Why This Entrepreneur Left His New York Job To Start Up India
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When you’re building a business from the scratch, there will be operational issues you have to deal with and you can’t afford to let them pull you down. There will be several people that will reject your vision, deny its plausibility and see no value in what you’re doing.
I know that’s a tough pill to swallow when you’ve just quit your high paying comfortable job to dedicate yourself to that very vision. But Anirban Poddar’s dedication and passion made him swallow this bitter pill and quit his fleshy job in New York and returned to India to give shape to his idea.
Growing up, Poddar was consumed by ideas of how he could do new things and do it differently. During the fall semester of 2012 at Columbia, while taking the semester off, he decided that he wanted to do something productive with his time.
This is when he first started ShopHop as a hyper local initiative that brought 10-15 of South Mumbai’s most popular stores online across a range of product categories including arts, stationery, groceries, and books. Until mid-2015 – ShopHop was run primarily as a side project by his mother and 2 dedicated employees only for SEO + Digital marketing and one for deliveries. But unfortunately, ShopHop’s hyperlocal model never really picked up due to a combination of limited organized effort and a business model that was quite tough.
In mid-2015 – Poddar decided to re-think the ShopHop’s business model and was focused on building a discovery based experience that has both a B2B component helping entrepreneurs while also providing a rich and exciting B2C experience for customers to discover new and exciting brands.
After adequate research and study, Poddar re-launched the new website and business model of ShopHop in December 2015.
In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Poddar disclosed some interesting facts about his entrepreneurial journey.
Life before starting up
Before I started up I have done internships which include an investment banking gig with Rabobank M&A here in Mumbai and with Jaldhara Technologies (an environmental technology startup funded by Nexus Venture Partners).
My first full-time job was with PWC Strategy& in New York where my all in annual salary was ~$100,000. Though it was a comfortable and glamorous lifestyle to leave behind, but for me, entrepreneurial journey is more than worth it. The high opportunity cost at a personal level also plays a role in driving the passion and desire for success for ShopHop even higher.
Your Business Model
In essence, we are a B-B-C model where we help food entrepreneurs and brands to grow and customers to discover these exciting new brands. What we do for food entrepreneurs spans across branding, licensing, feedback, logistics and marketing.
Launched in May, our monthly subscription box the Taste Case brings samples of four new brands every month to people’s doorsteps for them to try. Moreover, customers can learn about the food entrepreneurs behind the brand, what inspired them and what makes their products amazing.
Let’s talk about money
The venture is currently bootstrapped and funded entirely by my father – Pradeep Poddar, former South Asia CEO of Heinz and the former Global President for Water at Tata Global Beverages.
We are actively looking to raise an angel round to fuel our growth for the next 12-18 months.
From a distance – Chad Dickerson (CEO of Etsy) has been a big inspiration. Not only it has been a big inspiration for ShopHop in many ways but also the way the company is run.
On a more clichéd note – Steve Jobs is of course, incredible. One of his quotes that is stated on the ShopHop website is that “consumers don’t always know what they want” and that’s incredibly valuable for any entrepreneur to remember and follow in terms of believing in your product and your vision.
And if we talk about personal front – my father has been a great mentor. He is a stubborn visionary and I guess that in many ways has taught me not to compromise on your vision.
Business fundamental that you would never want to change
Something that I hope we can stay true to is the belief that - value and price and fundamentally independent entities. This is especially pertinent to us as an eCommerce startup where price wars threaten to destroy (and have destroyed) many promising players. We are confident that if we can convey the effort, craft and artisanship that goes into the making of the products then price is not the primarily decision-making factor and we are doing something right.
Yet to cross these hurdles
At this stage – there’s a number of things that give me sleepless nights. We still have a lot of robust technology to build out on our platform to actualize our vision, we need to increase awareness of what we’re doing to both suppliers and customers at the same time and most of all – logistics can often be a nightmare. More than ever before, we are also realizing how important capital really is to go from a great idea to a great and sustainable business.
Addressing them in its own style….
Addressing these challenges isn’t just a responsibility it is a desire because it’s only removing one more roadblock on the path to building something great. What management consulting has taught me is to spend a lot of time studying, reading and absorbing information before building out a system and roadmap that will not only address the challenges tomorrow but also in the years to come.
The advantage of being a young and upcoming startup is the ability to learn from incredible entrepreneurs before us. So I’m not sure if it’s a purely personal style but the process is really to learn and absorb until you feel confident enough of the best way to address a particular challenge – and then get down to building that out.
Opportunities are huge
People often ask us for 3-5 year financial projections which I find a little annoying simply because it’s as good as reading a crystal ball and the vision will inevitably change.
That said – we believe we are the first of its kind startup that can transform food entrepreneurs across the country to flourishing FMCG brands and in doing so we could really create something revolutionary. We have identified 300 nascent brands in Mumbai alone that we believe can grow into multi-crore turnover businesses with the ShopHop platform and we are projecting a minimal market of 1200 crores in the city. When you expand that across the country – it’s a minimum business of about 20,000 Crores. And that’s just ground up.
According to a few industry reports – the unorganized food market is so large that it’s roughly 20x the size of the organized packaged food industry. If we were to go by those estimates we’re looking at something like 200,000 Crore industry that’s currently under the radar.
If all goes well, we would look to expand our platform into other metros by the middle of 2017. Based on the market response we get – exciting opportunities like retail and private label branding also become viable in the future.
Changes you have experienced in your own self
I’ve definitely become more thick-skinned and resolute as a person. Self-belief is not only important as an entrepreneur it’s critical. There’s a famous quote from Roy Ash that I will mention here –“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”I’ve come to learn that you simply have to learn how to chew.
I think music, football, food and philosophy sum me up pretty well. I like collecting and listening to new music and for the same I am working on a blog. I play football at CCI whenever I get the chance. Apart from that, casual reading and staying abreast of current affairs and having an informed opinion is pretty important to me.