Who thought, a simple Vada pav can make you a Millionaire? Well, Venkatesh Iyer and Shivadas Menon did!
Most of us wait our entire lives in vain for that one million-dollar idea to click, but it never does. What separates people like Venkatesh and Shivadas from the rest of us is that they start with a simple idea and make it a great one with their vision! Food-lovers, Venkatesh and Shivadas started with Goli Vada Pav back in 2004 with a simple idea of selling Vada Pav- one of the most revered delicacies of Mumbai. There was nothing fancy about their business model. They simply wanted to Sell Vada Pav because they themselves loved the snack and believed that more people should taste it at least once.
Naturally, like most entrepreneurs, they too had their fair share of ridicule in the beginning. In fact, Venkatesh’s entire family was against his idea. Had it not been for his wife and his best friend Shivadas’ unconditional support, he would have given up even before he could start. Today, with 350 stores in 88 cities that attract around 55 cr in revenue annually, they have proved everyone wrong and how! However, initial backlash and lack of support thereof are not what makes their story worth sharing. Their journey was full of ups and downs and only men with sheer determination, like them, could survive this tide. They had one vision in mind- to take the taste of Vada pav to the corners of India that had never tasted them. It was far from easy. They started their first store at the place where the dish was invented- Mumbai. Tough competition from local road-side vendors, Government regulations, lack of good workforce, and rapid technological advancements made it difficult for them to survive, let alone succeed. Soon, the Mumbai set-up was shut due to lack of enough business.
This set back did not deter Venkatesh and Shivadas. Learning from the failure, they revamped their business, and opened another store at Nashik, albeit with more optimism this time. The store gained popularity locally. People loved the takeaway snack that tasted, unlike anything they had tasted before. Venkatesh and Shivadas soon realized the potential of their business in rural markets. Experimenting boldly with new tastes and recipes, they ventured to capture the rural street food market; making them the first Ethnic Fast-food brand of Indian Origin. Embracing technology, they were one of the few early food companies to build a website dedicated to their Vada Pav business and creatively use Social media to promote their business. This is one of their posts on Facebook that I loved.
Of course, it wasn’t a piece of cake. The problems continued but so did their grit to dream big. Soon, Goli Vada pav established a credible name that became known for its consistent taste and hygienic snacks. So much so, that the company soon started getting offers from Over-seas to collaborate and expand; but Venkatesh and Shivadas had a clear aim in mind- to take the mouth-watering taste of Vada pav to all corners of India and empower the Indian street food market. Goli Vada pav was running smoothly until Ventureast- a Leading Venture capital firm saw the potential in the business and decided to invest in it. This gave a big boost to Venkatesh and Shivadas who now aggressively started targeting remote Indian villages and cities. Both men were very particular about the quality of the snack which led them to adopt Advance New-age IQF technology that made each Vada pav go through metal detectors and X-ray machine to ensure zero wastage, zero pilferage, and standardized taste across outlets.
Today they employ more than 200 people pan India and continue to expand nationally. With over 150 plus talks delivered to leading world institutions such as Harvard, the story of Goli Vada pav is a torch-bearer for people with a burning passion. Sadly, the ultimate fear and deal-breaker for most Entrepreneurs is “Loss”.
Everyone wants easy low-hanging fruits without the pain of climbing the tree and taking the risk of falling down. However, for Venkatesh and Shivadas, their first loss only made their will stronger. They are a classic example of what Business truly is about- Investment of Time, Hard-work, and Skills.
If one blow of tragedy weakens your will, you have a long way to go before you call yourself an Entrepreneur. Out-of-the-box thinking is not about having an idea that has never been thought before. It is about how can you do everyday things differently; just what Goli Vada pav did.
A simple snack and an even simpler vision led these two outliers to build a Business empire that will continue to inspire us to believe in the power of Perseverance and not under-estimating the Simplicity of an idea.