It’s been close to two years since you’ve been a part of Swiggy’s incredible journey? How would you describe the experience, as against your earlier rendezvous?
Exhilarating, fun, challenging and delightful — that is what I’d say about my journey with Swiggy. I think the one thing that Swiggy has taught me is to navigate effortlessly, through ambiguity. When you don’t know the right answer, but have to act on something, you just go ahead and get it done! Along the way, you will definitely figure out what exactly is the right model.
It has been a lot of fun building an organisation from scratch. As of today, New Supply is close to a 4000-member-strong organisation. We have been able to scale up our business quite rapidly, which has been a hugely satisfying sprint. No disrespect to my earlier organisations; I think they’ve all taught me business principles and how to manage large teams within large business set-ups. But at Swiggy, the fact that we’ve had to build a first-of-its-kind business model right from scratch, and with nothing to fall back on has been supremely challenging and yet, extremely gratifying.
We understand that New Supply at Swiggy is a strategic initiative aimed at reaching more customers and making delivery more seamless. But not many know what exactly goes on behind the scenes to drive this. Can you tell us a bit on what’s been cooking in NS?
One of the things that we don’t talk enough about is how New Supply is a blend of creation and curation. When we go about creating and curating, we ensure that everything we do is best-in-class and consumer-loved. These have been the founding principles by which we’ve built this unit. If you view this from a culture lens, there is clear alignment with two of Swiggy’s core values – Putting the Consumer First, and Striving for Excellence.
We could have built a model for New Supply which was very similar to existing food aggregators across the world. They may not necessarily cover quality of supply with the level of detail we go after. As a result, you’d see that New Supply, by far, is best on conversion, consumer retention, frequency, and possibly less dependant on discounts, versus the other brands. That’s been a conscious decision and the core objective was to bring the best quality closer to our consumers. In doing so, like any other Swiggy business, there is always a very detailed and thorough evaluation of the gaps that we’ve traced or the brands that we want to pick up. The one difference in Swiggy’s core business is that, because we are building the supply, there is a lot of upfront capital investment that actually goes behind it — enabling kitchens or providing long-term lease. That being done, there is a still a lot of work going into these facilities, and a lot of people don’t understand what it takes to build a strong brand. We have a team of Menu Scientists — an organisation that we have created to drive consumer-first-thinking, and their efforts translate into multiple philosophies around the food experience.
We also have a team that is extremely strong is the Research & Development and Culinary Operations. A lot of people don’t understand the amount of R&D effort that goes behind every dish that makes its way to the menu. A lot of dishes that you end up seeing on the menu gets selected after multiple comparisons and rigorous rounds of review. That’s the kind of churn that happens during the development phase, and once the dishes are ready to go live, efforts are put to educate the staff for ensuring consistency and quality, at scale. We have over a thousand people who are cooking in our kitchens and these folks need to be adequately trained, enabling them to dish out the food within the least preparation time.
On the Swiggy Access front, one of the biggest challenges that we had to face was on bringing the best quality brands closer to consumers. These are the brands that have never expanded beyond their limited outlets, within limited geographies. When they open four-five kitchens, we’ve actually had to hand-hold and coach them on how to run kitchens. Partners appreciated that support from us and they’ve also been agile in adopting newer business models, understanding what it takes to succeed. The ones who actually adapts fast, who expand faster, will ultimately be the winners of the future, and that’s how this model is likely to evolve. We’re possibly staring at a world where we will have a few new national brands that would have expanded on the back of Swiggy Access.
Tell us a bit about the Vishal that Swiggsters are not too familiar with. What keeps you going outside of work?
I’m always working. I hardly switch off. My team complains that I go on a holiday and still end up responding to emails. I’m sure that’s a bad thing. People who work with me know that I have OCD issue — I am pretty much a perfectionist, so unless things fall into place completely I don’t feel happy about it. I feel extremely uncomfortable with anything in disarray including things on my table.
On a lighter note, I’m a big stationery buff. I have a collection of 300 odd pens that I keep in different colours and choose my stationery depending on the mood for the day.
Off work, once I am at home and if my kids are awake, I can’t be seen doing anything else. I think that’s true for all of us and that’s the only time I switch off and these days I’m told by my seven year old ‘It’s family time. You need to put your phone away.’ (Laughs).
What would be that one dish from your childhood that you would like to add to the Swiggy menu, and why?
Well, not from my childhood specifically, but when I used to stay at a hostel during my engineering days, the food there was really bad. To top it all, there was no Swiggy at that time and neither did we have the pocket money to afford outside food. So, we really had no other option but to consume the terrible food in our mess. But one day we all looked forward to was dinner on Wednesdays. On that particular day, the dessert they served us was to die for, and that one dessert that I remember from that time is Malai Toast.
It was basically a slice of bread toasted and then dipped in rabdi. In the North we call it Malai Toast. It was the only thing that made me go through the otherwise terrible dinner – just for the dessert.
What, according to you, are the key ingredients of a Swiggster? What’s your message for someone who is looking at building a career with Swiggy?
I’ll talk about three ingredients that are necessary. One is someone has to be constantly hungry and dissatisfied with how they are working. I find it extremely difficult when someone says, ‘This is the best output ever.’ I don’t believe it. I think it can always be better. If you’re hungry to always learn and do better than where you were yesterday, you’ll do well at Swiggy.
I also encourage people to be brave. A lot of us possibly tend to be undermined and I’ve seen this in my corporate experience that you tend to be safer in your corporate life. When you go along, you think the risk of failure is high and might impact your brand. I don’t think that’s true. I think if you are brave you will find solutions to achieve a bold ambition and I don’t think at Swiggy anyone minds you not achieving what you had initially projected because if you take a bold goal and end up achieving 90% of what you set out to do, it will still be significantly better than anyone out there.
The third ingredient according to me, is that you need to be honest about who you are and what you want to say. If you’re not being brave and honest you will deter from the path that you had initially envisaged for yourself and for your business. And when you do that, I don’t think you can really be happy.