This is in continuation with the previous post. We did a Google Hangout with Raghav Joshi, Head of Operations at FAASOS Bangalore. The idea was to get a perspective on entrepreneurship, industry and career from this MBA grad. You can watch the Google Hangout here
Below is the transcript of the remainder of the conversation. The last post included only the industry and job-related questions. This post primary includes most of the philosophical questions! Here we go.
Q.From travelling the world and meeting CXOs in boardrooms to serving customers from crowded roadside kitchens in a start-up, what prompted you to make the jump?
Ans. Desire to do something different + Love of food came together in the form of a job opening at FAASOS.
Travelling around the world and consulting etc. had its own set of highs and great set of learnings, but having done it for eighteen months, I realized that if I kept doing this, I would sink into a very “comfort zone” kind of situation, and if there is any chance for me to try and do something different during my lifetime, that has to be now. Because right now I am not settled down, and right now I can take risks and see whether they pay off or not. One of the biggest fears I had was not to give it a shot at all. That’s when I started to look for opportunities to work with start-ups. Entrepreneurship has always been close to my heart for a long time. I’ve always had this dream of starting my own company, and I wanted to work with a start-up and see how it goes. Again, food is something very interesting for most of us. We’ve often gone to restaurants and wondered how much they are charging us – Rs. 100, 200, 300 at fast food chains and may be the recipe for this would be costing just Rs. 15 or 20– and they must be making a hell of a lot of profit. A lot of us have a great interest in eating out – and I am no exception. Combining this interest in food with an opportunity to work for start-ups came to me as in the form of an opening at FAASOS. The founders come from a similar background (engineering/ MBA – IIM Lucknow, and consulting – the CEO is a Mckinsey alumnus). We connected instantly. I made up my mind to do a stint at FAASOS – and it’s been so far so good.
Q. How difficult was it to convince your family?
Ans. Difficult at first but later they came around.
Convincing the family was difficult – while at Deloitte I was staying at home in Delhi, and joining FAASOS meant that I would have to move out of my comfort zone. My family wanted me to think about getting married, thinking of settling down in Deloitte and making a career out of it. But I really thought I should convince my family about this – this is the time I can take a few risks. Initially I faced a bit of resistance, but very soon my family understood my priorities and after that they really supported me.
Q. What has been the greatest challenge so far at FAASOS?
The greatest challenge, as I earlier mentioned, is Manpower. Getting quality people is as difficult as managing the attrition in this industry, specially at store-level staff. That has remained a challenge for us over the last 5-6 months. We are still not a big brand in Bangalore. Even at a national level, we’re not as big a brand as some of the MNCs in the quick service restaurant space. That makes it challenging on the talent side as well. Because you are not a big brand, people believe that there are risks associated with working with you. We try to attract talent as much as we can, we try to make their experience in the company as rich as possible, but attrition is something that is a reality for the industry and it is one of the big challenges for any player in the industry, and we are no exception, specially because we are a start-up. That will always be the biggest challenge as far as scaling up within a city or scaling up in the country is concerned. It’s very critical for us to solve that problems and we are putting a lot of effort in solving it.
Q. How has the MBA course helped you in this venture?
Ans. Not Really.
Ans. If you ask me to answer this in a couple of words, I would say, Not Really. Because, after B schools, all the learning which happens in the real world is much much more than what we learn in class, in theory and by making powerpoint presentations and thinking that it comes to the real world, is not really the case.. What happens in the real world when you have to manage a profit and loss statement, is really different from what you learn in a class and try to answer in the exam. For me, all the learning has come in the real world after the MBA, by doing things, making mistakes, in real time and learning from them. That I’ve always believed is the best way to learn. Possibly the only thing to have helped from B school is all the people you’ve met, and having developed your thinking in an objective manner. That helps you to resonate with other people from a similar background – who’ve done the MBA. Thinking analytically, objectively, is something that a lot of people can learn through their MBA – I certainly feel I learned it to an extent. But real life experiences will always be a lot more powerful as far as learning is concerned.
Q: Perspectives on the quick service restaurants industry and more broadly, on the retail industry?
It’s hard work. You don’t get many weekly offs, because retail is seven days of business. At best , in the early stage of your career, you can expect half a day off in a week, certainly not the weekends, because the retail industry is all about the weekend.
If you want to work in the retail industry, it’s fun. It’s a very interesting experience to work in any B2C scenario, because you can immediately see the response from customers. If you’re working in a B2B scenario, it will always take time for you to see the results of any changes in your strategy. But in B2C, the response from customers is almost immediate. You launch an offer, and customers respond in a matter of hours, specially Indian customers. You shift your strategy – on how customers are being served, any new item on your menu, but in general in retail, a shift in strategy, or any change that you’ve done, the results are there to show, in positive or negative sense, the results are there to show very quickly. So you do something, you see the results, and you learn. So learning in the retail industry comes very very fast. Sometimes it can be learning the hard way, or not the hard way. But that’s what makes it so interesting to work in the retail industry. The flipside is that you have to slog a lot, you have to make sacrifices, especially the weekends. For me, it has been very interesting till now.
Q. What is your message to the next batch of MBA graduates?
Ans. Follow your heart (at least for some time)
Just follow your heart, at least for some time. We all know that in India, it’s very difficult to let go of family commitments and society expectations. These are some of the factors which really deter us from following what our heart believes we should do. But somewhere we have to take the leap of faith, and try to do what we've always wanted to do. Because while we are young, we CAN afford to take these risks right now, even if we fail, the downside won’t be that much. So my 2 cents would be just to follow your heart and do what you've always wanted to do. You’ll always do very well in what you want to do, as against something you have to do because your family expects you to do that.
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