In 2014, we got our first institutional investor, Helion Ventures. When we were looking for our Series A round, we had three term sheets. Helion’s valuation was about 15% lower than the other offers, but we still went with them because we believed we shared the same vision. Getting the right investor is crucial because the relationship is a lot like marriage. You have to like the girl and not the wealth she comes with. And, with Helion, we were smitten. So what if the girl had a beard! Kanwaljit (Singh) has not only influenced my thinking a great deal, but he has also supported us with all our major decisions.
Premji Invest was our second institutional investor that came on board in 2017, when we raised our Series B round. We shared a lot of common ground in ethics, so this was also an easy decision to make.
Building a great business is like putting together a fabulous recipe. Every ingredient has to add value.
Of course, making idli batter is no rocket science, and since there is no towering entry barrier, anyone with a little capital can open shop. That’s why we knew that we had to scale-up our business fast, to protect our market share. We needed to innovate quickly and we started with the business model.
While the whole world was looking to increase the shelf life of products, we went the other way. We focused on selling fresh batter. It’s easier said than done, since first you need to build a distribution channel that supports this. It has to be one that is refreshed daily and everyone, including the retailers and us, maintains zero inventory.
Next, we focused on improving manufacturing efficiency. When we started out, we could only produce 5 kg of batter/hour, with a traditional machine. As we scaled up, it wasn’t practical to have so many machines. It was an engineering problem that we had to solve.
The Germans have the genius when it comes to engineering but, unfortunately, they don’t eat idlis. Our quest for solutions took us to the US, where we discovered that mustard paste is m