Interview with Shriti Chhajed - Founder

Shriti Chhajed | Founder

Date of Interview: Jun 29, 2013

Shriti, why don't you tell about yourself and your company UrbanRestro?

Been born and brought up in a business family, I always wanted to start up my own venture. Completed my engineering from SGSITS, worked for 2 years, left the job to start up a theme-based restaurant where young crowd would come for dating. But while working on the business plan and meeting up people, realized I should do an MBA to learn all business tactics specially the financial part. Went to SP Jain Dubai-Singapore, finished my MBA and then worked with HCL Technologies for their marketing for 2.5 years, got married and then I decided this is high time to start my venture and then was started is a one-stop portal in the FnB segment- for both corporates and individual people catering to all hospitality industry needs from restaurant reservation to discounts and deals, party booking or banquet booking & event management, planning and conceptualizing unique experiences and workshops at restaurants & hotels.

You must have churned out multiple ideas but why did you end up executing UrbanRestro idea?

Yes I did churn out a lot of ideas, a few I worked on seriously a few just were the ideas. One thing  When I was in engineering, I wanted to open up some ice gola stalls. After working for 2 years and roaming around Europe, I then wanted to open a high scale theme based restaurant for dating which I saw in Paris. Then staying in Bangalore for 2 years, I wanted to open up a casual food joint which would be more to do with food and art. And finally seeing people all around me working in to online ventures and investing in ourselves into a few, came the idea of 

Chose this over all above because of less investment, more to do with a class and less of government approvals.

"Redefine Dining" can you elaborate more on this tagline?

When we came up with this tagline, we were thinking somehow to include fine dining in our tagline and that was a part. Plus we knew in longer run we do not want to stick to same old way of dining because in this industry people are always in a lookout for newer restaurant, newer concepts and newer experiences. And we are on a lookout to enhance this user experience by planning out things like live cooking, workshops, chef's table and more.

What influenced you to become entrepreneur?
No one from my entire family has ever done a job, I always liked the business life and though my dad always used to tell me to do a job which would be relaxing and did not get me into his business, I knew I would start something of my own.
Till date I hear from family that why have I taken up this, job was so relaxing with 5 days a week. But I would say it was in my upbringing, which influenced me over all to become an entrepreneur. 

Who are your customers and what is the market size for your product/service in India?

We are targeting people /corporates who uses Internet quite often and always on the look out for convenience.
  • People who want fine dining experience and don’t want to wait outside the restaurants
  • People who want to host any event - from wedding celebrations to a b’day party
  • Corporates which want places for conducting training/conference, or hosting a cocktail event
The market size for our industry is dependent on two factors – Hospitality industry size and internet penetration. Total hospitality industry size is close to 25,000 cr (Restaurant- 10,000Cr; Banquet- 15,000Cr) and its growing at a rate of 10-15% every year. 

Who are your competitors in India running on the same idea?

We have competitors in different verticals but none as an overall one and thus when a user want to avail 2 facilities at one go they would come to us. Also the number of restaurants we would cater to is much more for the combination. Below is the set of competition for us in all our verticals. Competitors in India

What is your Revenue Model? When did you break even?

We have identified following streams of revenue
  • Advertisements / Other promotions for Restaurants, Lounges, Banquets
  • Fixed Listing Fee and packages for number of leads from Banquets
  • Event- Marketing fee in organizing customized events for restaurants
Initially, our focus was on building restaurants base, getting enough hits and bookings through our portal and make it known to people. We knew to grow fast we had to not start thinking to earn from the first day.We have recently started leveraging it by earning revenues out of 
  • Doing customized events at our partner restaurants as Marketing Fee
  • Listing Fee from Banquets
In June we have generated revenue of INR 75,000. We will be soon selling advertisement slots to restaurants for their promotions, which is the biggest revenue stream for any online portal.
We are targeting a monthly run-rate of INR 350,000 in 3 months time.

