At BrilliantRead Media, our aim is to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the startup ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited a passionate entrepreneur – Eklavya Kohli for an exclusive interview with us. He is an entrepreneur, leader, consultant and mentor. Eklavya is the Co-Founder of Culinary Quotient. Let’s learn more about his exciting journey, his background and his advice for our growing community.
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Eklavya:
Talk us through your background and your journey as an entrepreneur?
I come from a middle-class service family background. My grandfather worked as an accountant in the Indian Army. My father worked for a private FMCG firm as a Marketing & Sales Executive, before he started his own business at the age of 45. I did my schooling from Salwan Public School, Pusa Road, New Delhi and pursued BBA and MBA (Marketing & International Business) from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
I understood the importance of self-learning during my young days. I was very passionate about sports and was often found on the field than in the classroom. I played Cricket & Basketball for my school team. Sports helped me inculcate a competitive & winning mindset. I believe sports teaches us to learn from others and work together as a team; the importance of gradual and steady improvement day in, day out.”
My entrepreneurial dream began manifesting while I was pursuing my graduation. In college, I used to tell my friends that I want to be a restauranteur one day, not knowing the how and when of the journey; self-belief kept me going. I started working at a young age and took up part-time jobs during summer vacations in college. The exposure gave me an edge over my peers and helped me build confidence to take on bigger things.
My first job was with a small IT firm. I chose to work for a small firm to benefit from the exposure it offers. At the age of 22, I was supplying hardware to top government officials & institutions like the Lok-Sabha, NTRO, MCD, etc. I was part of technical & commercial bids for million-dollar government tenders. This experience gave me the confidence to take on any job in any industry.
My next chapter was imperative in my entrepreneurial journey. I entered the online e-commerce industry. I worked with brands like Healthkart, Snapdeal, Zomato & Dineout. My stay at these companies helped me understand the nuances of the Internet industry.”
I learnt about front-end and back-end management, the margins game, merchant-client relationships, etc.
After working in different roles and teams across these Internet companies, I figured that there exists a gap in the market. Most industries that the online start-ups were targeting belonged to the unorganized sector, and small businesses were finding it very hard to keep up with the unstructured working ways of these start-ups.
The dashboards and data points were complex jargon for these merchants, which was hampering their growth as they could not optimize their business potential. And that is where the idea of Culinary Quotient emanated.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
I am fairly new to entrepreneurship; I have a long way to go. Having worked for almost a decade for companies in different industries, I can definitely say “to be an entrepreneur you need to be really passionate about something”. I think the idea of building my own brand is something that really excites me and keeps me going at all times.
Food has always excited me, even as a kid, and I dreamt of being a restaurateur in my teens. The dream is still on but my work as an F&B consultant is very exciting and fulfilling for me at the moment. I derive great satisfaction from helping people grow their businesses and being able to solve problems for my clients.
The challenges faced by an entrepreneur are very different from those of a corporate job – the biggest ones being, consistent business inflow & steady growth. I enjoy this challenge as it keeps me on my toes. It resonates with the sales function fundamental of “Always Day 1”.
‘Culinary Quotient’ is such a unique name, please talk us through that. Our audience would also love to know what problem you are solving for the industry?
Culinary Quotient has 3 Co-founders. We bring our specific skill set to the table which makes us a complete end to end solution for our F&B clients. Our team consists of – Chef Bakshish Dean, who looks after menu engineering and all aspects related to the kitchen.
Ankur Arora, who looks after operations, finance & staffing solutions.
I am the youngest amongst us three, and I look after everything in the online domain – from Swiggy, Zomato, Dineout to Facebook, Instagram & Google ads. Together, we help create restaurants from scratch for clients who aspire to be restaurateurs, as well as assist existing restaurants (all kinds) to achieve business profitability and sustenance.
We wanted a brand name which creates curiosity among the audience and resonates with the skill set and quality we offer. A consulting business offers qualitative solutions, and therefore, we picked a name which reflects our knowledge, skills and offerings for the right set of customers.
