For Gautam Singh and Anurag Mehrota, it’s the lack of a pan-India biryani provider that led to the inception of Charcoal Biryani. This year-old startup recently raised about $150,000 from Lion Ventures, co-owned by Mehrota, and Varun Dua, CEO and Devendra Rane, CTO of Coverfox, a company where Mehrota is a board member.
Already having reportedly served over 30,000 customers in Mumbai—of which 40 percent are repeat customers—the company’s core team includes two chefs. One had trained under multi-Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay and the other used to work at Oberoi hotels.
While Singh is a thorough tech guy, Mehrota is all about finance. Claiming that the startup industry has been taken over by the herd mentality, he says that the size of the market is irrelevant as long as one has something new to bring to the table.
“The market has become a pioneer of people pleasing. At Charcoal Biryani, we’ve no deals. If you like the biryani, you will order it and if you don’t, we’ll fix what’s wrong with it,” he says.
Speaking of dying food tech companies, Mehrota comments on the lack of thought behind the product—food. “Lot of these guys have no background in the food business. At Charcoal Biryani, we don’t say we’re a food-tech company; we’re a food company,” he says.
“We are neither a food aggregator nor a delivery service, which is what everyone is trying to be,” Singh said. “People are investing a lot of money in these ventures in the hope that customers will lap it up. But the cost structure behind these kind of startups is way out of park; perhaps irrational funding is making them reckless,” he says.
Charcoal Biryani aims to be the Domino’s Pizza of biryani, offering a consistency unavailable for biryani in the current market. Mehrota believes that, in such companies, food should always come first. “To replicate the quality of the food at a very homogenous level is the biggest challenge,” he says.
“The market has become a pioneer of people pleasing. At Charcoal Biryani, we’ve no deals. If you like the biryani, you will order it and if you don’t, we’ll fix what’s wrong with it.” —Anurag Mehrota, cofounder, Charcoal Biryani
A client-facing mobile app and a point-of-sale based application along with the necessary back-end applications form the backbone of this company. While there is a lot of critical data to manage the operations, Mehrota stresses upon how the company’s tech is only as strong as the biryani. “We’ve a website and an app and these are just channels for the customer to choose how he wants to reach out to us,” he says.
Mehrota believes that the herd mentality and the urgency to sign deals without caution is going to stop very soon. In the future, the team is looking forward to achieving more market penetration and possible expansion.
Where we have the likes of Domino’s for pizzas, McDonald’s for burgers and Baskin Robbins for ice cream, can we really have a Charcoal Biryani as the go-to place for biryani?