Saturday, March 7, 2020

Success Story 2 : NISHANT TRIPATHI

(Entrepreneur & Co-Founder, Shake It Off )

“A big business starts small.” -Richard Branson

Great ventures start from small beginnings, and that includes your small business. Pondering on the same line of thought, we are immensely proud to share with you the Start-UP India story of Nishant Tripathi whose love for good food lead him to bootstrap a startup in the F&B space. How many of us would have ever thought about picking the simple and watery Milkshake found in our college canteen and transcend that to an idea which germinated and took form a successful bootstrapped startup: Shake It Off

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over. Towing on the same adage, is the man of the moment, Nishant Tripathi. His is an inspiring story of someone who had known it from his earlier days that he wanted to make the BIG Difference in this world with his so-called presence. Born in Ara, Bihar and raised in a humble background of all educationists and government employees. Going to school, attending college and then completing Engineering and summing it all up with a Management Degree was kind of contemplated destiny that was marked at his birthtime. And to set things in accordance, he completed his schooling from Samastipur from Patna Central School and did his 12th grade from Loyala High School. His father’s frequent Transfers never allowed him to settle down in one school and that’s also the core reason for his intermittent school changes. He coyly admits that he has this unique record of changing 12 schools in his 15 years of formal education. And the only regret of this constant school jumping was that he doesn’t have much of School friends whom he can connect with today.

Post his 12th grade and standing at the crossroads of life, he too was posed with the Million Dollar Question of picking the right course for his further education. Engineering and LAW were the 2 choices poised in front of him and due to a dip in his school percentile, he tried to attempt preparing for LAW...But his heart was always on Engineering and he finally made up his mind to study Engineering. He gave the COMEDK test and got selected for Engineering degree course. He got a seat in KVG College, Karnataka and pursued his studies from this college. The college wasn’t that great, but what caught Nishant’s attention were 2 subjects that he loved to learn and imbibe...One was Web Development and the other one was about entrepreneurship. And this fondness had its own unique reasons as well, Web Development for its coding and prompt results and Entrepreneurship for the sheer thought that, Those who know WHY to do a JOB can lead a pack of people who know HOW to do a JOB. And we all know it well, that the WHY is always pushing reason for the HOW.

Post the completion of his degree course, he wasn’t making it through the campus interviews because of the marks that he lost in 12th Grade. He even attended the interview for a Top IT Company but couldn’t make the final cut because of this strange rule of 60% overall throughout the academics. He did try to reason out with them but was politely declined this chance citing Protocols and procedural reasons. This rejection didn’t dent his spirit and he was still on the lookout for a job. As a person, he knew it well that he is not deem fit for an IT Job role and his interests are varied and his passion is something else. However, He had become like a Musk Deer who had that instinctive passion right within him, however he was yet to notice his true talent....Talent of a Genius!! And this is where he needs to follow his heart.

In the meantime, he got an offer from a Vietnamese based company working out of Bangalore. This company was involved in the export of goods from India. A large part of this business was being handled by Middle-Men and Agents. The company was paying a huge amount of commission to these Agents. To cut down these costs and mitigate work, they wanted to start a team in Bangalore who could handle all the operations. The office was small, but it didn’t matter to him as Nishant would be on Travel all the time for the next few months. His Travel used to take him to far flung areas of the country, wherein he realized that a Farmer owned a BMW and all had the luxuries of life doing what he did for his Own self. And this triggered the thought of Self-Employment within him and he too dreamed of setting up his Own Venture. Finally, Nishant was hearing his heart out slowly but steadily.

He had been on this job for 15-16 months. He had received a good amount of experience and was a seasoned player in this business now. He had even set up a raw material factory on the outskirts of Magadi Road to filter out the waste from the Raw material. This would save the Raw material cost in terms of Tons and would result in payment of lesser amount of freight charges. He had taken an educational loan and he was due to get his retention bonus for that year. He collected his Bonus and paid off the Educational loan and quit this job to pursue his pending dream of MBA.

