In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers, and innovators, we bring our next interview with an entrepreneur and visionary, Ms. Ishita Yashvi, Co-Founder,Cross Border Kitchens.
- How has been the shift from corporate world to entrepreneurship?
It has been both rewarding & challenging at the same time. Being an entrepreneur in not for everyone – I personally thrive when there is uncertainty and a certain level of chaos, so the journey as an entrepreneur with its incumbent challenges and day to day uncertainties that need to be embraced has been extremely satisfying. While the stability and organization of corporate life has its benefits, I was ready for a new challenge. It was time for me to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself, and embrace a new reality where every decision I or my partners make has the ability to make or break our organization. So here I am today, even more committed to making a world class and category defining F&B enterprise.
- What challenges you have faced as a woman entrepreneur?
I am a first-gen woman entrepreneur in the F&B industry, an industry which has historically and to this day been a male dominated sector. There are times when I have encountered strong stereotypes & pre-conceived notions, and I have had to work doubly hard to get a breakthrough. Having said that, at the other end of the spectrum I have my three male co-founders at Cross Border Kitchens who have encouraged me, supported me and have had my back at every step of the journey. But at an industry level – typecasting women as non-F&B professionals, especially within leadership roles, needs to change.
- Share some insights about Food & Beverage Industry in India?
The most fascinating and talked about space with F&B Industry in India is the online food delivery market. It is estimated that the online food delivery market will be the fastest growing segment, and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of ~25-30% with a ~10.19% compounded annual growth rate in the user base during the 2020-2024 period, generating revenue of INR 57,600 crores and develop a user base of ~30.59 crores by 2024. What is even more fascinating is that online food delivery only accounts for 4% of all prepared food, so there is a lot of room for growth within this sub-sector.
- How did the concept of Cross Border Kitchen (CBK) come to your mind?
CBK was founded by four childhood friends who had often talked about creating something meaningful together. An organisation where we could not only utilize the best of our individual talents but also be able to give back to society and have a positive impact by creating large scale employment. We had grown up around great food, and we knew what we wanted to create together had to be about food – our love for great food and our passion for hosting & feeding others. Given each one of our career paths we knew we wanted the project to be ambitious and challenging and that now was finally the right time to plunge into it.
Ahsan is a seasoned restaurateur & an operational genius with exceptional culinary lineage – he is Padmashree Chef Imtiaz’s Qureshi’s son. Ishita is marketing veteran with stints at DLF, Forest Essentials, & Outlook Group. Mayank has his multi-decade strategy, investment banking and entrepreneurial experience. Mohit comes with an investment banking and finance background. Each of us have worked more than 15 years before we decided to start Cross Border Kitchens.
Together we are a creating an ambitious enterprise that will be present in multiple sectors within the F&B space, leading us to our goal and motto – Think food. Let us do the rest.
- How has pandemic affected the business and the F&B industry?
The shutdown and its consequent effect on restaurants and the delivery space has been well documented. Many iconic restaurants have had to shut their doors, and many more are still struggling. In addition to the immediate economic impact, there has been a shift in customer awareness and demand. Chief among them is the need for and the desire from customers for safety and hygiene as a top priority. Rather that focus on the least expensive option, customers want to be assured that the food being delivered to them has been safely and hygienically prepared. We believe that this focus on safety and hygiene is here to stay and there will continue to be a flight to quality by consumers, and any establishment that does not adhere to these new norms will likely face an uphill battle for survival.
- How much is branding important for new age start-ups?
In a post COVID world, no matter the industry, F&B or otherwise, consumer preference is all about choosing products from ‘Brands’ they trust – whose value systems they believe in. Now more than ever, consumers are choosing brands whose messaging and promise goes beyond the product and speaks about its core values.
This is especially important and a great opportunity for start-ups. Start-ups have a blank slate from which to start their branding journey. Authenticity, trust, and transparency will go a long way in allowing start-ups to engage with and win over customers. Branding goes beyond just catchy phrases – start-ups will need to learn how to spark connections with their customers, get their messaging right and keep it consistent, and identify brand friends who can help amplify their message,
- Your main learnings as an Entrepreneur?
As my co-founder, Mayank Singh Negi, says – “entrepreneurship is like walking a thin line between eureka & disaster.” So, it is best to be nimble and be willing to let go of ideas and processes you may have worked hard on and start again from scratch with the same enthusiasm.
- What growth do you envision in F&B Industry post pandemic?
The still-nascent cloud kitchen space is likely to continue seeing the highest rates of growth within the F&B industry. Hybrid models that employ a digital strategy will start to become more commonplace. Innovative models and offerings like DIY kits will continue to find their place on the Indian dining table. While restaurants and cafes will eventually make a comeback, cloud kitchens and online delivery brands are now more mainstream than ever before. The success and longevity of individual companies within the space will be determined on how well they understand the customer, their ability to be nimble and pivot based on industry changes, and their ability to manage the processes and technologies that are absolutely essential to scale in any meaningful way.