Over the past weekend I was a speaker & judge at the Odisha Startup Summit in Bhubaneshwar. Mr. Shah Miftaur Rahman of Wow! Momo was the speaker right before me. Shah is the CFO, COO and the 3rd cofounder of a company that in the words of 2nd co-founder, Sagar, wants “…to be India’s version of a McDonald’s and become a global brand.” Many founders make such chest thumping statements without any realistic plans in place to achieve them. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Wow! Momo is NOT one of those companies.
A few salient points from his talk that inspired me and are valuable lessons for entrepreneurs:
- Wow! Momo’s first two founders, Sagar & Binod, focussed on raising “customer financing” i.e. sales instead of venture capital. This was the primary reason behind their first round valuation of $16 million from IAN.
- They have a clear understanding of their target customer’s profile and are constantly innovating products to increase sales numbers (pan fried momos, tandoor momos, etc)
- Even after they raised their first round they maintained the same unit economics they had before they received financing i.e. the money raised was used for quick expansion and not to run operations.
Shah and I connected on entrepreneurship, food, funding and Kolkata over lunch. I had planned to mystery shop at a startup’s branch and coincidentally it happened to be right next to a Wow! Momo location that Shah was heading out to. He asked if I would like to join him and I readily agreed. Along the way I interviewed Shah to scratch below the surface of some of the statements that he had made on stage. In there, I found a pot of gold for founding teams.
- The Wow! Momo founders spend a day each month to evaluate whether they are on the path to fulfil their vision for the company
- A Wow! Momo location is chosen based on footfall demographics, location and most importantly the projected revenues for that location
- They have sought out the help of food-tech experts to help them innovate new products based on pre-set parameters that excite their customers
When we reached our destination, I got to see all the things we had talked about in action. As Shah went about doing his audit of the location I learnt a few more lessons:
- Shah remembered the names of all employees and inquired about their personal family situations. Although this minor interaction didn’t take much time it made each employee, even those at the very bottom of the pyramid feel that they were important. This trivial action goes a long way in retaining employees, creating a desirable work environment and even keeping the customers happy
- Shah conducted an audit, and probably found some areas that needed improvement. Instead of simply fixing the issues himself, he inquired about the reasons for which the issue had occurred and the timeline that would be needed to fix them. The lesson of delegating and empowering was one for the books.
I was well and truly wowed by Wow! Momo and while I did not have the privilege of being on their list of investors, I am certain that they have my investment as a customer.
This is a company to watch out for!