Saurabh Saxena, Founder & CEO, Holachef, In Conversation With LogiNext
Let’s take you through the concept that is Holachef. If you meet enough people, most of them would be of the opinion that they don’t have access to quality cuisine when they need it. Some companies have tried to bridge this gap. UberEATS has now initiated a system where quality food is delivered to customers when they desire the same. Would you like to know about an entrepreneur from Asia who has, not only set up a brilliant distribution network for quality food, but also created a brand that ensures quality food cooked especially by esteemed chefs, just for the customer. This is the level of personalized service that Holachef, a quality food service company has achieved. They have already served over one million satisfied customers.
Our team at LogiNext recently had the fortune of interacting with Saurabh Saxena, CEO and founder of Holachef, for an ‘Ask-Me-Anything Session’ (AMA). Dhruvil Sanghvi, CEO of LogiNext, calls Saurabh Saxena a serial entrepreneur, the esteemed mastermind behind Mumbai’s most popular food delivery service, Holachef.
To help you understand the person behind the persona, let us take you through our energy-packed AMA session.
Saurabh Saxena lived up to the key term ‘anything’ as associated with the AMA session. He immediately opened the floor for a two-way conversation. He put his audience at ease with his wit and humor. As the session went on, a central theme stood out; Saurabh Saxena is all about the customer. He has an unparalleled ability to understand the psyche of his most outlying customer. He shared an insight that showcased the importance he places on customer feedback and expectation. A satisfied customer had tweeted recently, that he swears by Holachef as the only qualified and safe option to send food to his children at school. Saurabh Saxena cited this as the height and epitome of customer satisfaction.
Now let us move to the point that you came here for. While you read further, try to imagine yourself talking to a very modest and helpful individual, who truly believes in serving people.
LogiNext Team (LT): Thank you for your insights at the session. We would love to hear more from you.
Saurabh Saxena (SS): It’s my pleasure. I truly believe collaboration is the best way forward. If we, as companies, can learn to share our expertise with our peers, we can truly develop an environment where each of us can excel.
LT: That is quite a thought! We would like to know more about how you perceive development of customer expectations in terms of developments in technology, the last-mile delivery model, to be precise.
SS: Purely, in terms of technology, I believe there is no lack of awareness. Customers already understand the possible applications of different technological avenues. They expect real-time tracking as offered by Uber and Ola. Customers can make the cross connections between the available technological features in other apps and their possible usage in my service. Holachef has a clear vision in terms of our core competency. Real-time tracking is a logistics management solutions option that we solve through peer collaboration. There are many established names, such as LogiNext itself, that provide quality delivery management technological options. Holachef then has the luxury of concentrating on serving the best food solutions to our customers.
LT: Would you like to elaborate on customer expectations, within the domain of your core competency?
SS: Our core competency, which is quality food at affordable rates within the comfort of your home or office, revolves around managing customer expectations. Someone back at the session asked me about top strategies to ensure customer retention. I would reiterate what I said then. It’s all about Customer Expectations, Customer Expectations, Customer Expectations. The only way is to live up to those expectations and delight the customer consistently. Perhaps, take them by surprise with our gestures. That is bound to boost retention.
We are in the business of serving quality — in our food and service. We take pride in the fact that we adhere to the best food safety and quality standards. What we have seen, however, is that the customer is not properly oriented with these standards. They are used to a diminished quality of food that is often served to them. Use of artificial coloring, flavor enhancers, preservatives is quite rampant in the food industry. Our cooking methods are free of any such additives. However, the customer expects a ‘dark red’ butter chicken while we serve a naturally colored, lighter version of the dish that tastes even better. It becomes a challenge to educate the customer that the ‘dark red’ butter chicken is not healthy for them. You see, managing customer expectations is the only way through. We need to handle and direct expectations in a way that the customer is accepting of the healthier, more qualitative food which is actually more suited to their overall well-being.
LT: What were the major challenges you faced while setting up Holachef?
SS: Sourcing was an issue in the early stages. Delivery was another issue and it continues to throw up newer challenges as we grow. Sourcing, at the beginning, was a challenge because it was tough to sell the concept of aggregation to any of our prospective chefs. It was a task just to convince them of the viability of the business model. We eventually set our operations with one chef. As we learned, we grew.
Scalability was a problem too and we went through service expansions. We had to move from an aggregation model to a central kitchen model. Throughout this move, we had to maintain the quality and safety standards of our food. Delivery, as I said, continues to pose many challenges. Attrition is high in that space. We intend to create a more intense incentive program to retain our delivery boy and other personnel. In my experience, every person wants to move ahead in their career. Our delivery personnel also want to grow, not wanting to continue doing what they do for long. Planning a clear growth path for them is high on priority for us. We try to create an environment where our delivery personnel are exposed to a proper career growth curve. Essentially, a delivery boy can be promoted to a supervising manager, and so on. They can climb the corporate ladder of distribution. The key term here is multi-skill development.
LT: Talking about delivery options, what should be the ideal way forward to disrupt or redefine logistics management?
SS: The way I see it, the best or only way forward for technology in terms of logistics management solution is automation. I see automation as the next big driving point of progress.
Automated delivery system should be integrated within our system to minimize the probability of human errors. Even though this a distant dream, one version of this, in terms of streamlining distribution services, is through a proper fleet management system. If we can build an extremely dense distribution network so that the actual delivery cycle doesn’t take more than ten minutes, we can really optimize delivery management. In such a case, it would be just a walk down the road for a delivery person to handover the food to the customer. And even before that, I am trying to wrap my mind around self-pick-up as a delivery option. This is where the customer picks up their parcel from a pre-decided location. This solves a lot of issues, because the delivery person can be optimized over some known routes. Their time, which is a resource for us, can be optimized.
LT: Can this self-pick-up system be utilized in the food and beverages industry as a viable delivery option?
SS: Definitely. We would, then, utilize proper supply chain management tactics. Hot food has a shorter shelf life than cold food, this is known as a fact. In our culture, we have a misconception that hot food is more healthy or safe than cold food. Customers, following this misconception, desire hot food. This deliver process is unfit for self-pick-up. We can’t trust the quality of hot food when it goes cold. This food should be delivered directly to the customer. If we consider cold food as an option, then this self-pick-up process makes more sense. The entire supply chain can be optimized to keep the food refrigerated. In my experience, that is the safest way to deliver food. The customer can pick-up the delivery, and can heat it at their own leisure.
LT: What would be the next stage of development for Holachef?
SS: We have a vision for the future. This vision is a work in progress for us. We plan to utilize a proper working model in the not-so-near future, but not-to-distant either. This model is simple. A customer should have the food ready when they are ready to eat. As of now, when a customer is ready to eat, they place an order, and then wait for the same. We plan a system where we can form a relationship with each customer. This relationship would help us forge a pattern where we can gauge the ideal order for each customer. Let’s assume that we have an in-depth knowledge that tells that a particular customer has dinner at around 8 pm. Then our team can have their ideal order already en route to the customer around the ideal time they would like to eat it. So this customer perhaps can just swipe on their app and have the delivery within minutes.
LT: As a successful entrepreneur, what would your suggestions be for the technology and logistics industry?
SS: I have my own set of expertise, and so does Holachef. We don’t claim to know about high-end data analytics which borders on AI. We don’t claim to know about brilliant logistics management solutions. We do what we do, and we try to do that part good. Other than that, I would love to collaborate with technology companies who could provide expert analytics and logistics management solutions. We believe in collaboration, and we would love to hear from LogiNext if they have any big ideas for us.
LT: We thank you for your time and your kind and uplifting words.
SS: The pleasure was all mine.