When I think of a woman entrepreneur with diverse interests, Tanul Mishra comes to my mind. I haven’t really hung out with her in person much – she’s been my vigilant time-keeper at one of the Mumbai Open Houses. And those 4 hours were the only time I have spent with her. But through fb, I’ve admired the way she spreads her time across work and play and the Himalayas. Plus, I suspect our love for food binds us!
Tanul is the co-founder of Eatelish – a curated marketplace and a platform for the country’s artisan food makers to reach our tables. The product range consists of handpicked Spices, Snacks, Condiments from all around India to bring different food cultures to your table.
1. What’s the story behind the Eatopian Delight Boxes? What made you decide one fine day that you want to ship people uncommon food from all over India, in boxes?!
Shipra and I both have been lucky to be exposed to diverse food cultures. Shipra is from Rajasthan and has lived in different parts of the world such as Indonesia, Australia, Bangaldesh and is married to a Mallu. And I am a Bihari born and raised in Bombay and married to a Mallu. The thing about living in Bombay is you imbibe a lot of other cultures through friends and neighbours and even friends’ grandmas! So I was exposed to Maharashtrian, Parsi, Sindhi, East Indian, Gujju and loads of other food. Our backgrounds enabled us to explore the diversity of Indian food. So when we were talking about doing things on our own, we found we kept coming back to food. Helping people explore the diversity that Indian food has. That captured our imagination.
The challenge with trying to do this was at different levels. One is that the packaging of Indian food in not sexy enough, the other challenge is how would people know how to use the ingredients and the different cooking methods and that’s how the Eatopian Delight Box was born.
Of course, some of the items turned out to be very popular and we started selling them individually too and now that has ended up being a large part of our focus.
2. Eatopia se ab Eatelish? How did that happen??
A lot of people would end up calling us Ethiopia. While we love the occasional Injera bread, for a brand that was focusing on Indian food, it was a problem. Then the other more legal angle was that we wanted to trademark the name and realised that the brand was already trademarked when we were in our nappies!
Our journey so far is a whole different story and deserves a separate post! I will be putting it up on TRH soon…
3. One trait that makes Shipra, your co-founder really rock…
Calmness: A perfect foil to my intensely paranoid self
4. Do you two ever fight? How do you make up?!
What’s a relationship without some arguments?
“We make up over food, Suzette is our favourite.”
5. Are you bootstrapped (and lovin’ it)? What’s your biggest challenge of being bootstrapped?
Yes and Yes. When you have to choose between Critical and Important.
6. One incident when shit happened. How did you fix the mess??
Our first box was a Mango themed box. We had 3 types of pickles from 3 different states, an aam panna mix and we decided to send Kairis in the box to make the aam panna with. We got orders for our boxes from Delhi, Bangalore and other cities. We packed the boxes and reached the Logistic partner’s office to send them. And all the boxes were way overweight. The first boxes would have made losses for us. And honestly, considering just how bootstrapped we are, and considering Shipra is a Marwari, and I am an even bigger Marwari in my beliefs, we just couldn’t stand the thought of money being wasted when it could be saved.
So we rolled up our sleeves, kicked off our shoes, borrowed some scissors from the guy waiting for us to pay, and repacked right there!! Found some kairis that would fit better and played some tetris with the rest of the items and we actually managed to send it off without paying a paisa more than we had intended to.
7. Suppose an angel investor came and gave you 1 crore rupees. What would you use the moolah for, first?
Oh man that’s a brain freeze there is so many things we want to do; a host of vendors and products on our list that we want to sign up, invest in some fancy packaging equipment…. I can go on and on till the crore runs out 😀
One thing’s for sure though…
“We won’t be paying our customers to buy from us :)”
8. The one thing you love the most about running your own company?
Lots of people, and even I, started with the notion that I could control the outcome if I did my own thing. You never can choose the outcome but you can definitely choose the path, what things to say yes to, and more importantly what things to say NO to. It is our economic decision-making, our moral framework and our mistakes, not something that we are told to do. That makes us more responsible, accountable for the people who work for us, the vendors that we work with and I like that.
9. The most painful part about being your own boss…?
Even the worst of bosses will take time to praise you for doing something right. As your own boss you end up berating yourself for the mistakes you make and almost never pat yourself on the back.
10. The craziest thing you’ve done to get something done…
We were very keen to participate at Farmer’s Market because it’s a fit with the kind of people who would buy Eatelish Delights. The thing with the Farmer’s Market is you need to have organic products only. And our forte was curating products and not making them. But we had to be there. So Shipra and I decided we would do Cookie Boxes and bake Organic Cookies. Shipra is an excellent baker. So we picked 3 types of Cookies (Jeera, Chocolate Chip and Gingerbread) and baked over 300 of each between the two of us. We even sold some fabulous Banana bread! And the madness didn’t end there. We had been to the Farmer’s Market earlier and knew that loads of children come along with their parents. So early that morning, we made two flasks of luscious hot chocolate and gave it out for free to the children (and quite a few adults) there. This was February so there was a tiny nip in the air in the morning.
Not only did we sell-out there, but at the next event we participated in at Lil Flea (April) – there were kids who brought their parents to our stall saying these were the people who gave us hot chocolate, let’s go there. And yes we sold out at Lil Flea too 🙂
11. Your fav part of the day
“Mornings. We are looking at the sales reports :-),
making plans for the day/week/month.
That buzz can keep me going all day.”
12. Your deepest fear
While we have faith in our curating skills, sometimes, the thought of picking the wrong product that just doesn’t sell…yeah that has given me some sleepless nights. Inventory and money going to waste….scary thought.
