You’re probably curious to know why I left banking to become a tiffinwala? In that case, great minds (granny and you) think alike. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will disagree with granny. So before the story unfolds, I just want to let you know that this post is not about hard-hitting “follow your dream” quotes, but a simple story of a boy, who pursued an idea, thanks to a 6-inch (semi) warm subway.
Nov 2014, London : ‘Takeaway’ Era
When all you can cook is Maggi, “takeaways” are your best friend. That evening was no different, as I unwrapped my dinner and bit into my sandwich. The perk of regularly having takeaway food is that you know the taste even before having it – the burger tastes just the same, anytime, anywhere. You get my point, I was feeding myself, but it was far from enjoying dinner.
As I often muttered “Yeh Kya Bakwaas hai”, I also thought about how easy life would be if I could just pay someone to cook for me. I already had a target “someone” in mind – my colleagues. I was a big fan of my colleagues’ lunch but was always hesitant to ask them for more than a bite. After all, who likes to be known as the bhukkad (glutton) on the floor, right. But there had to be a solution to this hesitation. There had to be – for the sake of food and food lovers.
As days passed by, this thought constantly recurred, and I realised there might be many in my situation, wanting to have home-made food but no platform to access it. This gap gave birth to the idea of creating a network where food makers and eaters could come together to celebrate food. As I started sketching out the initial plans, it grew on me with each passing day. Fast-forward 3 months and I was at Heathrow with a one-way ticket to Mumbai. All I was carrying with me was an idea and 2 big suitcases of motivation to build a startup.
The only items I left behind were my takeaway loyalty cards.
March 2015: Waking up in Mumbai
Before diving into self-employment, I read a lot of entrepreneurial journeys, all of which inspired me to take the leap. The bottom line to these stories was that it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride filled with varying voices, so my motto was ‘work hard in silence and let the product speak’. These words were etched in my mind, until granny’s voice came into the picture. Ever since I had left my job, granny was the only one concerned with my plans. She expressed her concern on day 2 -“Akshay, are you starting a tiffin service? But no one in the family has ever entered the food business”. My granny had the impression that I would be on the phone all day taking food orders
Do Daal – Teen Roti – Kahan Bhejna hai?
It might make you laugh, but it surely burst my bubble. As I tried explaining her the concept, I realised I had to first start with– What’s a smartphone? After an hour of trying, granny came to the conclusion that I was trying to sell food using the internet instead of a phone. Oh boy!#MissionImpossible
Hopefully, I can take you through the concept a lot quicker.
Food for thought
As I mentioned, I wanted to create a network where food could be shared and eaten without any barriers. Before you get down to thinking it’s another food delivery service. Nah, it’s not. There are a handful already doing a great job. I am here to build a food-sharing platform between Neighbours – yes, your next-door buddy! You might have often sniffed that aroma from your neighbours’ kitchen. But how often have you tasted their dish? So, I thought why not give food lovers an opportunity where they don’t need a bahana to have their Neighbours’ Khana.
Before starting out to build a fancy product, I wanted to see if my neighbours shared my enthusiasm. So, I started off with an event in my community – ‘Sunday Brunch with Neighbours – This sunday, come and try your neighbour’s speciality and make them try yours’.
So what happened that Sunday ? Here’s a glimpse
70 residents turned up to try their neighbours’ dishes. What’s more is that the event turned into a social gathering! There was an aura of festivity – where neighbours shared smiles along with food. Let’s just say it felt like a community; the feeling which is often lost in the fast-paced city life. This made me realise that there was an added advantage to sharing food with neighbours – it unconsciously brought them closer. Food did the talking, and for that one day, redefined the social interaction between neighbours.
But why just 1 day?
Once the event received a thumbs up, the next step was to see if an app could achieve the same results in another community. Wait a second…how can I not introduce the name yet – the startup is called *drum roll*
The story behind the name is another story in itself. For now, let’s just say you find the name cute. #Awww
What’s more is that post the event, ‘I’ changed to ‘We’ with an enthu techie and a keen mentor joining the team. So coming back, we took 3 weeks to build a basic app and held a similar event in another community of Hiranandani Gardens, Powai. We targeted 200 flats this time and realised that when your audience become bigger the questions become more interesting.
(Quizzical) Uncle :What if someone orders my daughter’s dish as an excuse to hit on her?
After some consoling answers, neighbours quickly caught onto the trend of listing their specialities on the app. Receiving an app notification for food requests started exciting the neighbours…pretty much like receiving your first friend request on Facebook. I started receiving (bragging) texts from aunties, “All my dishes have been sold out”. Little did they know, their excitement was directly proportional to mine. As we finally arrived at sharing day, we had a list of 98 dishes shared between neighbours. If you allow me to humblebrag – it was a great start. Although the community was different this time, there was a certain similarity in the festivity and joy neighbours felt while sharing food. So much so, they decided to picture this moment…
So what are we doing next ? More events ?
Adding wings to Mutterfly
Our pilot events have not only shown us the appetite for neighbours’ khana but also how food can build social interaction between neighbours. We have taken back all the enthusiasm on board and are excitedly working towards launching our enhanced app in July.
In the interim, we are inviting 100 communities from India to join the Mutterfly gang and be the first users of the app. So if you’re that foodie who’s been eyeing his neighbour’s khana or that neighbour who would love to share his yummy dish with others, drop us your details on our website. We will get in touch as soon as we are ready to fly around your neighbourhood.
Oh wait a second…don’t you want to know what granny thinks now? Well..she still thinks I am selling food but she’s happier knowing that I am adding some smiles in the process.
Maybe you can convince granny that her grandson is doing something more than selling tiffins , by sharing this article.
2016 Update : Mutterfly & Granny’s Tiffinwala have grown up over the last few months. While we are still chasing the same vision of connecting neighbourhoods through the power of sharing, we have expanded beyond food.
Mutterfly now lets you borrow items you need for one-off purpose from people nearby. In return for sharing your unused items, you are rewarded with gift vouchers from Flipkart, BookMyShow & Dominos.
So next time you need something but don’t want to Buy, just #KaroMutterfly!