—Paula Mariwala, co-founder and president of Stanford Angels and MD of Seedfund Advisors
It was a rainy day in late 2010. Those days if you wanted to order food for a working lunch at office, you’d invariably indulge in a vada paav, or maybe manage to get a pizza or sandwich. At the Seedfund office in Mumbai, my colleague and I were craving for some hearty, wholesome Indian fare but ended up with a soggy, boring sandwich instead. My colleague’s IIM buddy, Jaydeep Barman, stopped by to talk about his startup idea that day. He had just quit his job at McKinsey to become an entrepreneur, so I expected to hear about some world-changing technology. Instead, he wanted to talk to us about a simple idea—he wanted to bring roti wraps to tables across the country. The ex-McKinsey, MBA graduate was pitching a food startup that would eventually become the popular Indian food chain Faasos.
As he took us through his well thought-out business model, we gorged on the tasty wraps he had brought for us. He highlighted detailed cost structures of the kitchens and small-format restaurants. By the end of the afternoon, we were impressed by his clarity of thought and focus on execution. He had convinced us about how they could use technology and standardized processes to scale Faasos across India. However, we were not confident that the business could compete with the established supply chains of international brands in India. We were also not sure if he could maintain consistent flavour profiles across the country. Additionally, it was unclear to us what the target market was and if this market could be reached across the country. At the time, Faasos was operating in only one area of Pune.
Those were the early days and we were not convinced that Jaydeep could scale with the right unit economics. However, we told him we’d review his numbers and make a decision on investment.Ultimately, Seedfund had to pass on the opportunity to be the first investor in Faasos. Now known as Rebel foods, Faasos has become a pioneering Indian brand of fast food. Before we could meet again, they went on to raise a round from Sequoia and the rest is history. That’s one meal we certainly regret missing out on!