Interview of Just Mexican Co-Founder : Dev Shah

People told us why do we cover only unheard, unusual or awesome ‘things or places’ … why not awesome people? So well, we thought! And as a result … today, we are starting with our new segment “People who are different or have done things differently”

And our first article is about …

A couple of NRIs who made plans to set up a food business in India sitting in US though they didn’t even know fluent Gujarati
Co-founders who didn’t know how to cook anything other than Maggie made plans to open up Food chain
They started their business & in 90 days, crossed 50 times of revenue growth
10 months, 5 franchisees, more than 100 franchisee enquiries and still counting
Here’s an interview with Just Mexican Co-founder, Dev Shah.

Before we talk about Just Mexican, tell us about your family, education, business background?
We are two people behind Just Mexican – Soham and I (Dev) and we both are NRIs. Soham’s parents are doctors and my parents have their own business. We basically are from US since our parents shifted when we were kids. I have done my MBA Finance and Soham is an Engineer.

Oh I thought doctor would always want their children to be ‘doctors’. Do you always wanted to start something of your own?
Oh yes, Soham and I became friends as we used to play cricket together during weekends. After cricket matches, we used to discuss, brainstorm all the wild ideas in the world.
Moreover, I have done every crazy thing in life. During my college days I made a site to sell used items to college students, once, I used to sell lemonade for a dollar – all to make money and start business. We so much wanted to start something of our own that Soham started a website called – smartassideas.com. Through this idea, we wanted people to submit their ideas to get feedback and connection to investor in return; however, our main objective was to find out the best possible idea from them to start our own business.

So why India?
India happened by fluke. Soham came down to start his own business. In fact, he started an offline magazine, came up with 3 or 4 editions as well but it didn’t took off as expected.

Soham and I were always in touch; in one of our conversations, he wanted me to come down to India for food business. Being in Finance and Economics background, I knew Food is one of the fastest growing industries. Also, since India is a growing country, it is always better to start a business in growing country as against in saturated economy.

During our occasional visits to India, we knew Mexican is something Ahmedabad is not big time into it and we both so much love Mexican food that we froze on it.

So looks like you are foodies yourself and you understand a lot about Food…
Before Just Mexican I couldn’t differentiate between spices. I just knew how to make tea and Maggie. Guess what; Soham was worst – he didn’t even know to make tea or Maggie. But we are big time juggadus… so we started our journey to understand how a restaurant works?

How did you learn everything about restaurant?
Since Soham was already in India, he was responsible for lot of on-ground stuff e.g. right location to open a restaurant, costs associated raw materials availability, customer’s response, staff, etc. And I being in US was responsible to study how Mexican chains in US operate.

Tell me more about your learning at these Mexican chains and since you were working how you manage to balance the two.
After we froze on a restaurant, the first thing I did was I quit my job. I was earning quite close to 6 figures USD there and it was a difficult decision for me but then I was ok as I repaid entire education loan by then and I had no liabilities and some savings to take on this venture.

The next task was to get into kitchens of Mexican chain outlets in America. I used to pitch myself as a fresher, looking for a job. They were more than happy to hire me and I was ready to do whatever it takes to learn their operations.

The only bad thing about joining as fresher is that for the first week I had to mop the floor and clean dishes. And you know what’s more worst, I joined multiple chains for few weeks and them all assigned cleaning jobs for the first week. Guess what, on one those bad days, one of my relative’s saw me cleaning the floor and he in turned informed my family of what I was up to. I tried explaining my family of my vision and goals with starting the venture in India but I guess they understood it completely only after I was doing reasonably well with Just Mexican.

Eventually it paid off. I knew how to manage kitchen, Menu, Layout, how their systems worked, how do they maintain hygiene, how to ensure uniformity, how to keep food fresh, where to procure raw materials from and much more.

Finally, I came down to India and decided on opening up a Wagon because of cost factor. Wagon was new to Ahmedabad then but it was common in US.

So let’s talk about your growth. You grew pretty fast. Was it always like that from day one.
We experimented a lot with food before opening up. We invited friends, families and their friends to taste our food and give feedback. In fact, we also went to colleges to offer free food to students just to get right feedback. So before we presented ourselves to the world, we ensured that we have good quality food which is been loved by majority of Ahmedabad.

We chose not to open up our first wagon in Law Garden, Prahladnagar or any of the high foot-fall areas as we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We chose to open up in CEPT where those days there was just one coffee and Maggie wala.

If you have visited us those days, you will realize that we were just so different that nobody can miss out. The first of its kind Wagon with a basin for fresh running water, electricity, gas stoves, hot and cold container bain-marie,  storage compartments, exhaust, LED Lights, specially designed  vinyl  pasting, and more. We had our logo registered from the first day, playing trance/house/electro music – people simply loved it. Our staff wearing proper uniform with company logo, name tags, wearing cooking hats, gloves, aprons, made people like the food and appearance even more. Creating these major USPs helped us grow at an amazing speed. And since we spent all our life in US, people were fascinated to be served by two young chaps with a foreign accent.

Just to make a point, we haven’t done any marketing till date and if I compare my turnover, we grew by 50 times in 90 days time.

How come you got so many franchisees so quickly?
For information, Just Mexican got 4 franchisees by month 10. 7th month – 1st franchisee, Sept – 2nd franchisee, Oct – 3rd franchisee, Nov – 4th franchisee.

There was lot of people who often asked about our master franchisee. Because of our good looking wagon, professional approach, registered logo, they thought we have taken franchisee from somewhere. There were lot of people interested in Just Mexican and we thought here’s the time we go different.

And how did your first franchisee performed?
Do you know we were on street and our first franchisee was in brick & mortar store. Yes, that’s true. When we gave our first franchisee, we closed our Wagon. In fact, we used to take empty wagon at CEPT lane and diverted people to Just Mexican, Goyal towers – the first franchisee.

Currently, Just Mexican is increasing its business south Gujarat and has more than 100 enquiries for franchisees pouring from everywhere i.e. Anand, Baroda, Gandhinagar, Surat, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, and more.

Tags: Interview of Just Mexican Co, Founder : Dev Shah

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