Founder of Jab We Ate, Kolkata’s first multi-cuisine on demand food delivery company, Saurabh Dhanuka started his Entrepreneurship right after completing his Executive MBA from IIM Calcutta. With more than 9 years of experience in Digital Marketing, Saurabh also runs an NGO called RIDHI Foundation that provides food and education to underprivileged kids & families. Recently he co-founded a meal system food start-up, Gobble It is serving more than 25 varieties of thalis under one roof. Saurabh is an avid writer and is working on launch of his first book soon. In his free time he loves to enjoy with friends and watch movies on Netflix.

Interview Excerpts

The vision behind RIDHI is very simple, to bring out the best in less fortunate families and kids, in whatever way we can. The team behind RIDHI are young minds who are working professionals. They spare their time to help these families and kids by providing them food, clothes, education and everything possible to make them believe that life is full of happiness for them too.

At RIDHI, we keep doing campaigns for underprivileged kids once in a month. We will be doing Mango festival for them now and have decided to distribute 100 kgs of mangoes in slums and orphanages. Last year same time we did liquid food distribution because of extreme summer. We distributed liquid food to more than 5000 kids on a single day.

It is not about how much successful you are, it is all about how successfully you are helping these kids. As per statistical figures obtained by various organisations, about 800 million people in the world are undernourished. India alone is a home of more than 180 million people who don’t get enough food every day.

If you ask me, how much successful I am with RIDHI Foundation, I would score myself 1 out of 10 because I feel there is no end to this issue. There are so many people who don’t get to eat three meals a day and this issue is at an alarming stage. But I am happy that I am trying to make a difference with whatever resources I have.

The day I started JAB WE ATE, I decided, I will do something to provide food to less fortunate families. Since day one of Jab We Ate operations till date, we put 10% of the total income aside to provide food and education to these kids.

In Delhi, ee are doing something different. We are trying to provide education and motivational training to acid attack victim girls. Though we have a long way to go, I am a firm believer of a fact that, if you don’t start, you will never reach the finishing line.

Love cannot be defined; it should be tasted!

And from there, I began this journey of Jab We Ate. You are absolutely correct; it has a long interconnected story. When I was doing my MBA, I used to watch a lot of videos about young entreprenuers like Ritesh Agarwal of OYO, Deepander Goyal of Zomato and others on Youtube. They used to inspire me a lot. In one of the speeches, Ritesh mentioned that your brand name is your identity. Keep a name which people will always remember. I started doing my R&D with different names and then one day finally decided to go with JAB WE ATE. I had made a list of 30 names, shortlisted top 5 among them and finally chose this.

Food is always connected with emotions, with love, with affections. Hence, I wanted a tagline that connected these three terms – love, emotions and affections. “Cooking Happiness” connects all the three terms equally well.

Your logo is your brand value. I am from a digital marketing background and I understand very well how important the logo of a company is. I always wanted to keep a colour combination with red in it. So I had two options, either red and white or red and yellow. I saw that red and white Zomato already has, so settled with red and yellow.

At Jab We Ate, from day one we have always maintained this basic functioning rule that we will accept orders at least 24 hours prior and if its a huge order, then 48 hours. Working on a 0% inventory model has its own advantages. First, there is never a wastage at our end and secondly, customers always get to eat freshly cooked food. Regarding sudden upsurge of orders, there is least possibility because we are accepting orders 24 – 48 hours prior. We have enough time to manage the logistics accordingly. It is clearly mentioned on our social media handles that orders must reach us at least 24 hours in advance.

There was a time when we used to test lot of home chefs under “Be your own chef” initiative. Slowly we had to cut down on it because of logistics issues.
I always believe that you should complete your home work well in advance in order to sit for your exam. Similarly, getting chefs on board were always a priority and then came the customers. Till date We have brought around 15 home chefs under this initiative in Kolkata as well as New Delhi. Be your own Chef initiative was launched to get hold of best home cooks who knows how to innovate in terms of food but lacked marketing abilities. There was a time, When Jab We Ate has also worked with Master Chef, Kirti Bhotika under this initiative.

“Sasta” and “meetha” is still there but not everywhere in the city. When I initially started JAB WE ATE, I used to deliver thalis which was quite reasonable.
After I completed my MBA, I was very sure I would start something on the grounds of either food or education. I chose food because I wanted to bring food for every class of people, middle class, upper class and so on. I started off with thali system and slowly moved onto to party food order. We initially started with a very basic menu and within a span of 3 months, we brought more than 100 more items on board. Today at Jab We Ate, we have more than 400 items in the menu list, covering each and every cuisine.
Earlier people were very sceptical with the pricing but slowly when they understood the value of home cooked party food, they were okay with the pricing. Its been almost three years now and I have seen a lot of changes in preferences of food items among the customers. They want more of fusion food now and that is why we have more than 50 fusion food listed in the JWA menu. Since Kolkata has a sweet tooth, we have a huge variety of desserts include mousse shots, cheesecakes, mango rasogulla and so on.

It required loads of courage to begin a pure veg food delivery model in a city of fish and chicken. But then, if your role is not challenging then what’s the fun? More than 50 people I know were shocked with the decision. Lot of my Bengali friends told me that JWA will not be able to survive more than 6 months. I always knew I will never go into non veg sector because there are thousands of other food companies already hitting their head into it.
I targeted mainly two segment of people – the daily eaters and the party people.
For daily eaters we used to serve thalis in many companies and hostels on a regular basis. We had tied up with admins of companies to provide them meals during lunch and with loads of call centers to provide them dinner. These people crave for home cooked food and we hit the target right on spot.
Party people in our city love to visit clubs. But there is also a vast segment who party at home but don’t want to cook. So we asked these people to enjoy their parties while we could take care of their food. We started providing food to places like Vedic Village where people go on weekends to spend time with their families. Slowly, the house party culture started increasing and then we started providing food for various occasions like Raksha Bandhan, Bhai Dhuj, Christman Party, Birthday, anniversaries and so on.

It is always important to touch the pain point of your customers. If you can do that, 50% of your work is done and remaining 50% covers your marketing efforts.

In Delhi NCR, we have already started the operations. In Mumbai, we are starting off officially from 10th June. We have already started customized cakes there. The best part about JAB WE ATE is that we are keeping the menu as per city preferences. For example, we cannot serve dhokla in Delhi and Rajma Chawal in Kolkata. So we made sure to keep the menu as per the city preference, keeping the bake dishes common everywhere.

This statement is very true. Many aspiring entrepreneurs stick to jobs because of the money issues. In fact, during my sessions in different colleges and universities, I have come across so many people who have awesome ideas but they do not have a cash-flow to begin.
I have never taken any loan for JAB WE ATE. There are two things, either you come up with an awesome idea and let people automatically come to you and say “I want to invest in your business”. Or, start a business with a minimal funding and let it grow. I would always advise everyone that there is no hurry to reach the finish line, winning is not important, participation is more important.
Also don’t start with a huge expenditure. Instead of investing in a high profile website, mobile apps, etc., rather create a product, gather some clients, deliver them good service and with the profits start creating websites and apps. Lot of time, I have seen people spend a lot from day one, failing to achieve their targets and they exit in the very first year of their operations.


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