Let’s start to know you as a person. Please share about yourself – where you grew up, what do you do unwind, books you love, movies etc.
Ankur: I am one of the co-founders of Gobbly. I was born and raised in Jaipur. I did my B tech in chemical engineering from IIT Delhi and also did Business Administration, minor degree from IIT Delhi itself. Post that I joined PwC where I was a BI consultant, and my project was with the planet retail. I met Amit at PwC we both started TeaHalt just after quitting PwC. I am a big movie buff and love action flicks and I have almost watched all the action movies, I also like to play Squash and that’s my daily refresher. I have always been the numbers guy in both my companies as I love to work with numbers and that’s what I’m doing in Gobbly too.
What Made you Consider being an entrepreneur?
Ankur: I saw this famous speech of Steve Jobs when I was in the third year of college and that was a game changer for me as I always dreamt of starting something of my own and good ideas always come in due time. So, when I passed out of IIT, I had nothing on my mind as such and I joined PwC but where I met Amit with him I found a great compatibility match, he also had a similar mindset and was very keen on doing something of his own. A lot of thought went into what should we do and after a million debate and discussion we started TeaHalt, that was our first company. In terms of TeaHalt, it is a profitable venture and its is growing organically. Around one and a half years back we moved out of TeaHalt and thought that our role as an entrepreneur, in that venture was pretty much over and the company with the proper management, could grow on its own. Post that we did a lot of brainstorming becaue this time we wanted to do something that was much more scalable, tech oriented, as compared to our first venture. And after a lot of research and considering our background and our experience, we got into the concept of automated retail. And that’s where Gobbly was born and our story began.
Amit: During my college days, I was very passionate about doing things on my own and my stint with PWC and meeting Ankur was a deciding factor. The main reason is that somehow we realized that we were a small part of a very big structure and are not making the desired impact. That’s why we decided to start something of our own. I think if you want to make the impact yourself then being dependent on somebody wouldn’t help. Since we were very keen to start something by ourselves and we’ve been very close observers of what are the problems that the consumers are facing and the market gaps. We are very passionate about institutional retail and studied in depth the problems of Institutional retail, how the buying patterns of millennials are changing, the problems they are facing and how we can make retail better and give a superior retail experience. That’s how we ended up starting our first company and now our second company which is Gobbly. Gobbly I believe is a technology take on how to make retail better, how to make it superior, how to make retail digital and how to make it automated. That’s what we’re trying to do. During the journey, a few moments are very redefining, for example; your first sales pitch, your first outlet opening, first customer and I think the biggest joy for an entrepreneur is just that, those moments.
The biggest success is when our first Gobbly outlet opened in RWA society in Gurgaon. Initially, when you pitch to someone they have their reservations because of the size of the company and over all experience in the field. So, a big plunge is also needed from the customer’s side to solve the problem. We’re very glad that they took the plunge and allowed us to install Gobbly in their society. We are glad to have also received great reviews from the customers. That is what the happiest moment in the life of an entrepreneur is.
What were the Key initial challenges you faced?
Amit: Understanding what the customer actually needs. So, we spoke to a lot of customers from colleges, corporates, RWAs and tried to study them, to know their buying patterns, categorizing the buying patterns and dividing them into monthly, weekly and daily purchases, brand preference and lastly and most importantly why would customers go digital – this is where I think we cracked the model.
Ankur: Yeah that’s right and one more important aspect was the technology that we were building, we are the only ones who are doing everything in house completely based out of India. We are manufacturing our hardware in India itself. Also to add to that getting the right model,cright technology at the right price was another big challenge because technology initially is very expensive to build. Being a start-up, getting the beta phase right and raising some funds and then launching into the market was a very critical phase for us. So,whenever you face any kind of challenges, I think a common funda for entrepreneurs is that you just Hussle, just keep on going. You try to find out various ways of solving that problem and in the Indian mindset you call it Jugad, so as a startup you should be actively doing Jugaads and should be good at hustling. So that’s the key to face or solve any kind of challenges that you face initially or probably during the whole course of this journey.
Amit: So I agree, challenges and resource crunch will be part and parcel of the entrepreneurial journey. And as an entrepreneur you need to be street smart and nimble. There will be moments where you will have to learn and do things on your own because there is a resource crunch, you don’t get employees for every vertical to do things at an early stage. After some time everything will be easy but initially there will always be a resource crunch.
