Interview With Samir Tendulkar
Describe your product or service:
“We're a culinary social media platform where professional chefs, bartenders and home cooks can create a dedicated cooking profile and share their recipes online.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Khal is a dedicated cooking profile for professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts to show their cooking skills. Users make profiles, add recipes, and make other people's recipes. In the process of making their profile good, they add a lot of user-generated content, which makes the platform interesting. Also, the social factor lets you see the cooking activities of the people you follow.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!
“Samir Tendulkar: CEO/CTO of Khal; full stack developer; coded the site with Ahmed, the lead developer; co-founded ST.LLC — before that, did $16 million in sales in four years.
Frank Costantino: Chief Culinary Officer of Khal; Dean in Culinary Institute of New York Monroe College 2008–present.
Johnna Ayres: VP of Marketing at Khal; VP Head of Global Acquisition & Consumer Marketing, Bloomberg LP.
James Ledbetter: CMO of Khal; Editor in Chief, Inc. Magazine & Inc.com
Lawrence Fish: CFO of Khal; Chief Financial Officer, McCann New York.
Nikhil Tendulkar: Chief Operating Officer; co-founded ST.LLC — before that, did $16 million in sales in four years.
We also have 18 full-time employees in India.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“My friend is a professional chef who was applying for a job at a restaurant. He was sending emails with 35 attachments, and I asked him, ‘why are you sending emails with 35 attachments.’ He told me there was no place where he could create a dedicated cooking profile, and all of his friends were encountering the same problem. That's how I came up with the concept for Khal.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We were very lucky to get a four-letter domain (khal.com). ‘Khal’ means ‘king’ in ‘Game of Thrones’ — we just replaced the crown with a chef's hat.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“My parents told me when I was two years old I wanted to start my own ‘Bijrand,’ so I wanted to start my own business before I could pronounce the word.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“I was not getting any users when I started the platform. I got my brother on the team who solved this problem and got me where I am today (279,000 users).”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“My target market is people who like to cook. In the beginning, I thought this platform would only serve professional chefs but soon learned that 95% of our users are home cooks who just like to cook.”
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Our go-to-market strategy is to use influencers, culinary school scholarships, and paid job postings to get users on the site.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Our key customer metrics are the number of users on our platform. We currently have 279,000 users.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“‘Motivation’ by Kelly Rowland.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“The coworking space that I'm currently working out of.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“The number of people you meet, you wouldn't meet them doing a regular job.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I go to work early and come back early to spend time with the people I love, and we watch movies together.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Have my assistant do the dirty work for me.”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“I wanted to start my business before I could properly talk. The only jobs I took were to get the business up and running.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I sold used cars while I was in high school. It taught me how to be a great leader and salesman.”
More on Khal
Samir Tendulkar, founder of food tech startup Khal, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.