This is the second attempt for Nishant to try his hand in MBA and like every time, this time too the dream had to go on a PAUSE mode. Nishant received a call from his College mate to start a venture in Tablet PC. The market for a Tablet PC at that time was anywhere between 3k and 6k and there were players like Lenovo, Lava and other brands. Nishant wanted to take up this venture and moved to Pune and rented a Flat. One portion of this flat was converted into an Office and the other one was used as accommodation. This was the first time he was aware about Google Adwords, Adsense and other analytical tools. He started reviewing the tech features and specs of the tablets from many websites and started writing reviews about the pro’s and con’s of the device. Thanks to Google adwords and Adsense, the subscribers would be directed to his webpage and helped them make a realistic choice after going through the feature list and specs as mentioned on his website. This transcended into making Video Blogs and 3 of his videos that were shot using a Mobile phone received 15 lakh views post its upload. The money making was gradual in terms of footfall and commission over sales. This was provided by Flipkart and Amazon for converting user scouting into confirmed deals and orders. It used to be in the form of kind and later got converted to a regular percentage based revenue for each sale done. So finally, this company was seeing the light of the day in form of small revenue generation. 

That’s when the reality check happened and there was a need to change the strategy of the Business. He understood that to Earn BIG, We have to Think BIG and take BIGGER risks as well. To grow in the Indian economy, the game should be upped and the value of the deals should be big. Initially they used to sell 100-200 Tablet PC’s through their website and then came their Biggest Order for 20K Tablet PC’s. It was for a Godman and he wanted to handover these Tablet PC’s to his devotees who can watch his sermon on the Tablet. Nishant’s team had factored in all commercials and provided the quote. The deal was almost done, when a local Pune based vendor and he spoke to Chinese company and bagged the order by quoting a price which was lower than the one put forth by Nishant and team. Although this was a deal breaker, but it didn’t break his spirit and determination. 

His work was noticed by a Netherlands based individual and he partnered with them and advised them to work in a more organized framework by inviting them to his office and trying to get them to work in the mold of an organizational structure. Nishant knew it well that this Tablet market was on the diminishing wave due to the insurgence of Smart phones and he had to quickly make hay while the sun shines. There were multiple partners for this company and most of the promoters were his friends and relatives. One of the key partners probably smelled the rat soon and he wanted to move away from this Business and started a venture of his own. No amount of coaxing or convincing could stop his other partner from stepping down. It was at this juncture that Nishant realized his folly of not doing adequate paper work. A Paper work that defines key roles and responsibilities and division of movable and immovable assets. This was one of the hardest lessons he learnt, and he carries those lessons on the top of his head even now. He has made it a rule that he will always engage in proper paper work with his employees with all the rules and regulations clearly drafted.

Post this, the cloud of MBA cast its shadow once again over Nishant. Unlike other times, he didn’t want this to be a run in the mill kind of situation and seriously gave his exams. However, the lack of time and attention affected his overall aggregate score and he was allotted Christ College, Bangalore for the course. He finished his interview and was all set for the formalities, when it dawned on him that this is not the institution that he wants to invest 2 years of his life. He wanted to do so much and learn so much, but not from this institution. And the Monetary benefit in terms of Campus also wasn’t appealing. This is purely his personal opinion and he didn’t want to be judgmental about it. He didn’t take up the MBA course and started applying for a job. He got his call from a company based in Bangalore where he was assigned the task of Digital Marketing. He put his heart on his sleeve and worked hard and stabilized most of the process for this department. Strangely, he was the only one working on Digital marketing and he ramped up all the process for this making this a profitable venture. By the end of the 2nd year, complacency started creeping in and he could understand that he is being shrouded with stagnancy and he needs to do something to keep him afloat in this volatile market. During one of his travels abroad, he met his friend and collegemate, Anil Paremal. Anil had taken him to a Milk Shake outlet and both the friends loved the taste that was brewed by the vendor. It was only later they realized that it tasted yummy as the vendor had used Ice-creams for preparing this shake. Both of them returned back with this thought of initiating a thing like this in India. But the Indian market was already crowded with Bigger names and Health Industry was still in nascent stages. 95% of the market was still dominated by Unhealthy foods leaving a paltry 5% to Healthy foods. 

