They’re ambitious, diligent, driven and have found the key to unlock innovation. RITZ Magazine meets these promising men of substance from Karnataka who have made a mark in their respective fields and are making waves not just nationally but also across the globe. They reveal what kept them going and how they carved out a niche for themselves…
BY NAMITA GUPTA
Musthafa PC, CEO and co-founder’s iDFresh products are like professional assistants in the kitchen that let you take the credit of cooking. With humble beginnings at a kirana store, today he his brand is valued at 1000 crores and has presence in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Rest of Andhra Pradesh, Coimbatore, Kochi, Mysore, Mangalore, Calicut, Salem, Pondicherry and soon across all the Emirates in UAE with a strong force of 1500 + employees.
TURNING POINT: I started my first business at the age of 10. It was a make shift kirana shop in my village during my school holidays. It was my first profitable venture! After Engineering from NIT Calicut, I worked with a few MNCs, but I always had an entrepreneurial streak and wanted to bring technology to help customers buy things. I was an expert in IT. So I started an online used car showroom in Saudi called maradh.com which was a super hit initially, but we shut it down later after the dotcom bubble. I started developing fear of failure as I lost money in this business. My next idea was to create a product to chat/talk/share videos with friends and families at the time when ISD calls were very expensive in Gulf. Due to the failure of online used car business, I didn’t venture into it. The uncertainty in entrepreneurship is very high. So I let the idea go. Four years back I downloaded a green coloured app which had the same features that I had planned 15 years back. You know which app I am talking about right? Two years back a blue coloured app company bought this green coloured app for 1.8 lakh crores. You know the answer. That is my opportunity cost for not doing the right thing at the right time. I decided to come back to India with an objective of creating employment. I did my MBA from IIM Bangalore by choice. I then cofounded iD fresh food along with my cousins.
PURE PASSION: I returned to India to create employment for smart kids from my village. I used to discuss various ideas with my cousins who were running a small kirana store in Thippasandra, Bengaluru. There was a small time supplier for their store supplying idli dosa batter in a plain pouch with a rubber band on top. Batter had regular quality complaints, despite several efforts to fix it. We then decided to fix it ourselves. Everyone felt that this idea was not worth pursuing. I was from a tech background and my cousins were running a kirana store. But we had to solve this problem. So we started making idli dosa batter in a 50 sqft kitchen. We invested 50k. We had one grinder, mixer, sealing machine, weighing scale and second hand TVS Scooty. Room had no fan. Just space for a machine to grind the batter. Our job was to go to the market to buy the raw materials. Once the batter was made, founders filled the pouches, packed and sealed them and loaded the trucks. It was back breaking but fulfilling work. It may not be glamourous, but is extremely fulfilling. Since then, there’s been no looking back. I was very fortunate and lucky to have spent time with Bill Gates at India Philanthropy Initiative (IPI), where we spoke about philanthropy and business. The key take away from my interaction with him is that, entrepreneurs like me need to identify great business opportunities, execute well, and scale up. The world would be a much better place if we drove social projects with the same skill and dedication.
CROSSING HURDLES: Our product range includes Idly, Dosa and Vada batter, Ragi Batter, Udupi-Style Batter, Malabar Parota, Whole Wheat Parota, Whole Wheat Chapati, Natural Curd, Natural Paneer etc. which are made from fresh ingredients without any chemicals or preservatives, so that people can enjoy traditional home-style food just the way they make it at home. One issue we still face is the general perception about packaged food. It is a mammoth task to persuade customers and get them to believe that our products are natural, fresh and free of any additives or chemicals. We are now launching liquid filter coffee decoction that has the right blend of coffee and chicory to make the perfect cup of traditional south Indian filter coffee.
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY: Yes my schedule is pretty packed. However I thoroughly enjoy my work. For instance Vada making is still an art and people still don’t get the right size, shape or the hole for the vada. We identified this century old problem it took three years to crack it. iD’s vada pack helps one make home-made vadas that are shaped/sized just like expert-made vadas, without touching the batter, with a proper hole in the middle. This concept and video has gone viral throughout the world. I was invited to present the iD case study at the UN headquarters. UN staff was very happy with our vada innovation (coming from India) and suggested to extend the technology for making doughnuts globally. I strongly feel that idly could be the answer for world’s hunger problem and iD has all technology for mass production of idlies.
BENGALURU, A STARTUP CITY: Bengaluru is home to me. It is a great place to do business due to its start-up eco-system. We were very lucky to launch the right product in the right city at the right time.