Vinamra Pandiya, Founder and CEO, Qtrove.com is a Chemical Engineer from IIT – BHU, Varanasi. He calls himself a software coder by chance and an entrepreneur by choice. Vinamra was leading the typical life of an IITian in an IT company when the entrepreneurship itch compelled him to quit his job. He shares “After completing my graduation, I joined Infosys in 2004. After a couple of years with the software giant, I started India’s first online meal ordering service, Mom’s Kitchen in 2006. Post a successful 3 year journey with Mom’s Kitchen, I joined TastyKhana in the year 2009 as board member and Chief Operating Officer and took the startup to new heights and it got eventually bought out by FoodPanda in late 2014. For the next 6 months, I worked with Foodpanda. In early 2016, the idea of Qtrove.com started germinating and we finally soft launched it in the Bangalore market in July 2016 and across India in Jan 2017”. Vinamra is also an advisor to few start-ups like Marmeto and SpiderG where he mentors and advises the teams and helps in strategy, business development, and expansion. His venture Qtrove has investors like K Ganesh of GrowthStory and BCCL (through Springboard Ventures).
On his reason to venture on his own
Talking about his decision to quit Infosys and start Mom’s Kitchen, he says “Being a bachelor, I was eating mess and tiffin food in Pune and I found that not only was the food quality terrible, the entire tiffin management business lacked good packaging, customer friendliness, flexibility, variety etc. So, I decided to take the plunge in Sep 2006 and started my first venture”.
Vinamra has also faced failures which he says have helped him grow as each time he failed, he says he learnt something new and used that experience to help him grow. He says “I couldn’t scale my first business when it had all the makings to be one. We got carried away by PR and marketing and didn’t take investment opportunities when we should have and also rejected a good acquisition offer from one of the biggest companies. Post that, there was the economic crisis of 2008 and by then, it was too late. Failures have taught me that such incidents are part and parcel of the journey of life and though they should never be forgotten, they teach us to keep moving forward”.
Qtrove.com is a curated online marketplace that exhibits and sells only natural and sustainable products from passionate sellers across the country. The products are made naturally and consciously by local sellers for Qtrove.com, which bring their products to the national audience. Vinamra says “We want our customers to embrace Qtrove.com as a go-to to marketplace for all things pure and good. Our motto is to spread the good karma by embracing the ultimate shop for good things. We started our journey with a 30-35 products and 5-10 sellers in July 2016 and now we have 10,000+ curated products from 1000 local entrepreneurs coming from all over the country”.
On BCCL funding and what it meant
In May 2018, Qtrove received a funding of Rs.350 crores from Springboard Ventures. Vinamra says “With this, we plan to intensify our sellers’ network and provide more curated products to our customers. We realised that to make this concept of natural and sustainable products known to the country, we needed a lot of marketing and branding push across different ad vehicles and for that, we found BCCL to be a perfect fit. They liked our approach towards building this business in a non-discounted manner where the focus is on true value creation for all stakeholders – customers, sellers and stakeholders”.
Vinamra is greatly inspired by Narayana Murthy, Bill Gates, Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. He says about his inspirations “NRN is the first person who virtually created today’s middle class back in the 90s and he created a company with ethics and values. As regards Bill Gates, I look up to him for his passion in giving up everything when he was at the top of the game to take up tougher challenges like eradicating diseases, fighting malnutrition etc.” ” Everybody loves Sachin and I admire his humility and the focus he had in his game. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have shown the world what it takes to transform technology and industries more than one time and for giving transformative products customers could never imagine”.
Talking about Qtrove’s future plans, Vinamara informs “Qtrove currently serves a lakh odd customers and targets to add 5 million customers in India and abroad by positioning of a democratic, self-sustaining, two-sided, trusted marketplace built on solid content and driven by our beloved community. Also, we aim to be the de facto standard for all things natural and sustainable in the next 5 years. We also plan to expand our categories and would like to enter the personalised products space like travel accessories, personalized stationery, keto and vegan products”.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs
On a final note, Vinamra advises “For the budding entrepreneurs I would like to say, don’t run after money. Identify a problem that urgently needs a solution and establish a practical solution for the same. If you successfully follow this, then you will start making money while working for the betterment of the environment and society. Secondly, reduce your ego to zero while doing business. Stay hungry, be humble”.