Two college roommates and a business dream. We’re talking of people amongst us who have made this dream come true. Our host Sarthak Varshney gets candid with an active marathoner, learner and achiever. But, above all, a passionate entrepreneur and the co-founder of Shake It Off- Nishant Tripathi. This conversation with Nishant Tripathi will give you greater insight into how you are passionate for entrepreneurship to help you do a business out of anything.
We’ll have a deep conversation with Nishant as how this engineer fell for the love of entrepreneurship. Let’s get some insight into this Bihari boy’s business mindset who showed the world his Dhandho Ni Soch.
WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU RUNNING BECAUSE OF WHICH WE CAN SAY THAT YOU’VE GOT BALLS OF STEEL?
We are basically selling shakes, which is a simple thing to do, but we sell a different kind of shake. All of it started in 2015. I went to Dubai to meet Anil, who is the co-owner of Shake It Off.
We came across to a different kind of shake which is the thick shake. It was a lot denser than the normal shakes that were served here in India around that time.
We came up with introducing thick shakes in India and started fulfilling our dream to become an entrepreneur.
HOW DID YOUR DREAM JOURNEY AS AN ENTREPRENEUR BEGAN?
I worked in Bangalore and Anil liked the city and its culture, starting in Bangalore itself. We started to Shake It Off in 2016, honestly as an experiment, since we wanted to experience the entrepreneurial journey. We conducted a small market survey amongst the people we knew. They loved it, so we thought of taking off or dream with the positive remarks we got.
Initially, it wasn’t easy; in our third month we almost gave up. Then we got motivation from our peers in the food industry to continue. The biggest challenge was that we claimed that we are selling milkshakes, but we were selling thick shakes in reality. We were selling our product the wrong way.
The shakes that we made had a lot of premium products. The making cost alone of our shake was 40 bucks, so the price had to go up.
Pricing was a great challenge for us. However, one positive ray of hope was that people liked our product. They did complain about the price but came back to us.
HOW HAS YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY SHAPED TO THE CURRENT POSITION THAT YOU ARE IN?
We started with our first branch in Jaynagar, Bangalore. Initially, it was disheartening to see a smaller number of orders every day. It elated us if our ticket number crossed a double-digit. We didn’t know how to change it. Our connection to the food industry was only through the lens of a customer. As a customer, we would discuss what would bring us back to Shake It Off time and again.
Thanks to Anil’s foodie nature, we gained a lot of insight from the other end. One thing sure thing about us was our product, and we considered ourselves safe product-wise. It was our newness to the retail business that scared us. The only form we had experienced the food industry was being consumers ourselves.
After three months, in our fourth month, we had hit our first 1 lakh target. It was nothing less than a dream. At the end of that year, we closed at 7 lakhs in our 250sqm store, which was a dream come true.
After one year of hard work and tumult, we started our second store in Indiranagar. We weren’t located in the prime location, but that too played well. Since we were focusing on the online market and the area of our focus did work out there.
From there on the idea of franchising came into our mind because we wanted to gain the experience. We had other players in the market, and they had funding. We had just started with 6-7 lakhs in our bank accounts. So, they helped us create the market for thick shakes, and their advertising helped us promote our brand.
All we had to ensure was the quality of the product which has always been our top-notch priority. The ingredients of our product have a central place of distribution, so the taste is assured. The only concern is the service, but on that front too we managed things nicely.
SO, IN THIS CONVERSATION WITH NISHANT, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW DO YOU COME FROM A BUSINESS BACKGROUND OR WERE THE SEEDS BUSINESS SOWN IN YOUR CHILDHOOD?
The seed was nowhere around in my childhood. It was my dream to start something of my own. My father was a Judge in Bihar Judiciary, and no one in our family ran a business. When I began with Shake It Off, I didn’t tell my parents that I was doing so for the first six months.
From the background that I come; business is something that is always frowned upon. People in Bihar deem that only those who academically fail to pursue business. Now things might have changed, but 4 years ago it was not pleasant.
Even my relatives commented on me and my business (dukaan chalata hai, juice bechta hai) but I never took it to my stride. Family conversation used to revolve around ‘Nishant’ selling juice after engineering. In the beginning, they didn’t know about my involvement in the business. I used to claim that Anil has started it and I am merely helping him since he doesn’t have staff.
The first time we hit the 1 lakh mark was when I told him that I have invested and I am also the co-founder. To my surprise, I didn’t face a lot of resistance from their end since I still had my job. To add to it, my dad used to talk to his Marwari friends and sermonize me on business principles every third day, which worked.
Once my dad called when I was moping the floor of the store. I told that to him, and he appreciated that by saying that the customers would trust the brand and the owner’s humility.
Even today, I make a point that when I am present in the store, I work in whatever capacity, cleaning tables, mopping the floor or managing cash. I don’t shy away from the available work. Sometimes we do it on purpose for the staff to see it. We don’t want the staff to feel any inhibition towards any work since every job matters.