Do you have any mobile apps to use UrbanRestro service?

Yes, we have recently launched an android app, it is in its nascent stage, lot of scope of improvement though, and also we will be launching an iphone app by next month.

How did you mobilize seed capital for UrbanRestro?

We have an angel investor (Harsh Baid) who has put in a seed funding of $40,000. We have used these funds in
  • Technology—Website and app creation
  • Marketing—Google, Facebook Ads, Offline promotions at partner restaurants
  • Salaries- Apart from the founders, we have a team of 5 permanent staff and 10 interns
  • Other cost- office space
We will be soon going for next round of funding (2-3 months time) to the tune of $200,000 which will be used for
  • Investment in Technology
  • Launching in 10 more cities
  • Hiring Talent- Both senior level as well as mid-level management people
  • Marketing and Branding- both online as well as offline
How do you tie-up with Restaurants? When are you planning to expand to rest of India apart from Mumbai & Pune?

The listing of restaurants on our portal is complimentary. We want to pass on the maximum possible discount to our users. We would charge the restaurants for advertisements on our portal. After successfully launching it in Mumbai (Dec-12), we expanded in Pune (May-13). Already we have more than 20 restaurants/lounges in Pune. Now we will grow at a much faster pace. We have already started discussing about Ahmedabad, Kolkata. Our target is to be in 5 cities by end of 2013 and 15 cities and expand internationally by end of 2014.

Any lessons learned during your entrepreneurial journey? Can you share with our readers?

Getting the right people and an equal enthusiasm in all is the key to making any business successful, competition would be coming either it could be existing or it will come 2 months down the line, how well you take it off is what is important.

Are there any challenges being a Women Entrepreneur?

Not really, but if you are just married like me, you would get to hear how are you gonna get time for your kids in future and blah blah blah..

How important is to have a co-founder in the early stages of a startup?

Its very important to have a team, in fact we were two people who started the venture but unfortunately, the other person pulled out due to medical reasons. That time the website was not even launched, I had 2 options in front of me – either to drop the venture and carry on with my job or to take it alone and continue with it. That time, my husband supported me a lot and gave me courage and encouragement required to pull it off alone. And now when I look back, it really gives me a proud feeling. Later on, I tried roping in couple of my friends but it gets difficult to get the same passion/vision out of people at a later stage. So we have decided to instead hire young, energetic employees who will get things done.
We have a technological partner with us – Dexter Consultancy Pvt Ltd, they have created our website and the app.

Who was your Mentor and why did you choose him?

My dad has been my role model throughout, I always used to look up-to him, the way he has seen through ups and downs in his life and face all the difficulties. Today, he is quite successful and a content man.

What is your advice to future Startups?
People always give a reason that they are not getting a good idea to start any venture. My advice would be to just take any idea and start, business will change 360 degrees to the way you have thought it before. The key is to keep improvising yourself as you go along in line with the changing market dynamics. The passion to make it happen is what gets you win.

How many work for UrbanRestro and what is your strategy to hire?

Presently apart from me , my Husband is the investor as well as adviser in the company. Harsh is an IIT Powai, IIM Lucknow graduate and a CFA. We have a team of 5 full time employees
  • Anay (The Marketing guy and a photographer)
  • Deep Patel (Business Development)
  • Nishat Khan (HR and Admin)
  • Piyush Vyas (Business Development)
  • Priya Sharma (Events)

Apart from this we have 3-4 interns working with us round the year.

Why should anyone signup on

I would say if they know about it why shouldn't they. For customers its all for free - reservations, discounts, deals and also they get to attend specialized workshops conducted by us.

Shriti, If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?

What's the biggest challenge you faced in your start up and did you at anytime think of dropping this idea?

“Did you like this post? retweet it and help us spread the word.“

Readers What question do you like to ask Shriti about ? Comment

Tags: Restaurant Startup India, Women Entrpreneur India, Restaurant Coupons Business Model, 


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