Kamal Kalra


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Last week, we started the series to cover failed startups to highlight about the startups that did not see the light of the day, but left the founders much stronger and determined.  The first post was about Abhijeet Khandagale, who had lot of experiences and lessons to share. Our guest for this week is Kamal Karla, who ran the startup ‘Dial a Cake’ for good 4 years before shutting it down. Kamal didn’t even know the term startup at that time, and if only he had enough knowledge and expertise, his start up would have been more successful now.

Kamal Kalra

We get in conversation with Kamal to know more about his startup journey.

What was your startup idea? What market research did you do before plunging in?

Well, the startup idea was “Dial a Cake” – A service, which was not available as such in 2006 – 2007 when I started. The idea was the deliver cakes across Delhi NCR with a single number. I was inspired by Just Dial. In fact, we were one of their first paying customers. After us, they created a category “Dial a Cake” . To be frank, I didn’t do much market research, the only research I did was, that there were not too many options to get a cake delivered at my doorstep. I used to work in a big corporate at that time and I could see a lot of birthday celebrations happening in the company but not too many options for a decent cake delivery.

 How long did the startup run, and what were the early signs of trouble?

The startup ran for good 4 years, before we shut it down. It was good fun earlier, but the early signs of trouble were low margins, running costs getting higher, less customers etc. Actually, it all fell down after Just dial made it really easy for anyone and everyone to setup a shop with them and we could not gauge it well in time.

Were you full time or part-time working on your startup?

Part Time for 2 years and Full time for around a year.

When do you realize that this is the moment to quit, and what went on through your mind at that time?

Well, things were getting difficult to manage. We were running short of money, our running expenses were eating up our margins and at one time, I realized that do not have money left to pay the rent and salaries. 2 more months like this, and I had to call it a quit. It was really a bad phase, and It seemed like the end of the world.

 How bad was it, after the startup failed?

For sometime, it was really bad. It felt like a failure and it seemed like a lost battle. But soon I realized that failure is a part of success. Unless you embrace failure, you can’t really enjoy the success; in fact, you can’t really understand what success means?

In introspection, what could you have done to save your startup? Would more money / connections / mentorship / expertise have helped?

Well, now that I look back, the biggest issue was the experience. I was really novice at doing business; I didn’t even know the term startup at that time. Provided, there was enough knowledge and expertise available, I would have really done well. Money was another factor, it seemed to be the only thing at that time, but now that I look back, I think, I could have arranged for the money, only if I knew the direction. What was important was the direction.

 What suggestions would you like to give people venturing into entrepreneurship, based on your experience?

1. Learn the tricks of the trade: I see a lot of people trying to jump off into the Entrepreneurship just because they don’t like their job. I believe that is not the right reason. In fact, everyone who’s planning to start a business should first work in a startup for sometime or at least a budding company in the same field.

2. Be Disciplined: Entrepreneurship is a journey, it’s not a destination- often I come across people who think starting a company is enough, but starting a company is just the beginning, the actual picture is what happens next. You go through a lot of ups and downs everyday, and that’s when you need to be disciplined. I always say, a job is a place where you discipline yourself to be an Entrepreneur; it’s a tight rope walk. Discipline yourself in a job first, become an in-house Entrepreneur at the job at hand and then try to start a company.

3. No success if final and no failure is fatal: Failure is the stepping stone of success and it’s a part of the Entrepreneurial journey. You’ll make different plans everyday, some will be executed greatly, some will fall apart. Accept that as a part of journey, fail , fail and fail again, cos, that will give you an experience to become successful tomorrow.

 What are you doing now? And how has this startup failure impacted you as a person?

Well, I am working as a Customer Service and Fulfillment Manager with an Ecommerce startup. It’s a funded company and I am enjoying every minute here. As a person I have become more disciplined and active. I have come out of my comfort zone and my experiences in my startup have made me humble. I don’t really care about the corporate jobs anymore, and love to hang around with my fellow Entrepreneurs.

Would you startup again? What would be your basic checklist before you startup?

Yes, definitely, I would startup again, as soon as I am ready. My basic Checklist will be as follows

1. Have I done enough Research in the Idea / Target Audience / Market?
2. Am I financially available full time for at least a year?
3. Do I have customers who will be willing to pay for my product/service?
4. Can I run my company without any external money for at least a year?
5. Do I have a minimum viable product ready? Will I be able to bootstrap?


TTP thanks Kamal Kalra, a rodinhooder for coming forward and sharing his experiences, and wishes him the very best!

Photo Credit: Rodinhoods Delhi OH


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