The food tech industry has seen its fair share of startups across several verticals. There have been numerous business models in this sector and the latest from the trio including Rohan, Rajat and Smruthi surely adds to the kitty. All three of them came together to launch an AirBNB for food called DoorNo. It is a peer-to-peer platform where consumers can get invited to have food at homes of other people.
Out of the three, Smruthi is an artist and a photographer who leads the design efforts. She has a degree in fine arts and graphic design. She is also the PR heave weight. Rohan brings tremendous management skills from his stint at Amazon in the US with in-depth knowledge of e-commerce, product management, negotiations and supply chain optimization. Rohan has an architectural degree and an MBA from the Purdue University. Rajat have been the techno-entrepreneur for the past 5 years with a focus on education. He past experience includes being a product developer at HP prior to founding his education startup. He has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Currently located in Bangalore the startup has already got huge buzz around it. All three of them have huge plans for the platform and taking it pan India.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
DoorNo. is a peer-to-peer social dining platform where locals host in their homes or other chosen venues all around the city making for great guest experiences. We believe in the power of shared meals to connect people, and as a way to bring alive our unique (and sometimes age-old) kitchen cultures. The ‘aggregator’ platform allows hosts to list their experiences easily and enables guests to connect with hosts through the platform, book an event of their choosing and make a payment to their hosts- on their mobile phone or the web.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
The advent of the sharing economy is creating new opportunities for people to come together to share experiences and cultures. Increasingly people are seeking authentic, healthy and local experiences, and dining together is a great medium to facilitate this most basic need. Social interactions online, though all pervasive, pales in comparison to an authentic real-world engagement. This platform will build a passage to allow people to come together to “share their culture, meet interesting people and earn a few bucks”.
What is your life mantra?
We are ordinary people that want to make extraordinary change by empowering people to do things they are passionate about, while offering them the freedom and liberty to make their own decisions. We don’t subscribe to a ‘normal’ way of being, but strive to get out of our comfort zone in order to continually explore and seek new ways of creating value. By celebrating others, and what makes us all unique is a purpose that drives everything that we do while enriching people’s lives- you can’t fake authenticity.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
- The most challenging part of our journey has been overcoming the cultural and security barriers to build a culture of sharing where hosts are willing to open up their doors to strangers. We sought to build a society that embraces the need to step out of their comfort zones or create separation to build connections. The ‘sharing economy’ while incredibly empowering and filled with possibilities, can only be successful when accompanied by such a cultural shift.
- This shift to a culture where are are willing to embrace what makes us unique and opening our doors to share it with others requires us to feel safe and build trust with others knowing that they will reciprocate in a similar way. Helping customers with this journey by opening up to the possibilities has been not only a challenging but also the most rewarding part of our journey.
- We believe that if you don’t encounter new challenges every other day, then you are not innovating enough.
How did you overcome those challenges?
- Feeling vulnerable is important for it kicks into gear our survival instinct. But just as important is the need to earn trust, which goes hand in hand with giving our trust to others. Overcoming the challenges has required us to hone the ability to listen, understand and comprehend the vulnerabilities. Then by designing outcomes to address these apprehensions, we have slowly helped enable users to step out of their comfort zones, experiment with sharing a part of themselves with others and proving a medium to tell their own stories.
- Additionally, we are building a tiered security process. At the first level each user needs to enter an invite code from an existing user to access the platform, needs to associate a social media profile (currently Facebook), provide credentials for a credit card and upload a copy of a government issued photo ID. At the second level, each host reviews the guest profile and reviews from fellow hosts before accepting the request. Lastly, we have both guests and hosts review each other and provide feedback- an unruly guest is unlikely to be accepted by host in the future. The platform is built on a foundation laid by the users.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now.
We are currently self-funded with support from friends and family buoyed by our belief in the inherent desire for people to come together, share and celebrate others. We are looking to explore additional funding options in a few months.
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
- We seek to hire and work with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs constantly seek to find solutions, are result oriented and have a sense of purpose. The by-product of having entrepreneurs is that some of them tend to find their calling and move on to start on their own journey. But this gives us immense joy and validates that we hired well, for what they give the organization and the people around them often outweighs the cost of attrition. An organization built by entrepreneurs always finds ways to evolve and create value in unique ways. While we continually strive to retain these entrepreneurs by allowing them to opportunities to take ownership, think big and take risks within the organization to fulfill their inherent need and curiosity, their decision to start on their own often means that we hired well.
- We also ensure that the team is aligned with our long-term vision. We encourage contrarian opinions, and thrive in a culture of constructive conflict. By jointly agreeing upon the way forward, we ensure that people are willing to ‘disagree and commit’ to the solution. And finally, we like to have fun- ensuring people have fun doing what they love is among the biggest assets that we can provide our team.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
While there is no ‘secret sauce’ to success, we try and focus on some that we believe is critical ingredients to be successful. First amongst them is the ability to think big- thinking small is self-fulfilling and if your dreams don’t scare you, they are often not big enough. The other is a relentless customer obsession to do the right thing and solve problems making this easier and better. Lastly, is the conviction and willingness to be misunderstood (often quoted by Jeff Bezos from Amazon) for long periods of time to focus on what we believe to be our purpose? Making bold steps is not easy and why be normal- great things don’t come from comfort zones!
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
- AWS & S3 – a tremendous resource to empower start-ups with the same capabilities are large organizations.
Share any one habit, which you think, makes you more productive.
- Focus on one issue at a time, listen to the customer, and identify outcomes and a time frame to find a solution. Else, we need to find another way and innovate continually to solve the issue.
- Highly effective people have a tremendous ability to listen and gather information allowing them to process the information efficiently.
Answer in less than 50 words
One tip to success
Do what you really love, take a risk and work hard at it. Fall in love with an idea and discover your passion.
One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Not done here or hasn’t been done is an answer we do not accept. For an idea to be limited by existing norms of what can be done or how they should be done is to close the door on new possibilities and a lifetime of discovery.
One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
Collaboration can be a beautiful thing.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
Over the next few years, we will focus on expanding our geographical reach to all tier I and tier II cities across India. We aspire to be the premier ‘go-to’ destination for social dining interactions.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
Become an entrepreneur sooner.
What are your top three getaway destinations?
- The Himalayas for their majesty.
- Japan for it culture and tradition.
- Goa for its Goa.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker