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Introduction
Enterprises are born for many reasons. Some founders see an opportunity to enter a market that has immense potential while others see their idea as a solution for an existing problem. A few others believe they can turnaround existing problems with exceptional solutions that forces others to toe their trend. For entrepreneurs Shrayas Saranathan and Gaurav Joshi, that was the ultimate motivation. Their company, Mojos Kitchen, an early-stage bootstrapped cloud kitchen venture is one of the first of its kind in Malaysia to take taste and technology to a new level.
 
Raj Kumar Paramanathan, Managing Partner of CnetG Asia spoke to Shrayas and Gaurav on their giant leap of faith that took them off their cushy corporate jobs in FMCG & Oil & Gas to starting Mojos Kitchen. They tell us about a journey marked by grit, gumption and a pure love for food.

The Happy Meal Hunt
As office goers, finding healthy food at an affordable price is virtually impossible. You have to either compromise on your own health or the health of your wallet to find good food that meets all your nutritional requirements and availability.
 
For us, the intent was simple – since there was no solution available, we decided to build our own solution. It helped that we, first as friends and later as business partners, had a strong entrepreneurial streak that we were pining to make use of.

Trusting Instincts
Having an idea and yearning for it to take flight is just the start – after all, making the plunge is always a tough choice. Letting go off well-paid corporate jobs and fancy titles was never easy. However, we decided to bite the bullet and embark on a difficult but enthralling journey.
 
Anytime is a Good Time
We are often asked why we chose to start something in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic. In all fairness, our journey began a few months before the pandemic struck. However, the acceleration of the pandemic compelled us to reimagine our business model -- not something we’d anticipated so early on but then again, who saw the pandemic coming?

No sooner than we’d expected it, our flourishing new venture came to a complete standstill during MCO1.0 while our bills did not. Once the initial shock wore off, we went back to the drawing board to strategise anew. We decided to pivot from a brick-and-mortar restaurant model to a digital-first end-to-end food delivery solution.

A long corporate career spent travelling and working in different parts of the world gave us immense confidence to try and make it big even under adverse conditions. Through the course of our corporate careers, we had experienced plenty of difficult situations that helped hone our attitude and skill sets. We believed those skills would help us in our current journey and honestly, they haven’t let us down so far.
 
So, while we acknowledge the very real risk of entrepreneurship, we also had a strong belief in our ability to succeed.
 
Excerpts from the Corporate Playbook
There are common FAQs every rookie entrepreneur asks himself or herself which have been the subject of multiple books and articles. Some of the things we mention here would not be really new. Nevertheless, there are a few important takeaways:
  1. Stakeholder Management: Experience gathered from a multi-cultural workplace through interactions with peers from different functions and backgrounds stood us in good stead. Whether it was interaction with employees – kitchen staff, operations or sales teams or external stakeholders like contractors, vendors, clients, etc. – corporate experience always had a profound and positive impact.
  2. Learning to Handle Adversity: While there is always a protective umbrella of a big organization and a steady pay, challenges that arise due to business landscape changes impacts one in a corporate role too. Learning to face them and finding solutions to tackle or handle them are key learnings we’ve had from our corporate stint.
  3. Functional Knowledge: Having worked for many years in marketing, sales, consulting and in leadership roles have helped us utilize them in our entrepreneurship journey.
  4. Leveraging Networks & Contacts: Friends and former colleagues are always the first to try your product and become your ambassadors. In your early days, word of mouth compliments will always be your best advertisement.

Malaysia – A Hot Pot of Foodies
Building our startup here in Malaysia was a straightforward call since we had lived here for a few years and knew the culture well. Other than this, Malaysia offers a tremendous ease for starting and doing business. Startups in the Food and Beverage segment have an inherent advantage as Malaysians are food lovers with an immense appetite to experiment with new tastes and flavours. Availability of highly skilled and trained talent is a huge bonus as well. The macro environment and government policies are also very enabling for both local and foreign entrepreneurs to build their ventures.

The Long March Ahead
We invested a lot of time in building a five-year financial and growth model before we took the actual plunge. The initial plan was to bootstrap a proof of concept. Our innate strength lay in the ability to transform the status quo of the F&B delivery ecosystem. Our current infrastructure allowed us the ability to work with multiple cooking partners who were able to start ventures without making massive investments in setting up full-service restaurants. For consumers, we aim to provide a superior experience where they get hygienically prepared, high-quality meal choices for a single delivery fee at significantly cheaper prices due to the cost advantage accrued through our unique structure.

We’ve also started working with corporates to design bespoke culinary solutions for them. For instance, we’re offering virtual catering services for client and staff webinars where attendees can make customized meal choices which are then packed elegantly, topped with customized messages and delivered to them right in time for the meeting or event. We host event registration and live delivery tracking on our website so that organizers don’t have to go through the hassle of collecting data or keeping tabs on delivery riders.

After proving the initial concept, we aim to scale by completing a seed funding round that will allow us to set-up a fit-for-purpose industrial kitchen, invest in customer acquisition and make technical enhancements.
 
Subsequently, we aim to expand our footprint to cover Klang Valley and other key urban centers in Malaysia before setting our sights on other ASEAN markets.
 
Golden Nuggets: A Slice from Life
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. Every day brings new challenges and one must be prepared to meet them head-on. Some key lessons we have learnt are:

  1. Every day is Not a Sunny Day: One tends to have fantastic passages in business and then there are phases when customer acquisition and order repeats tend to weaken. We have learnt that maintaining equanimity is the most important trait an entrepreneur can have – not getting over-excited when it’s going good and not losing focus when the times are tough.
  2. Customer, Customer, Customer: Paying close attention to customer feedback especially developmental feedback is extremely important. Customer feedback has helped us make enhancements in food, packaging and overall presentation. First-hand customer feedback has also helped us understand the overall customer experience, pushing us to make improvements.
  3. Celebrating Small Wins: Whether it is a new customer acquisition, or a successfully delivered project, it is important to celebrate small wins. This builds the morale of the team to go after big victories.
  4. Building a Strong Team: A good stable team helps keep everyone motivated, establishes continuity of the venture and consistency of the end product.

Here’s hoping that the pandemic comes to an end soon and normalcy is restored in the world. One hopes that the animal spirits of investors and buyers are restored to the economy and all businesses pick up quickly.

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