During this COVID-19 crisis, what are the measures you have undertaken to continue your business without disruption?
Culinary Quotient was born during the Covid-19 era, and we took all possible measures to ensure that our business model aligns with the challenges faced by the industry during this pandemic.
1) Our firm has a lean team which is not at all resource-heavy and has minimal overheads.
2) The freelancer model ensures most work can be handled remotely, with minimal physical interactions.
3) Our menu, training & operation solutions are in line with Covid-19 guidelines ensuring 100% safety and efficiency for our clients and their customers.
4) We are considerate of the industry’s current economic state; therefore, we are offering our services at heavy discounts.
What are the three most important lessons you have learned building your startup?
I’ve learnt it the hard way not to compare myself to others. Invariably, things are not always as they seem, and no one has it all together. Success is a journey of small steps.
I have also learnt the importance of embracing change. When things are out of our control, we need to shift strategies and align ourselves quickly to the needs of the hour.
The biggest lesson of all is to be patient and believe in the process, the journey is as important as the destination.
What are some traits or skills that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
There are a few:
(a) Awareness – Being aware of your surroundings and ecosystem is imperative. Awareness about industry trends, gaps & innovations always helps in being a step ahead. I like to stay up to date as much as possible.
(b) Learning – Learning is a two-way process; we can learn from everyone around us, including ourselves. Implementing what we learn is what I call hands-on experience. This is the most important trait for growth.
(c) Networking – Network can solve the biggest of the challenges for a business. We never know how and when someone can be of help and vice versa. Always be open to meeting new people.
(d) Ownership & Accountability – Own the process end to end and take full responsibility for tasks and timelines. Be effective with your communication and try to leave nothing to chance.
(e) Self-Belief – It helps conquer unchartered territories and overcome the fear of the unknown. It keeps me going during testing times. Reflect on the past to gain motivation and use that belief to continue pushing forward.
(f) Result Oriented – As an entrepreneur one needs to be quick on their feet. Finding solutions to problems is one of the core skills. This skill gets better with experience, with a problem-solving mindset. Results are a major driver of growth.
Please share with us – what has worked well for you so far?
The thing which has worked the most for us at Culinary Quotient is the ability to listen. A problem can be solved more efficiently if it is first understood earnestly. Our solution-oriented approach has worked really well for us.
Also, the clients in the F&B space are open and welcoming of new entrants, such as ours, and are not fixated on the bigger brands. This gives us the space to experiment and design solutions best fitted for each case.
In your opinion, what is the key to one’s success?
“Success” is a very broad term. It is a concept which has a different meaning for each individual. For me success is learning each day, acquiring knowledge and being able to solve a problem for the industry I work for.
People tend to confuse success with growth. My growth as an individual – mentally, spiritually, financially or personally are not the only parameter of success for me. For me adding value to whatever I do and learning from my mistakes defines success.”
Success can be categorized into big and small, I feel one needs to be successful in even the little things they do. It is important to remind ourselves and pat our backs for small success in our daily lives, which over a long period of time culminates into a larger success story. The key to success is being able to help others!
What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?
Student life is the best time of our lives. We have the opportunity to explore beyond the conventional & figure out our talents and interests. The learning at a young age is immense, we can absorb more, afford to make more mistakes and be more amenable to change.”
Observation as a practice is the most important way to learn for students & young professionals. Paying attention to detail expedites the learning process. One should be open to trying out diverse jobs/activities in order to figure out their calling in life. Like I previously said, passion-driven careers go very far in growth & success.
Consistency is very underrated in our society; great things are achieved by being consistent. Some of the biggest companies of the world now focus on delivering the same experience over and over. Consistency is the biggest success mantra in the F&B industry as well.
My advice to youngsters will be to keep learning and be as observant as they can be, also be consistent in your efforts over a period of time to reap results.