Creating the World’s First-ever Cooking Social Media: Khal, The Recipe to Success of 2 Brothers

Creating the World’s First-ever Cooking Social Media: Khal, The Recipe to Success of 2 Brothers

Samir and Nikhil in India

This is a story of how 2 brothers, who are very different, have always stuck together more as friends than as brothers and made a company together. They came from a ghetto in Mumbai, India, started a Leather Business in India with 25 employees in their early 20’s and teens (3 years apart), and opened an e-commerce company in the US with more than 150 employees. They watched both these companies go under and had to live in a car for a month. They were able to start a Cooking Social Media with more than 260,000+ users in a little over a year and have raised over $292,000 in their crowdfunding campaign wefunder.com/khal  (still active)

The company they started in late 2020 is Khal.com, a cooking Social Media that gives users a place to showcase their cooking skills. Samir came up with the idea when he saw his friend, a professional chef, applying for a job. He had an email with 35 attachments. Samir, a self-taught computer developer, was surprised and asked: “Why are you sending emails with 35 attachments, that’s so 1990s”. The chef replied. “Unless the restaurant sees what I can cook they won’t call me in for an interview.” 

Samir built a simple platform where anyone could have a culinary bio page. A chef could write their cooking bio and a tab where they could add pictures of their recipes. The rule being 

  • Each recipe must have a minimum of 3 images (maximum of 13 images per recipe) )and 
  • At least 1 image must show the face of the person cooking the dish or with the final dish.

Samir hired 6 interns, and they worked in a Wholefoods near the World trade center NY for 1 month, perfecting the UI and testing the site.

With this platform, chefs did not have to send emails with 35 attachments. They could just send one link to https://khal.com/accounts/profile/samirtendulkar/, and the restaurants could read their culinary bios and see the dishes these chefs cooked. They also knew that the chefs made these dishes because of the #second rule (face of the creator be seen) 

Challenges Faced by the Founder

This platform may have solved Samir’s friend’s problem, but how do you get the cooking world to join Khal to show their cooking skills? Six months later, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Samir battled, trying different things to get users. Samir’s wife was increasingly frustrated and filed for divorce after repeatedly asking Samir to get a “real job.” She seemed right because:

  • Khal did not have any users. 
  • Samir was not making any money.
  • Samir seemed to be on a wild-goose chase with no positive outcome.

Samir started adding his recipes and asking people (even begging them) to join Khal. He got 25-30 people to add recipes but soon heard crickets. By now, Samir had spent six months building the platform and had lost all his money and wife.

 Then, someone suggested letting people add videos. Samir decided to give it a shot and started producing videos and adding them to Khal since no one else would. The videos were fun.

Shooting a Japanese Nikujaga recipe with a Japanese Chef who played 3 roles in the fun recipe video

The funny recipe produced by Samir on “Prison Ramen” from the book with the same name. The author did a cameo for the video.

Soon after, something amazing happened. 2 people joined Khal, each adding 17 and 19 recipes. Samir traveled to India and told his brother Nikhil that he had something big; two people had joined Khal and were adding their recipes on the platform. This can be bigger than the e-commerce business. 

Flashback

Samir and Nikhil had started a fashion handbag company when Samir was in his early 20s and Nikhil in his teens. They had a revenue of more than USD 100,000, which, in India, was tremendous for someone so young. It had 25 employees. In 2008 when the recession hit, the fashion business went under.

Samir had moved to the US, and Nikhil had stayed in India. Soon, Samir started an e-commerce business. He realized that a barbie doll was sold for between $25 – $45 in stores like amazon.com, target.com, and walmart.com, and it sold in all those places at different prices. He realized the buying psychology. 

  • For items below $50, people usually make a buying decision by “looking at the cost of the item” and “can they afford it?” 
  • No one takes the effort to compare prices. 