YOU SAID THAT IT WAS YOUR DREAM TO RUN A BUSINESS SO SINCE WHEN DID YOU THINK OF BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I this ‘keeda’ of entrepreneurship since my college. I always wanted to do management and not engineering. However, in Bihar, the general perception says to pursue engineering and then do whatever the aspirant wants. So, I had to pursue engineering because all the people around me were pursuing engineering. Even though I was pursuing engineering, I didn’t give up on my dream. Back in college, too, my conversation used to be around entrepreneurship itself.
The first job that I took up was not from an engineering background but an import-export manager. I wanted to learn management, so I thought what would be better to dive right into it.
My first entrepreneurial journey was in a company that I started with my friend in Pune by My Tablet Guru’s name. It was a review platform where we reviewed the budget tablet PCs. The venture took off very smoothly, and we had reached the traffic of 2 lakh people a month by the end of our first year.
It gives me immense pleasure to reach out to the end-user and help them directly. The reviews I get make me even headstrong in the journey that I am undertaking.
THIS CONVERSATION WITH NISHANT IS GETTING INTERESTING BY EVERY SECOND, SO TELL ME WHAT APART FROM YOUR PASSION INTERESTED YOU BACK IN YOUR SCHOOL DAYS?
Since the very beginning, I had an idea of pursuing management itself, but apart from that, I was always active in sports. To be precise, I love sports to the extent that now I run full marathons. With that I like cycling, and there is one activity that I have recently found refuge in which is swimming.
Last year when I got a ligament tear, my doctor advised me not to run for a while. I learnt swimming through Youtube tutorials and didn’t go for a paid tutorial anywhere. This was because I also want to be a Marwari and save money (laughs).
So, the ligament injury was also a blessing in disguise. I believe every problem is a blessing in disguise and we make the most out of it, no crisis should go for a waste. For instance, if I wouldn’t have a ligament injury, I wouldn’t have started swimming and never gained any expertise.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BREAKING THE CULTURAL STEREOTYPES BY BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Now, in my family, people are positive and supportive of business. After I started, now my brother is also opening up a company in the co-living space. He is doing it the right way after collecting funds and going about things.
The change has started happening in my family, and I see a few of my friends also starting on the technology front. To be honest, it sometimes feels like a dream. The change persists, and it is here to stay, people want to be their bosses, and that’s wonderful.
I can say I was the centre of change but a catalyst. The centre of change for people in Patna was Shushant Singh Rajput. I happened to be his neighbour, and I had seen his dedication and love for acting. Now people have started venturing out fearlessly, and the society has become more accommodative and accepting when it comes to entrepreneurship.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR PARTNERSHIP?
I always wanted to become an entrepreneur, and it was always part of my dream. But when I was starting, I was not experienced with partnerships. Draw clear lines before you go ahead with your work. It might sound mean, but it helps if all the deeds and clauses are cleared beforehand.
It makes work more manageable, and you can entirely focus on work and making your dream come true. I can say that setting clear goals and defining lines beforehand is the most significant learning from my experience of business partnership.
Apart from the venture, the other minor details should also be cleared before so that the energy is dedicated to working. Another important learning is to create a roadmap and plan a year since it makes things simpler as roles are already allotted.
NISHANT TELL ME, WHY DID YOU MOVE FROM BANGALORE TO PUNE?
I sat for MATT, got selected at Christ University but at the last moment; my gut said that I shouldn’t study management. At that instant, I made up my mind that I would work and gain a deeper insight into management and then dive into it if the need be.
However, once I dived into management, I found that a degree wouldn’t solve my purpose. I have learnt a great deal about management from Shake It Off, and I fondly call it Shake It Off Institute of Management at least from me.
Personal dealings with the customers have brought the best out of me, and I have become less shy than my previous venture. No management institute would have impacted my persona in a better way. Now that I look back at it, my dream has made me a better person.
WHEN YOU BEGAN SHAKE IT OFF WERE YOU PURSUING A JOB? HOW DID YOU MANAGE YOUR EXPENSES BACK THEN?
Anil and I have been good friends since college (we were roommates actually). Both of us had a dream to start something together as every other college group has. So, in the beginning, it was just Anil and me with the plan. He has a business in Dubai, so he had some fund saved up. I told you that we started our business with 7 lakhs, 3.5 lakh each.
I took a personal loan, to begin with. This was a big step along with the loan I had taken up for the experiment, but I don’t regret it at all. I was earning decently enough to clear the loan, so I took the risk. The risk involved was only the money, so I didn’t bother me much; my will was much stronger than my fear.
Once we started, we were suffering losses, and our staff has also left us after ten days or so. If the team hadn’t left, we would have more overheads than revenue. After the staff went Anil and I used to handle the store all by ourselves. He used to manage in the morning, and I used to work at night.
SINCE BUSINESS WAS YOUR DREAM WHY DIDN’T YOU THINK OF A SECOND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY RIGHT AFTER YOU LEFT YOUR FIRST BUSINESS? INSTEAD, YOU OPTED OUT FOR A JOB. WHY?
Even though business was a dream, I opted for a job because of some reasons. I also realised that I need to learn more right now.
It was a mix of job security reason, family expectation. Since I had already given a shot to business which amounted to an entire year, I realized that I needed more corporate experience and more management skills, so I joined Café Coffee Day.
