Their love for food – especially a rich, creamy milkshake – led two college friends to bootstrap a startup in the F&B space. College roommates Nishant Tripathi and Anil Paremal, who crossed paths during their engineering days, took their memory of that "sad and watery canteen milkshake" and converted it into a bootstrapped startup: Shake It Off.
“This was around 2008,” Nishant recalls. “Anil would continuously rant about the quality of milkshakes at college. And I would wonder what he was going on about. The question was answered when I visited Dubai to meet him in 2015 and we to a couple of gourmet shake shops there.”
When compared to their college’s watered-down shakes overloaded with sugar and syrups, the shake outlets in Dubai offered a refreshing and flavoursome change. Nishant and Anil already had a startup dream and a milkshake business added fuel to that entrepreneurship fire. In 2016, the duo bootstrapped milkshake brand Shake It Off with an investment of Rs 10 lakh.
What began with a single outlet in March 2016, has since grown to nine outlets and three cloud kitchens based out of Bengaluru, Chennai, and Delhi, serving close to 50,000 customers.
Taylor Swift to the rescue
Shake it Off is a fun, young, and vibrant brand. Quite like its owners, Nishant (30) and Anil (29), who seem to have their finger on the pulse of the milkshake industry in India, a market segment that is poised to grow at a CAGR of 25 percent between 2019 and 2024.
The absolute necessity of a relatable moniker with a recall value was important. This is where US singer and pop star Taylor Swift and her popular single Shake it Off came to their rescue.
“We always wanted a name that was catchy, and had a fun vibe. We had pretty much zeroed in on Shakealot; that’s when Tay Tay came to the fore and started singing Shake It Off through Anil’s earphones.”
But it’s not just the name that evolved in the process. Even their offering was improvised to best cater to the taste of millennial and Gen Z customers who make up the majority of Shake It Off’s target audience.
“We curated a menu that complements and completes the #thiccshake experience,” say the founders. This curation started with sandwiches and burgers, and soon shifted to a more Indian palate, comprising fries and momos. All this while creating new shakes that continue to pair well with the menu, and do not burn a hole in the pocket.
“Our shakes start at Rs 79 at the store, and our food starts at Rs 69,” says the duo, before letting us in on their biggest USP – a visibly different ambience marked by a laid back, colourful vibe and replete with a bunch of board games for that much-needed dose of nostalgia.
From cloud kitchens to kiosks
Snicka Snicka, O!rio, Vanilla Sky, Salty Carrie, Bubba Bubba, Kitty Kat, Pink Floyd, and James Bondwa – these are just a few sinful indulgences off the top of the menu. However, the menu also keeps in mind the health-conscious milkshake lover with options like the Berry Yogurt Shake, The Whey Protein Shake, and The Meal Replacement.
The founders aspired to serve a holistic menu keeping in mind unique palates and an authentic #thiccshake experience. This, perhaps, is the reason why, despite not being a completely novel concept in the F&B market, the business has successfully taken off within three years of inception, clocking a revenue of Rs 185 lakh for FY19.
Even the team has grown over the years, from two employees during inception to 40 members today. “We have grown pretty organically,” say the founders, adding, “Our customer base is around 50,000 at the moment and we project to serve at least 300,000 customers over the next financial year.”
The Shake It Off experience currently includes a mini café, kiosk, and cloud kitchen model with a food truck model in the pipeline.
Figuring out the F&B space
In the Indian milkshake market, Shake It Off competes with the likes of the Thick Shake Factory, Makers of Milkshakes, Tempteys, Frozen Bottle, and Keventers. Making any headway in a crowded and competitive space is a daunting task, especially since the founders had no previous experience in this sector.
But Nishant and Anil are taking things in their stride. The engineers-turned-entrepreneurs explain, “Since we’ve come into the F&B Space with no prior background, every day has been an incredible learning curve.”
This learning curve, however, includes quite a few bold measures and making optimal use of limited resources. For instance, in the initial days, strapped for cash, the founding duo would resort to social media and small-scale events at local colleges for their brand’s marketing and promotion.
It’s all about timing and rate of growth at the moment, and to score on both these metres, the co-founders have taken to the franchising route to speed up expansion and capture more of the market.
“We are looking forward to selling master franchise rights for potential regions in India and abroad. We are also looking for strategic investors who can help us set up, maintain (or both) company operated units for even more direct profits,” they say.
Shake It Off is eyeing $1.5 million in funding to accomplish the founders' goal: 100 outlets by 2022.
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur Gomes)