I have a sudden craving for Biryani. Where do I get the best Biryani? Which biryani gives me the most value for my money? Hungry bells not only gets you the answer, it also allows you to order through its app.
I met Yuvraj at his office. He is a quiet, soft spoken and an unassuming man, whom you wouldn’t notice at first but as he starts to speak about his experience and the work that he is doing, you realize that he has been the elephant in the room all along.
Yuvraj and the Idea:
Yuraj is the founder of Hungry bells- A food discovery app. He is originally from Chennai. He graduated in physics in 2001 and simultaneously did software engineering from NIIT. His first job was programming, developing a teaching platform. Later he shifted to the software development industry for banking, where in he was exposed to the peculiarities of retail and wholesale banking. He relocated to Bangalore in 2005. There Deutchshe Bank offered him a Business Engineering Role and he found himself working in investment banking analytics. A time when people were sacked for no reason, yes you’re right, it was the recession period, he found work in the implementation of the newly overhauled banking compliance.
His entrepreneurial inspiration is comparable to that of an artist. He wants to be a creator of something that is a whole. A totality of smaller processes which makes life easier. And according to him, when this whole is appreciated by it’s user, it induces blissful satisfaction.
Such was his desire to develop his entrepreneurial ability that he took up projects in his office that would usually scare people away. He took full responsibility and delivered. To fill gaps in his business knowledge he attended the IIM A general Management program. There he got a few friends together, started ideating. Few sectors which they brainstormed about were Healthcare, banking systems, payment systems, etc. Basically, anywhere technology could be used to make an impact.
After ideating and bouncing a good number of ideas, Yuvraj had his eureka moment when he started thinking about the retail sector. He thought about how huge the Indian retail market is. He thought about the number of micro-segments that set it apart. So he knew from the beginning that what has worked in the developed countries will not work here.
While studying the retail space he found that food retail stood apart, this was majorly due to changing lifestyles, rising standards of living, exponentially increased use of technology. As he puts it “Never has technology out of the B2B space been used to serve the consumers. All we know is Facebook, and Google.” So he asked the obvious yet rare question, “Why can’t we use all this in consumer retail? Things like Big data and Analytics can be monumental steps here.”
The idea started growing on him and his team, they started going around food courts asking people questions about their eating habits, how they think of food, how they approach it. Slowly but surely the idea took shape. It was- people think of food when they’re hungry. Their decision–making is impulse driven and that impulse attributes its roots to the images they have in their mind. This was the first time the challenge was looking at him in the face. So he started a food first company.
Product development had already started in September a month before the incorporation. He found his cofounder, Peter who was a high school best friend. An embedded systems engineer, Peter had his experience with companies like, Ford and Porsche (in Coimbatore), who was an impulsive ideator of imaginary entrepreneurial castles. It just took a phone call for him to come onboard, such was his passion and such was his trust for Yuvraj. He has been taking care of everything starting from compliances, numbers- budgeting and controlling finances and legal.
Another school Buddy was Manoharan with whom Yuvraj used to make experimental software and distribute it to his friends. This friendship among other things provided the space for intellectual stimulation. These guys kept debating about unimportant issues which are the key now, such as the internet of things and how mobiles would dominate the market place? Loyalty is the first word that comes to Yuvraj’s mind when he takes the name of his cofounder/friend. Manoharan had worked with Accenture. He has played a monumental role in product design in terms of how the specifications of their final product would be. He was the one who gave the ideas a physical concrete shape. He commutes from Chennai to Bangalore, weekdays in Bangalore and weekends in Chennai. He takes care of hungry bells IT support.
Journey of the concept
The initial idea was very different from the current hungry bells app. The inputs they received from people about how they experienced food were very meaningful but varied. For someone it was value for money, for others it was convenience, yet still for some people it was experience. Where they were eating, with whom they were eating and the ambience, were the key questions.
The first pillar manifested when the “impulse of food” was identified. It was a hyper-local aggregation of deals at the restaurants. Mobile was intuitive choice of platform due to its artificial intelligence and the first app was developed.
This was the first AB testing. The development partners debated a lot. A shift in perspectives came looking at the development of food journalism in the past few years. It was better than ever. People now had a desire to know more about the food they were having. So a new minimum viable product was developed introducing elements of food journalism. This was in December, only 3 months into the startup, that they scrapped their first minimum viable product and developed a new one.
Yuvraj now knew that he had a unique offering. While telling me about it, he segregated the online food industry into 2 buckets, discovery and order systems. There was absence of integration between the two, only the news of Zomato in beta testing for their food-ordering app. But even with Zomato bridging the gap, the cravings of the impulsive eater were not addressed and the market was huge given the fact that we all are impulsive eaters at times.
The Hungry bells app has a little over a thousand downloads on the app store, with a rating of 4.3. I have used the app myself and have found it seamless, with no technical glitches at all. It provides me with the right information when I want to eat something and the best part? I can order in right from the app.
Road Ahead For the Product:
Amongst all commotion and constant pressure revaluating of the work and revamping of the product at the startup, Hungry bells is now working on intelligent taste profiling that will suggest its user what they would like based upon their taste bud profiling. So a health conscious user shall receive recommendations of healthy foods, a burger fan shall see all the juicy burgers available close to him. Either ways consumers are going to go deeper into their likes and dislikes while discovering newer places for those certain dishes.
Yuvraj wants to keep it highly focused on what the consumer wants. As such there is no room for distraction by promotions or discounts, the focus is solely on getting your taste buds satisfied without your mind going astray.
Is Hungry Bells Zomato? Are you solving the same problem?
Yuvraj says, “No. Zomato points you to a location, then you go find a restaurant based on the ratings and costs.”
“Hungry bells is different. It addresses the basic impulse of eating. If you want to have tandoori chicken, the best possible available in your area, Hungry bells will get it for you. We provide convenience to the time conscious, price information to the cost conscious and presence of best quality to the quality seeker”
He says, “I don’t like people saying you don’t do this. Or even saying you do this for that matter. But more importantly not doing something keeps the unknown away from me and I can’t have it that way. I do right or I do it wrong, I want to own it.”
How is the product doing?
I think it’s too early to say anything about it. Yuvraj says. He also comments on the fact that “Most startups right now are experiments. Only time will tell if they’re successful.”