Have you had any mentors during the journey?
Ankur: In terms of mentors we have been grateful we have had some good people who we could consult with; especially Manu, our first investor in gobbly. He has always been with us in every step of the way, and he has a great knack of consumer experience and brand. He has been very helpful in our journey.
How did you build your team over the years?
Amit: At gobbly our single most criteria for whosoever we are hiring should have their skin in the game. The pedigree and experience isn’t really what we are after, what matters is how much you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, your willingness to learn new things, to give 2-3 years of your life to gobbly. That’s what we believe are a few important criteria to join gobbly. Whenever you join a startup, you have to be ready to multitask, to learn new things, try different verticals, and it’s very important to know that it is not the typical nine to five job but, an entrepreneurial job. If you’re joining a startup, then you are a part of the part of the team that is shaping up a new venture so, you need to be very accommodating and a very fast learner and have long term view, that’s what we try to evaluate.
Ankur: That’s true. And in terms of our hiring policy, all of our initial team members have been hired through our network. We have been entrepreneurs for quite some time, and that was our choice that we would love to hire someone, who would come with good recommendation or someone who is already in our network rather than going for a normal hiring process. I feel that makes a lot of because, the initial team is very important when it comes to execution and as people say, great teams make or break businesses. So hiring is the most important factor when it comes to, building a business.
What are the changes that your business and customer proposition go through and what is it today?
Amit: Gobbly is an automated retail concept and the customer proposition is simple; it’s an extension of their home fridge. So consider this, whenever you are opening your home fridge and find that something is missing, think about Gobbly- A fridge in the nextroom. A fridge that can be operated through an app- Just Scan the QR code, open the door, take out whatever you want, it’ll come on the app automatically. Gobbly was an innovation that was pre corona , but now its relevance has increased multi fold and people are much more excited to use this technology because of its biggest benefit of being contactless. People using Gobbly don’t have to interact with anyone to make their purchase happen.
Ankur: So true, we at Gobbly are trying to remove any kind of hassle or pain that a consumer goes through when ordering online. At Gobbly, we provide the convenience of ordering or buying any time, you can go downstairs and shop for all our products, all our fridges are available 24 by seven. So basically you just think it and buy it. That’s Gobbly for you.
What are the trends that you see for the industry you are in?
Ankur: When it comes to fresh produce, people prefer picking and choosing. It always has been that way and won’t change much in future either. So that is what we are doing allowing people to go down to the well-stocked refrigerator in the neighbourhood and select items as per need and preference.
What are your plans for the coming years to ride the industry trends and continue to grow?
Ankur: Our plan is to occupy or install probably 50 of the societies in the coming three months and by the next year we are planning to target around 500 societies. And I think the industry is ripe for the taking, people are habituated in terms of using online payments, shopping through mobile and due to COVID people are spending time and home, we feel it’s a huge opportunity to our kind of model.
Amit: Yeah so if you ask me the bigger picture here, Ankur and I are very excited about the opportunity in institutional retail. We feel that all the gated communities and societies which are purely dependent on online retail players for their daily F&B and daily fresh produce needs are basically an untapped.So, going way forward we envisage a Gobbly in every society of India.
What are your key learnings for being a successful entrepreneur?
Ankur: So for a successful entrepreneur, I think the biggest quality is hustling, being out there getting your hands dirty. If something has to be done, you will have to get it done whether you do it or hire someone to do it.
What is the key message you want to give your fellow entrepreneurs?
Amit: I guess to all the budding entrepreneurs, who are starting up, the key learning or the advice will be to be persistence. People get swayed by the fact that you can be a millionaire in one year which is not the case. This is not a 20-20, so if you want to build something which is big, impactful and is contributing to somebody’s life, I guess you also have to sacrifice 2-3 years of your life to that cause. By then you will be able to somehow start shaping a venture. So, if you are starting up then keep a long term vision.
Ankur: That’s so true. And I think, it’s a long and difficult journey. I would advise anyone to start only if he/she is passionate about doing something on their own. Because it’s a tough space, its a tough journey. There’s a lot of competition and there’s a lot of external factors that you cannot control. And you have to go through all of them. So, being persistent is very important. I think you should have the passion and the ability to fight it. That’s the advice from us.