Monday, June 27, 2022

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Friendship Day Special: “It is all about making friends over food and creating unforgettable memories” – Founders of Conosh

Forged new friendships and memories with over 200 pop-ups across the country

“One must not work with friends” – This advice or rather a warning comes from the founders of Conosh on this Friendship Day, who by the way are best friends.

They, however, believe that you can be an exception if you value the person more for what they are to themselves than what they are to you as a friend. “If you have vibed very strongly with another friend about changing the world in any little way, take the plunge and make it work like any other relationship than letting your friendship take care of all the bumps in the ride. It will be a ride worth taking,” says the founders.

….and that’s exactly what Anshumala Srivastava, Vaibhav Bahl and Neha Malik did. They believed in their friendship, they believed in their idea and took the plunge in the form of Conosh, a platform to make friends over food.

This friendship day, Unkrate brings to you an inside story of three friends turned entrepreneurs.

How it all started: When Vaibhav met Anshumala

It all started in 2010 when Vaibhav met Anshumala in Bangalore as summer interns while studying at NIFT and they even ended up working together. Their friendship grew over time and they often hosted friends and colleagues over weekends for a meal cooked by them. Post NIFT, they even planned to do a pop-up restaurant at their balcony, however, none were ready for a commitment. Hence, they parked the idea and moved on with our lives. 

Culinary Trip to Istanbul

Fast forward to 2015, both Anshumala and Vaibhav decided to embark on a culinary trip to Istanbul. There, they met a French Tourist who became a part of their remaining trip to discover the city through its food while making more friends with every passing plate. “A lot of locals hosted us at their homes over food, coffee readings, teas and Rakı. The power of connecting people through food dawned over us both,” recalls Vaibhav.

The trip left some entrepreneurial footprints behind which blossomed to the onset of Conosh. They wanted to pursue something around local experiences back then but the pile of loans and aspirations to experience luxury held them back. After completing their MBA’s, Anshumala started working in Bulgari in Rome, and Vaibhav started working in Louis Vuitton in Delhi.

The birth of Conosh

Two years later, Vaibhav happened to meet Neha for the first time at a get-together. Their conversation led to mutual appreciation of gastronomy and acknowledgment of their shared passion for food and travel.

In 2018, destiny rolled its dice and brought all three together for the first time. Anshumala was visiting Delhi to meet Vaibhav and while dining, Neha happened to meet them as a coincidence. Remembering the evening, Vaibhav says “The greetings went on to become endless conversations and on that table, the idea of Conosh was put up.”

What started as a food escapade, made three budding entrepreneurs meet and discuss how to change the way people eat. “We kept thinking about it and couldn’t get the idea of Conosh out of our minds. For us Conosh is all about making friends over food, creating unforgettable memories and more importantly fostering a feeling of community living, which is barely existing in today’s isolated digital age,” adds Vaibhav.

Customers as driving factor

Conosh was started with the idea of getting people together, over home food on just Instagram and WhatsApp. Neha believes that listening to customers and taking their feedback, has helped them evolve to what they are today. “We did our first catering on request of a close customer, we also did our first wedding catering for two of our founding customers because they wanted it that way,” adds Neha.

Tea Soiree

They started their first #SocialHour post lockdown as their customers wanted something positive in their life and hear stories of others. They are helping to instill a sense of community living, make friends for life, and create unforgettable memories all over shared meals and incredible food.

The idea of home delivery was also suggested by their customers. “The love and support we have received from our customers is phenomenal,” says Vaibhav. He further adds, “While the menus are currently limited and our process is still evolving, our customers have been patient and forgiving.”

Experiences builds familiarity

Conosh started with Bengaluru, followed by Delhi. “Both the cities are experimental with food,” says Neha. She further adds, “We can take Indians away from India, but not India away from Indians. As crazy we are about the ramen bowls & empanadas, we are as crazy for Pandi curry & Dosas! Bangaloreans are as crazy for Biryanis as much for Korean rice bowls or Kashmiri Rogan Josh. We curate these experiences keeping that in mind. It all lies in picking up the right trends and identifying the right home chef.”

Food meetup by Conosh

There has been a lot of instances where expats have curated cultural experiences for the locals on Conosh. Talking about one such event, Neha said, “Last year during Thanksgiving, we invited Kim, an Expat from the US to host a dinner for a mixed crowd and walk us through her culture back home. It was during the conversations with Kim at the pop-up where everyone learned about the differences between celebrations across different parts of the US, including what is on the menu.”

Then in December, they organized Dine with the Dutch, with Floor and Tom from the Netherlands. “The two had been hosting their expats friends over and it was their first time connecting with Locals. To give the most authentic experience and flavours they also flew in the authentic cheese from their country. We hosted 20 locals that evening with free-flowing wine over three courses of the meal including stews, meatballs, sausages & the delicious grand Dutch dessert. The experience was loved by everyone including our hosts,” added Neha.

Upskilling amid Covid

Conosh has onboarded over 200 home chefs on their platform so far and has hosted more than 150 food meetups in Bengaluru, close to 60 in New Delhi and a few in Mumbai before Covid-19 put a break on their operations.

“We had been all about people meeting each other, but due to covid we could not do that anymore for the foreseeable future,” said Vaibhav.

This break allowed Conosh to help the home chefs to upskill and be ready when the market opens for them. They partnered with Chefs and celebrities to conduct workshops, create value and scale their business from home in the middle of a crisis.

Celebrity tie-ups

Conosh recently onboarded the culinary sensation Anna Polyviou for a masterclass on her famous chocolate cake tart and they intend to do more such celebrity tie-ups going forward. “Through online workshops, we have already set our footsteps overseas. However, for delivery we are going to wait out Covid and then restart Mumbai first before getting into newer destinations,” shares Vaibhav.

What keeps them together?

All three friends have come a long way with Conosh and there has to be something special about this friendship that has allowed the business to flourish. “It is not to win individually but to make a difference together. Destiny or not, we are like pieces of the puzzle that fit into each other,” says Neha.

She further adds, “We give each other a lot of space. Mistakes are never questioned and Achievements are always applauded. An accomplishment of one brings laurels to all and that after one of us falls, there are two pairs of hands to lift you.”

“We couldn’t have thought of a better team than us,” says Neha signing off.

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