own twist to the sauce recipe.
I do taste myself and I let my entire team taste a particular dish before putting it up on our menu, cause when it comes to food, we can never risk dropping quality. We also keep changing our menu so that customers don’t get bored with the same old dishes. We try to incorporate new dishes so that we also keep experimenting, If something doesn’t run well, we remove it from the menu. All of these give us an edge above the rest.
- OSK is the only cloud kitchen which has different categories. From junk to healthy to particular dishes like Biryani, it has everything. What was the idea behind separating the categories and not putting them all in the same menu?
This concept is known as a multi-brand cloud kitchen module. Here, we use the same kitchen for different brands. It helps make a brand identity. OSK’s brand identity mostly revolves around fusion food like dimsums, or bowls, or combo boxes. Similarly, the other brand of OSK will also be catering to a particular cuisine. For example, our brand The House of Biryani will only be serving different types of Biryani or kebabs. This is very convenient because if someone wants to order Biryani, they don’t have to go through a lot list of food items; they can simply go to the House of Biryani and order the Biryani of their liking.
Again, we have a brand called Healthy Co which will be catering only to healthy food and not junk. So we cannot incorporate the Healthy Co’s menu into the OSK men. Healthy Co. is something I have been thinking of doing even before OSK. It will be more of a subscription model. We intend to promote a healthy lifestyle with it. We also want to breakdown stereotypes which say we should stop eating or eat boil food to diet. With the help of technology, we are going to suggest food habits. A customer will have to enter all their details including height, weight, and other body requirements. This will be studied by a group of dieticians and fitness trainers. Based on all of these, Healthy Co. will suggest a personalized diet meal subscription plan, which will be different from person to person. We will serve everything from juices and shakes to dinner and lunch according to the subscription plan. Most importantly, we want to break stereotypes. Healthy Co will be serving pizzas, wraps, kinds of pasta and other kinds of “junk food” which will be completely healthy. We are also working on issues like PCOS/PCOD, iron deficiency, etc.
Our fourth brand, OSK Plus, will be an online supermarket. This will cater to almost everything starting from pet supplies to sanitary pads and masks. We also have a category called paan shop under it. A customer will be able to order anything and everything from OSK supermarket. We are planning on expanding this and hopefully, we will be delivering medicines as well. This concept is known as a SUPER APP, with 4 different apps under one.
- How has the pandemic affected you guys?
We have definitely faced a drop in orders because people are skeptical about whether they should eat from outside or not.
But there has been a brighter side as well. People are still ordering from us because they believe in us. They believe that OSK is safe and maintains proper hygiene. This motivates me the most and inspires me to expand and come up with more kitchens across the cities and states as soon as possible.
- Obviously you guys encountered a lot of difficulties at the beginning, how much time passed until you guys were fully established?
Honestly speaking, we are still struggling. Every startup has a phase; when we created the market back in 2017, this culture was not here. So that struggle was different. People were not so comfortable with apps and rather wanted to place the order over call. But now things are changing. Nowadays, people don’t want to call anyone, rather they are more comfortable ordering from the app.
At first, the struggle was to build brand visibility and the reach among the customers. But now the struggle is of scaling up. So I think every stage has a different struggle.
- What are the pillars of a good startup?
According to me, the first necessary thing is to work with the right people. I started with a few people and they are still with me being my and my company’s strength.
The second most important thing is that before starting up something one must try to open up their eyes and look all around for once. One should not focus on a particular thing before starting something up. Especially in a city like Guwahati, it is very difficult because all the resources are not available such as raw or packing materials. In that case, a person should try to find out the other best options and should plan everything according to Plan A and Plan B and later appropriately execute them.
Lastly, the most important thing is to keep oneself motivated and prepared for everything. If I’m motivated, I can motivate my other team members. It is of utmost importance that I do not lose hope and keep on moving forward because if I fall, the entire team will suffer. So the key is really to stay optimistic and motivated.