RIP Profligacy!

Image Courtesy : Jerry Maguire, TriStar Pictures

This is probably my Jerry Maguire moment, this feels like a mission statement. Here is an extract from the original memo of 1991 memo from then-head of Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, that was referenced in the movie. “….costs have escalated, profitability has slipped and our level of risk has compounded. The time has come to get back to our roots.”. Sound familiar?

I have perspective. I’m about three months into my journey with my fabulously awesome team at TinyOwl and I figured it was time to pause and reflect. Food tech is doomed they said. The unit economics will never work out they said. These IIT founders are brats. TinyOwl is on the brink, they said. That’s what they said.

I’m glad I didn’t listen and embarked on this journey. It’s been an exhilarating ride ever since I took over as VP of Engineering roughly three months back.

Why TinyOwl?
I get asked why I joined TinyOwl after almost 12 years at industry leader OpenTable. It was the founders, the truth and transparency about the situation and focus on winning over any individual’s ego.

There was the honesty about the way the events of 2015 panned out given all the market dynamics. Harsh’s recent interview is one of the closest I’ve seen in all the reporting so far that reflects how he feels. It’s the sincerity and the desire to win that really tipped me over.

It was the honesty from my first meeting with Saurabh Goyal where he was so open with their challenges and about what had been happening that really struck a chord. It’s never easy to grow in the glare of the media, but that’s what you get for helming one of the most promising startups on the scene. It was the way that Shikhar Paliwal’s face lit up when he talked about his vision of creating a “bawarchi” (personal chef) for each and every one of us.

Ultimately, it was the desire to win and meeting the team that Saurabh had assembled with such care and thought, that sealed the deal. This was a group I am willing to go into battle with!

Three months in, here is my perspective :

a. Foodtech is a hard nut to crack. Challenge accepted!
b. The “tech” part in FoodTech actually matters and we’re *crushing* that at TinyOwl
c. Unit economics are hard, but not impossible
d. Building a business not solely driven by discounts takes guts and is the road less taken.
e. It’s all about the execution, stupid!

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated…
As a company we’ve used our time away from the limelight to focus on the hygiene of our business and re-focus ourselves on beating the competition. Our customers are loyal and we owe it to them to deliver a quality product that takes the drama out of ordering food.

The business and operations team have worked to optimize and bring our unit economics slowly, but steadily into the green. Small but thoughtful efforts in marketing — right from our “Make a Wish” campaign around Christmas, to yummy, real food pictures on our Instagram feed, right until the awesomely timely Valentine’s Day campaign where the team had a little something for each one of us.

Fool me once…
Experiences don’t count for much unless you learn and adapt from them. That is what we’ve been doing at TinyOwl, we’ve soul searched and evaluated and we’re building a business, in this landscape of profligacy. That takes some doing and we’re taking the road less taken, with a strong belief that we can win, which we will!

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