13. Ever thought of quitting? What made you hang-in there?
No. Having a partner (both business and husband) who shares your anxieties, family that is supportive and a belief in the business and the model – It might take time, but we know this is a good business to be in.
14. One person you’d love to be if you could!
I love the mountains so it has to be a mountaineer. Bachendri Pal! She summited Mount Everest in ‘84. This was 32 years back – can you imagine how tough it would have been?
15. Does your husband get you and your passion for being a “startup”…? What’s the funniest thing he’s said to you (about your startup)…?
Yes he totally gets it and has been incredibly supportive. But then again…maybe it’s an ulterior motive.
“He does keep asking about his husband ESOPS and wondering when he can retire and move to Japan to do Aikido full time.”
16. What’s your favourite box and why?
The Mini Kerala box! And I promise you it has nothing to do with my husband being a mallu 🙂
What I love about this box is that you get to make this perfect meal to have with family or friends. A delicious, aromatic, light Malabar biryani infused with flavours of whole spices from Kochi and tender pieces of chicken or paneer, served with these tangy and spicy chilis from Kerala called Kondattam Molagu, a lovely coconut based podi and rounded up with a cup of hot coffee.
17. Something you would’ve done differently, given the chance to…
We would have packed pickles in food grade plastics from day one instead of jars. Trust me it’s a big thing, it’s not fun to have pickle oil everywhere.
18. One mistake you made early on that you’d like others to learn from…
Businesses in India have a lot of statutory requirements. There is VAT, CST, GOUMASTA and lots of other registrations based on the business you are in. So make sure that you have a full lowdown of what you need to sign up for and the time and effort involved.
Not exactly a mistake… but definitely something to be Very Aware of.
19. Your #epicshit moment
Tough one!! Honestly, every single time we hear from a customer about how delicious our products are feels like an #epicshit moment.
One time a customer wrote to us about a lunch they had prepared for some guests. They used our Malabar Biryani Masala to make some kick ass biryani, Achari Tikka Masala to make appetizers and they used an Orange and Almond salad recipe from our site to make a salad that had their guests raving and asking for the recipe.
I mean… a whole super hit meal that was realized because of something Shipra and I started in our apartments. That is #Epicshit 🙂
20. Do you think women make better founders? If yes, why?
Yes!!! I think women are more grounded in their approach and that helps them not look at goals and visions unrealistically. While that sounds a little like reverse sexism, it’s just that in our experience, we often meet men who talk big with little follow through 🙂
21. What keeps you sane while you’re not obsessing about artisan food?
Kicking ass gracefully. I learn KravMaga (it’s a form of Unarmed Tactical Combat that originated in Israel) and Kathak.
22. Since you love trekking, if you hadn’t been food, would you get into the travel space? What kind of venture would that be??
Oh yes. I love the idea of community driven commerce – travelers are a passionate bunch so something that harnesses their knowledge and provides them with products and services. There… an idea for free:-D
[Asha’s muse: love the sound of “community driven commerce” :))))]
23. A startup that you love or inspires you; or a venture you wish you had started…
We adore Paperboat (hector beverages). They have distilled three things into one beautifully designed package
– a love for nostalgia
– a great eye for design
– a delicious product
24. A must-read book for entrepreneurs
Calvin & Hobbes! Like Calvin says – It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!
25. Music you recommend
This drives my husband batty but I am a big fan of funky 70’s Bollywood music when RD Burman was king.
26. One thing you love about TheRodinhoods (or two, or three…. 🙂))
“There are communities and then there is TheRodinhoods.”
What I love about TheRodinhoods is the accessibility. You can ping a Rodhinhooder anytime for anything and he/she will help you in any form and if they can’t, they will connect you with someone who can.
One of our key partnerships is because a fellow Rodinhooder, Divyesh connected us with them 🙂
The Entrepreneurial journey can be daunting and overwhelming. When you are struggling in your world and you see the stories of a success around you, it can be lonely. It’s like parenthood, you think you are the only struggling parent but everyone is in the same shit. At this time when you take a peek inside TRH, you know you are not alone because you see real stories, no PR stories. Success stories, failure stories but all of them have one thing in common – a sense of pride in what we have done and that’s what binds startup folks.
(tanul the time-keeper, is in black, in the second row)
27. Tanul’s words of wisdom for aspiring/young entrepreneurs…
Have fun and don’t lose focus of why you started off in the first place. Don’t let the question “How am I going to explain this to people” stop you from taking the plunge or doing the right thing.
“There is no shame in quitting after trying something, wear your failure as a badge. It takes a brave person (a little bit of madness) to start something.”
Asha is the co-founder & editor of therodinhoods.wpengine.com. When she isn’t rodinhooding, she’s chasing crabs on the beach with her eight year old. In her previous life she was an advertising professional. She enjoys writing on travel & living kinda topics and motherhood – the roller coaster ride.
Thank you Asha! This was so much fun!
omg! i’ve never felt so hungry while writing something!!!!
there are so many things i love about your interview.
– your co-founder bond with shipra
– husband esops
– the fact that you would never burn money in the name of #customeracquisition
– your passion for diverse food cultures (i totally get that!)
– your enthu (baking cookie boxes!)
– the fact that you make time to kick butt and dance :)))
and of course, “There are communities and then there is TheRodinhoods.”
keep curating good food!!
Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal
This is what I loved the most : “A lot of people would end up calling us Ethiopia.”
Ps – if you want to meet the team/investors of Paper Boat, lemme know – I am close to the founding investor
Thank you Alok! We would love to meet the team/investors of Paper Boat 🙂