He wondered what would happen if he bought the same Barbie doll for $25 and sold it for $35 on eBay. Would anyone buy it? He made the best possible listing, and it SOLD!!! Next, he tried a few other things. This time he did not go to the stores. He listed products on eBay, and when they sold, he had the items shipped directly from Amazon.com or Walmart.com, or Target.com. There was only one challenge:

  • How would people react when they saw an item they bought on eBay delivered in a package that clearly said Walmart.com or Amazon.com or Target.com?
  • Will they leave you a bad review? (Feedback is immense on eBay. A few bad feedbacks early on can end your career as an eBay seller )

But none of these things happened; people did not care. Out of 1000 transactions, not one person complained or left a bad review. Samir had started this in September of 2012, and by December of the same year, he had sold $36,000 worth of merchandise. This business model is called drop shipping.
Samir called Nikhil and told him about this phenomenal idea. Nikhil immediately came on board, learned everything, returned to India, and hired his 1st employee. This grew to 10 employees, then to 50, 100, and 150. The sales had gone from;

  • $36,000  1st year
  • $600,000 2nd year
  • $2,500,000 3nd year
  • $4,500,000 4th year
  • $9,600,000 last year 

In 2016, eBay changed its policy and went hard against dropshippers, closing all drop-shipping businesses. Their logic was:- “We want our sellers to own the merchandise they are selling.” Hundreds of drop shippers lost their business, including Samir and Nikhil. The two brothers went their separate ways.  Samir kept trying different businesses, including 3 e-commerce sites, 2 Kickstarter campaigns for games, and one travel company to see all 50 states, but nothing was sticking.

Back to the Present 

Khal was launched, and we had 2 real users who had added around 15 recipes each. Samir’s wife was on her way to filing for divorce, tired of asking Samir to get a real job. Nikhil called Samir, saying, “ I am coming to the US next week. I believe in Khal, let’s make this huge.”

Nikhil visits the US to grow the users in Khal. 

Nikhil started working his magic just like he did in the previous company. People started joining Khal left, right, and center. The Team in India kept growing. In less than a year, they reached 170,000 users (currently, they have more than 262,285 as of May 26th, 2022)

Nikhil managing a team of 18 people working in 2 shifts in India

Users from all over the world started joining Khal.

They got a great team to back Khal for equity instead of cash. Below are the people who joined;

  • James Ledbetter: The editor in Inc magazine came in as their Chief Marketing Officer
  • Frank Costantino: The Dean of the best cooking school in NYC came in as the Chief Culinary officer 
  • Ahmad Tierelbad: A developer with more than 25 years of experience joined Khal
  • Lawrence Fish: The CFO of Mc Cann became the CFO of Khal
  • Johnna Ayres: The marketing director of Bloomberg came in as the VP of marketing for Khal.

Source: https://startupill.com/25-awesome-cooking-orientated-startups-to-keep-an-eye-on-in-2021/

Source: https://startupill.com/25-awesome-cooking-orientated-startups-to-keep-an-eye-on-in-2021/

Source: https://beststartup.us/24-best-new-jersey-professional-networking-companies-and-startups/

Khal started getting great press, interviews, and other recognitions. And they are just getting started. If you love to cook or know anyone who likes cooking, join the world’s 1st and only dedicated cooking Social network and professional network “Khal.com” and show the world your cooking skills. If you know any investors or want to invest, look at their investment page. Wefunder.com/khal 

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller.

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Ieva Kubiliute is a psychologist and a sex and relationships advisor and a freelance writer. She's also a consultant to several health and wellness brands. While Ieva specialises in covering wellness topics ranging from fitness and nutrition, to mental wellbeing, sex and relationships and health conditions, she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain and joining an £18k-a-year London gym. Someone’s got to do it! When she’s not typing away at her desk—or interviewing experts and case studies, Ieva winds down with yoga, a good movie and great skincare (affordable of course, there’s little she doesn’t know about budget beauty). Things that bring her endless joy: digital detoxes, oat milk lattes and long country walks (and sometimes jogs).

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