In the second episode of Decode with UrbanPiper, Mr. Gautam Balijepalli, founder of the famous multi-brand cloud kitchen Kouzina Food Tech, spoke to us about his journey. While many people have enjoyed WarmOven, KaatiZone, and Indiana Burgers products and have memories associated with these brands, we take a closer look at the man behind the brand in this blog.
Gautam Balijepalli is an alumnus of IIT Chennai and London Business School. On Decode, we were able to interview Gautam Balijepalli live where he described the journey that led him from a bootstrapped single-brand kitchen to a multi-brand cloud kitchen today.
For Gautam and his fellow founders, the journey started by operating franchises of other bakeries and food brands. Eventually, they started delivering cakes to customers next to the store and were appreciated for their cakes and desserts. This appreciation sparked an epiphany for Gautam and led to the birth of WarmOven. It was a part-time experiment for the four co-founders – Gautam, Mahesh Madiyala, Sumit Gupta, and Rohan Kumar Rao – where only Rohan was involved in the daily operational running of the business.
Restaurant businesses have low barriers to entry and yet very high barriers to scale. Gautam Balijepalli, with a strong entrepreneurial background, believed in the notion of successful customer experience. He used technology as a bridge to connect and engage with his customers. The business grew over the next 5 years with Rohan ably leading the operations, focussing on delighting every customer.
In 2019, Gautam and his friends decided to take a leap of faith and become fully involved in the business. They launched their first kitchen outside Bangalore in Pune and acquired KaatiZone. They also raised funds from established entrepreneurs such as Jyoti Bansal, Harpreet Grover, and Anuj Srivastava, and subsequently began scaling the business to different cities across the country.
Gautam’s view on COVID-19 and digital disruption
According to Gautam, this expansion was aided by the digital disruption that occurred due to the pandemic, where people were worried about stepping out of their homes and instead preferred getting everything delivered to their homes. As a result, individuals have become accustomed to the convenience of having numerous items delivered to their homes. This change has made the use of technology in restaurants a necessity.
Lesser known facts about Gautam Balijepalli
Gautam Balijepalli started his career at Infosys, where he worked for three years. After that, he spent time at Nomura, Sun MicroSystems, and PwC, where he put his previous knowledge to use and continued his journey by testing and learning.
In 2014, he founded CartPerk Technologies, a couponing and promotions platform for FMCG brands, intending to take his career even further. Gautam Balijepalli further expanded his entrepreneurial knowledge by joining Ojas Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm as a venture capital investor, where he invested in several companies and helped them scale up through active Board participation.
He has overseen investments in CoCubes (bought by AON), Lemnisk (Vizury), Insieve (now Sensara), Ziva Software, Revivio (purchased by Symantec), Netforensics (now BlackStratus), and Compellent (acquired by Dell for $960 million) as a General Partner with Ojas Ventures. This varied experience helped Gautham chart out Kouzina’s road map to success.
On The Personal Front
Gautam is a foodie and he enjoys eating burgers and cakes, and frequently orders food home. In a restaurant business, where survival, growth, and size are critical, he believes that job experience provides more expertise than an MBA. When asked to choose between profitability and growth, he asserts that a balance between both is key.
Watch the entire episode of Decode with UrbanPiper featuring Gautam Balijepalli on our YouTube channel now!