30 December 2010

Strengths are Weaknesses. And vice versa

I’ve spent almost three weeks back home now, travelling in Kerala, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore. Reminding myself of the things I love the most (and least) about Indian cuisine…here are a few ramblings

1. There still isn’t any coffee in the West that can match a well made south Indian filter coffee (kaapi). Not an espresso in Milan, not a macchiato in Monmouth, not even my beloved piccolo from Milk Bar. The South Indian Filter Kaapi is strong, yet milky. Light yet creamy. To die for.

2. There are now fast food chains everywhere. McD’s and KFC strewn around far too liberally. As are CafĂ© Coffee Day, Kaati Zone, Subway and lots of other crap. The best Indian fast food is still the chaat wallahs of the North and the Udupi restaurants of the South.

3. Most Indian restaurant food continues to be extremely heavy. Heavy on spice, heavy on ghee, light on freshness. Not many lunches have gone by without me needing a little snooze in the afternoon, one of lifes little pleasures.
4. The Old School clubs (of the gym-khana variety) set up by the British still rock. They still do some of the best tikkas, naans, chicken s’wiches and fesh lime sodas. And the service still as wonderfully laid back.

I’ve had lots of time to think about Mooli’s. Everything that we have (and haven’t) managed to achieve in the last year. When Aditya (an IIM alumnus with a soft spot for a goat mooli) kindly prepared a SWOT analysis for us, one recurring theme was that our biggest weaknesses also happen to be our biggest strengths. And vice versa. Coffee is one of the most profitable items to sell, but we still don’t serve coffee at Mooli’s because we didn’t want the distraction that would have been required to serve an outstanding cup of coffee. We haven’t yet hired a manager because we wanted to personally make sure that everything was just right. Our menu is still incredibly focused despite the demand to serve dosas, madhur vadas, poha, masala omlettes and everything that somebodys grandmother once cooked for them. We use pomegranates, green apple, spring onions, grated carrot and romaine lettuce and other fresh stuff liberally, despite protests from our more conventional customers. We wouldn’t dream of franchising, even though that would be the most obvious way to grow and conquer.

It is great to know your strengths and play to them. But in this industry, there is a fine dividing line between the two.

13 December 2010

Know who you are

I have been religiously reading Seth Godin's blog for a while now. His posts tend to be insightful and to the point. This is my attempt at writing a Seth Godin type post.

Some people are better than others at knowing who they are. What makes them tick, what they're good at, what they're weak at, what motivates them, what's really important to them. The increased self-awareness helps them make tough decisions, prioritise and ultimately make their lives better.

It is the same with companies. The really strong companies know exactly who they are. What they are really good at, what they won't compromise on, what kind of people fit in their organisation. This doesn't mean they aren't flexible, just that they are aware of their DNA so when faced with big decisions, they know which way to go.

Many years ago I remember having an espresso (with jaffa cakes of course) with a friend at the BCG coffee station. I was telling him how Mooli's would be great at everything. He paused and said, 'you can't be great at everything'. He was right.

Figure out who you are. What's really important to you, what you won't compromise on, what you are going to focus on.

Then go kick some ass.

03 December 2010

Pubescent Mooli's

"Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body becomes an adult body capable of reproduction."

I've spent so much time reading TABs blog posts, that i'm starting to write atrocious stuff like him. I just wish i was as funny. His posters have been photographed so many times that I suspect he'll get the call up from one of the big Soho ad agencies pretty soon.

But this blog has always had an uncomfortably honest streak about it, so screw it, lets talk about it.

We're at that very awkward stage. looking, acting and sounding a bit different from the babes we once were. but quite inconsistently. One day, we're dying to professionalise our management and operations, and the next day we're still fretting over whether the water jugs have been refilled. we come down hard when someone is late, and go soft over.....well soft stuff. it is so easy to be seduced by smooth talking financiers, PR agencies and landlords. and yes, everyday our mooli seems to get bigger.

"Under the influence of androgens, the voice box, or larynx, grows in both sexes. This growth is far more prominent in boys, causing the male voice to drop and deepen, sometimes abruptly but rarely over night. Occasionally, voice change is accompanied by unsteadiness of vocalization"

We're nice guys at heart, but are trying to unleash that ruthless streak that businessmen seem to need. i suspect every start-up goes through these growing pains but it must take its toll on those within close range. its great that we've got a wonderful team who are also learning to fly with us. the wind beneath.