Faasos has introduced a ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ program with a view of finding talented individuals for running its outlets, by fuelling their entrepreneurial spirit, said Kallol Bannerjee. Excerpts from the interview:
Since when has Faasos been in operation?
We have been in operation since 2003. However, we organised ourselves as a private limited company in 2010.
How many outlets do you operate?
We presently have 32 outlets, 22 in Mumbai and 10 in Pune.
What is the background of the founders?
Jaydeep and I are both engineers from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Both of us then went to IIM-Lucknow, and were a part of several IT start-ups before starting Faasos.
How did Faasos come about?
Faasos came about because both of us missed the Kolkata street food. We were travelling abroad frequently at that time, which meant an exposure to the food-on-the-run concept that was quite popular there. We realised that there was an opportunity for the use of a similar concept in the Indian context, and that there were no organized players in that sector at that point.
However, we never thought of developing it into a chain at the beginning. That happened much later.
Tell us about the initial investment required to start Faasos...
We started with a corpus of Rs.12 lakhs. Part of it was self-funded, and the rest was borrowed from family and friends. In 2011, we received the first round of funding from Sequoia Capital.
What challenges did you face initially?
The first outlet that we started in Pune had an open kitchen with a glass facade, air conditioning, and all the works. The outlet lost money, and we lost our earmarked working capital for the entire year within four months’ time. It was then that we decided to cut out all the frills and focus on just two things – food and service. Faasos has only grown since then.
Tell us about the challenges that you face presently...
Today, our biggest issue is dealing with expansion. We face a lack of organized retail infrastructure (as in the availability of shops and dealing with the various government authorities). Then, there is the challenge of getting and retaining talented personnel.
How do you deal with competition?
We deal with competition by constantly focusing on our QCVH model, and consistently maintaining the same. We constantly interact with our customers through our social networking platforms, and consult them regarding new product launches and new locations. We deal with customer feedback and complaints effectively and satisfactorily. We constantly keep innovating and coming up with new ideas to engage our customers and keep them happy. For instance, we executed a Twitter-based ordering system, which was a first in the world.
How big is your team?
We presently have over 600 full-time employees, and a senior management team of about 10 people.
What are your expansion plans?
We plan to have over 50 outlets by the end of this year, and open in Bangalore within the same timeframe. Later, we plan to open in more cities too.
How do you promote your business?
We are active on Facebook and Twitter. We also get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, thanks to the customer-based promotional strategies that we use regularly. For instance, gifting customers calendars with coupons.
Tell us more bout your 'Entrepreneur in Residence' program....
Under our ‘Faasos Entrepreneur in Residence’ program, we choose a few people with two to three years of post-MBA experience (not from the hotel industry), and take them through the process of running one of our outlets for some time. We then give them the opportunity of assuming profit-and-loss responsibility of running 15-20 stores, or opening in new markets, or running a particular function like Marketing or HR. These people are given the same decision-making powers as Jaydeep and myself. Eventually, they would go on to managing the outlets in a particular region.
We have had two rounds of hiring so far under the program, both of which have been very successful.