Both Nishant and Anil were restless and wanted to start an independent venture. They pooled in their savings and wanted to start their own Bootstrap Shake outlet. The first course of action was to formalize a shake menu. Anil had this penchant for tasting food and his taste buds can be vouched for. The next 2 months were like party time at house, wherein they blended everything for formulate the perfect concoction for the most perfect Milk shake. This trial and Error method helped them to formalize their best 15 Milk Shake recipes. With the ammunition in place, now it was Show time. After careful location scouting, Finally a place was selected for the outlet. Due to a shoe string budget, the location was not that great. However, both had pooled in their savings and also taken some loans to start this venture. In 2016, the duo bootstrapped milkshake brand Shake It Off with an investment of Rs 10 lakh. They always wanted a name that was catchy and had a fun vibe. They had pretty much zeroed in on the name, Shakealot; that’s when they happen to chance upon Shake it Off through Anil’s earphones. But it’s not just the name that evolved in the process. Even their offering was improvised to best cater to the taste of millennial and Gen Z customers who make up the majority of Shake It Off’s target audience. Their shakes start at Rs 79 and their food starts at Rs 69. However, their biggest USP – a visibly different ambiance marked by a laid back, colorful vibe and replete with a bunch of board games for that much-needed dose of nostalgia. Apart from their sinful tasty Milk shakes with classic inspired names, the menu also keeps in mind the health-conscious milkshake lover with options like the Berry Yogurt Shake, The Whey Protein Shake, and The Meal Replacement.

The start wasn’t that great as they faced attrition in the very first week and this forced both of them to jump into the business head on. Anil managed the Business in the morning hours and Nishant managed the Business in the evening hours. Apart from this, there were other issues. Both of them were engineering graduates having no formalized training in this F&B sector. Every day was a new Learning for them and this lead to frequent mismanagement and wastage of resources. This learning curve, however, includes quite a few bold measures and making optimal use of limited resources. For instance, in the initial days, strapped for cash, the founding duo would resort to social media and small-scale events at local colleges for their brand’s marketing and promotion.

Nishant also joined CCD for a project that was to challenge Pepperfry, however that didn’t take off and he was a part of the marketing team. This is the place he met his mentor who taught him the finer nuances of man-management and how to get work done from people and at the same time always have their back. He guarded his team members and never let them down in front of the management. In sometime, Nishant deiced to call it quits and started focusing full time on his venture.

In the meantime, word of mouth publicity started gaining prominence and the footfall at the outlet started increasing. The varied tastes and visually appealing ambiance started attracting clients from far and wide. It’s all about timing and rate of growth at the moment, and to score on both these meters, the co-founders have taken to the franchising route to speed up expansion and capture more of the market.
What started off as a small outlet over the years, from two employees during inception to 40 members today. They have grown pretty organically and their customer base is around 50,000 at the moment and they are confident of serving at least 300,000 customers over the next financial year.

Over the years, the dream of pursuing an MBA still lingers in Nishant’s mind. But to be true to his own self, he knows it well that he has earned his prestigious degree by not sitting in the classroom focusing on case studies. But he has earned his Business acumen and astute knowledge by working on real life scenarios. He has induced the culture of managing work through excel sheets and has shunned away registers and books. Each and every transaction, be it inventory, Cash Invoices, Commission payouts, Payments from Vendors, Kitchen Ingredients all are being noted and tracked by Excel sheets that is accessible at the click of a Button on Google Drive. Automating stuff can make mundane and routine tasks interesting and he can channelize the energy of his staff towards something more potential and important. 

Today there are 10 outlets across the country with 8 in Bangalore, 1 in Delhi, 1 in Chennai and 1 Master franchise partner for 20 outlets in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together. Shake It Off is eyeing $1.5 million in funding to accomplish the founders' goal: 100 outlets by 2022.

“There is no finish line. There are only mile markers.”  -Michael Ventura

No job is ever fully complete, also when one challenge is completed, another rises on the horizon, leading you and your company to the next stage.

There is a lot of learning from this one story and I'm sure this will help many of you in your life goals. If this story has really inspired you, please share this with as many as possible so that this story helps people to follow their dreams. There are many more stories lined up on this blog and if you do not wish to miss any of our updates, please follow, subscribe and share this blog.


Reena said...

Really an inspiring story..👍