November 17, 2020
A few years back, two young lads saw a dream to change the way Guwahatians experienced food. Back in 2016, while the city witnessed a surge in cafeterias and boutique food joints, it was still a task to dodge the humidity and traffic to reach these places for a satisfying gastronomical experience. Rahul Hazarika was especially disgruntled by the scenario after experiencing the tap-and-order ease of getting his favourite food in the comfort of his room while studying in Bangalore. Having witnessed the effortlessness that the food tech startups had permeated in procuring something as essential and satisfying as food, Rahul decided to replicate the experience in his hometown, Guwahati. In 2017, he launched an MVP of North East India’s first cloud kitchen – One Stop Kitchen.
Rahul smartly leveraged the power of social media to start a Page for taking orders. This was a one-off phase of caution and experimentation meant to test the waters. A certified level 1 wine connoisseur, he started rummaging the internet to cull out ideas for culinary fusion experimentation. As interesting as the name sounds, OSK wasn’t going to walk the safe line with Chinese and Indian food. Apart from giving the people of Guwahati a first-hand experience of a cloud kitchen, Rahul also wanted to take the food enthusiasts on a gourmet ride with experimental and fusion food. From combining Chinese dumplings with Italian white sauce to introducing Buffalo wings, OSK was already making happy noises that reinstated that it was, by no means, going to settle for mediocrity. Winning the award for Best Cloud Kitchen in Guwahati in two back-to-back years was a testimony to the fact.
In 2018, when Abhilash Baruah joined OSK as the co-founder, sharing and reassuring Rahul’s dream of seeing OSK right at the peak among the food tech startups, OSK found the fuel to set off for an exhilarating ride from where there was no looking back. The founder duo had nurtured a dream to emerge as a one-stop-solution for everything that hovered around Food! But, to take OSK to the next level required capital and more importantly, a comprehensive business plan. That’s when the duo applied for incubation at Assam Startup – The Nest.
Onboarded in June 2019, the startup was officially registered as OSK Food & Technology Pvt. Ltd. during the period of incubation in October 2019. As incubatees, Rahul and Abhilash’s interaction with the mentors from IIM Calcutta Innovation Park helped them strategize their market positioning, especially with food tech startups like Swiggy and Zomato ruling the roost by then. It was one of those interactions that Abhilash vividly remembers, which had inspired them to stretch a little further to make a killing.
“At the end of making our pitch during an interaction with the investors, I remember one of the IIMCIP mentors had remarked: ‘They are just there.’ A small sentence, but it had left a conspicuous mark on us. We realized we weren’t really far,” recalls Abhilash.
That was the day cut to the present when OSK’s newly launched food super app is trending at fourth position in the Food & Beverage category in India. Rahul and Abhilash launched their dream app, One Stop Kitchen, on 13 November 2020 at Assam Startup – The Nest in the presence of the officials from IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, members from the media fraternity, and the OSK team. The food super app, as they call it, infuses 5 brands, catering to the needs of the diverse categories of customers.
While their flagship brand continues to curate and deliver fusion and comfort meals right at the customer’s doorstep, the House of Biryani promises to deliver a wide range of biryani in kilos to cater to the bulk orders. Treading in similar lines, the Dabba Co. would serve as a respite to meet the food requirements in offices and corporate houses. The OSK Plus could be considered as a disguised perk of the pandemic that understood the need and strives to home deliver every food essential, including exotic items like seafood, with just a tap on the phone screen. However, the most innovative and ambitious brand under the OSK umbrella is, perhaps, the brand that customizes health/diet meals for its customers – Healthy Co. One needs to subscribe to its monthly meal plan after OSK’s team of health experts prescribes him/her a plan as per the given health issues or requirements. Asked about people’s response to this rather unique offering, Rahul informs that 10 people have already subscribed to the plan that promises jaw-dropping body transformations within a few months if followed without fail.
“Given the super-fast lifestyle of people today, preparing and following an austere health diet becomes quite challenging. This is where Healthy Co. can come to the rescue. We do not just deliver you the meals, but also prescribe the diet plan most suitable for your body requirements,” Rahul explains.
Things might look rosy today, but to reach this stage, Rahul and Abhilash had to beat the thorns laid on the way especially during the lockdown. The struggle had reached a point when the founders were tempted to give up. Fortunately for them, the Government of Assam awarded the MASI (My Assam Startup ID) grant of Rs. 15 lakh just at the right time that inspired them to pull up their sagging spirit and keep going. In the meantime, the startup was also able to raise the first round of funding worth Rs. 50 lakh from the North East Venture Fund under NEDFi.
Today, Rahul and Abhilash are rejoicing the success of the launch, but they are not in a mood to get swayed by it. The seed of success that has germinated in the hometown now eyes at winning the heart of food lovers nationwide and making a place among the top food tech startups in India.
One may pat an argument that the founders have just been lucky enough. But looking back in hindsight, one will realize that the right things didn’t just happen to them at the right time, Rather they worked hard, held their nerves against succumbing to the anxious phases of entrepreneurship, and dared to take strides for making things happen. From being dedicated incubatees who made sure not to miss any opportunity for networking and learning from the people best in the business, to taking care of things often ignored like sending notes of gratitude to customers during festivals, the OSK founders have earned their success by dint of dedication, thoughtfulness, and indomitable belief in their dreams against every odd.