I was happy enough and lucky enough to have a great manager who taught me the ins and outs of management. Because of those skills, I have been able to deal with my staff benevolently and until none of our staff members has left us except the initial staff who had to leave because of money constraints. I wanted to be a little more mature in the way I deal in business or anything.
FROM YOUR CONVERSATION NISHANT I RECKON THAT SPORTS HAS PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN YOU LIFE, WHAT IS THAT YOU HAVE DERIVED FROM SPORTS THAT YOU APPLY AN AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I look at Shake It Off as a marathon. When we decided to start with Shake It Off, I had a similar feeling when I had to run my first full marathon. I precisely had a very unsure feeling when I was running my first marathon and when we had the inauguration of our first store in Bangalore.
The first step in my first marathon was to give it a try, at that time, I was a casual runner, and it was a big thing for me to complete the marathon in 4 hours. I had set a 6-hour target with a mental note of reassessing myself after every 5 km. Back then every 5 km mark boosted me with confidence.
The milestones that I achieve in making Shake it off a success gives me the same confidence. I finished my marathon in 4.5 hours much before I anticipated. I feel I would be able to roll out Shake It Off plans that I have in my mind.
AFTER THE INITIAL TAKE OFF WHEN YOU WERE ANALYSING THE PROSPECTS OF SHAKE IT OFF, WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL MIND?
I had happily quit my job to pursue my dream full time. Shake It Off was functioning smoothly. I thought that if I quit my job, I’d focus on Shake It Off, so I took the risk.
We had plans for expansion and revenue increase. One of the main reasons for leaving the job was a prospective tie-up that unfortunately didn’t happen.
However, I understood that things are becoming hectic for Anil to manage on his own. Coincidently, on the last of my job at CCD I received a mail from them citing that the future project has been put on hold. It did make me think, but since the other part of Shake It Off was doing well, I didn’t have many apprehensions about leaving my job.
IN THIS CONVERSATION WITH YOU NISHANT, YOU’D TOLD US ABOUT THE PRICING PROBLEM. HOW DID YOU MANAGE WITH THAT?
It was not easy to make the customers understand the product. Beyond a point, you cannot decrease the prices, but we did offer discounts. Initially, we did offer some discount but continuing the same trend would have incurred our losses.
For instance, if you explore food delivery sites, they always offer discounts, but that only negatively affects us. This discount pattern might benefit the big and small players in the market. For players like us, will always suffer in this pattern. Apart from that, we have always believed in product quality, and we believe the product quality should be the differentiator and not the pricing.
After a point of time, we stopped thinking of the price, and we focused on product quality and making more people aware of the product. We started out handing flyers to students outside the gates of a college, and that helped. Even today, when we open a new store, we do that as a ritual, and we do not outsource this service.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST FAILURE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I think all our mistakes have taught us one thing or two, but the best lesson would be franchising the right way. For example, we had given a few of our franchises to the highways outlets, which was very difficult for us to manage. We solely depended on the partner, the business did pick up, but the partner decided to do the business all by himself and not through Shake If Off.
It was one mistake that should have been avoided, but that added to our experience. Secondly, I believe our business’s service part can be improved further, and we believe that there is always a scope for improvement.
However, with the franchising things become a little difficult to manage, but we are constantly trying to improve our service and product. We try to establish a personal touch with the customer to build trust, and we try to reply to every comment on social media as much as possible to keep up with our customers.
NISHANT, CAN YOU HIGHLIGHT THE TRICKY PART IN THIS CONVERSATION AROUND MONEY, ARE YOU A MONEY MINDED PERSON AND IF YES WHYS IS THAT SO?
I call myself a money-minded person from a business point of view. It is essential to optimize the resources at hand in business. I can be a highly money-minded person then. If something can be done in less, I wouldn’t prefer paying more for the same result. Owning and running a business is no less than a dream for me. For that, being money minded is not wrong.
Since quality is our first preference my partner doesn’t mind spending more but for me, I would prefer if I can get things done for free (laughs).
Now, because of the pandemic we had to cut down a lot of costs, we have somehow found out ways to keep our regular services going on without spending much.
If you have money and it can bring ROI then the best option is to invest. To sum it up I believe I am money-minded but quality and customer satisfaction is my topmost priority.
AT THE END OF THIS CONVERSATION WITH NISHANT TRIPATHI, I WOULD LIKE TO ASK YOU WHAT IS THE BUSINESS MANTRA THAT HELPED YOU IN ACHIEVING YOUR DREAM?
I would say if you are passionate about anything, just try to build a business around it.
If I cite my example, food primarily is not my passion, but managing and branding my own business was always my dream and passion. So, I am doing this job that feels amazing every day.
‘Only worry about things that are in your control’ with the closing words of Nishant. This conversation with Nishant Tripathi has given us another perspective of how things align when you are passionate enough. He reinstated our belief in hard work we are wrapping yet another insightful episode of BOSS. Nishant had what it takes to pursue and fulfil his dreams.
We are highly enthralled by this conversation with Nishant Tripathi and his journey on our show.