Hari Menon is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in India today. He is the CEO and co-founder of BigBasket, one of the biggest online grocery stores in India which is headquartered in Bengaluru. A graduate of Bits Pilani, Hari has worked in several companies and gained a lot of experience before he decided to embark on his entrepreneurial journey. Keep reading to find out more about how Menon was able to shift from the corporate world and enter the entrepreneur’s world.
About Hari Menon
Born in Mumbai into a middle-class family, Hari Menon was always passionate about music and cricket. The young boy was also passionate about learning and educating himself for he graduated from Birla Institute of Technology and Science also known as Bits Pilani before he pursued MBA from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His educational qualifications also include an M.S degree in Industrial Engineering from Oklahoma State University. This shows his dedication towards educating himself and keep learning and pushing himself to achieve better. He always wanted to do something different and had an urge to experiment and try new things.
So after pursuing his education Hari started his career as a software engineer but jumped a lot of jobs to find himself, experiment, and try new things. Before starting his entrepreneurial journey, Menon served as the CEO of India Skills, a joint vocational training venture between Manipal Group and City and Guilds, UK. Apart from India Skills he also served as the CEO for various other companies like Tumri, Serus Corporation, and Timeli.
But the feeling of doing something unique and experimenting with jobs never went away so he decided to start his entrepreneurial journey with Fabmart and Fabmall in 1999.
The Journey of Fabmart and Fabmall
Menon kicked off his entrepreneurial journey with 4 other partners VS Sudhakar, Vipul Parekh, Abhinay Choudhari, and V S Ramesh. They launched an online platform called Fabmart which performed similar functions that Flipkart performs today. But during that time, India was still growing and with a lack of digitalization and lack of trust for digital wallets and payments, the platform was unsuccessful in attracting customers and gaining momentum. The startup was hence a failure but that didn’t stop him and his partners from pursuing their dreams as they next launched Fabmall, a physical version of Fabmart.
Fabmall was an integrated online-to-offline retail company. Menon and his partners merged their chain with another grocery retail chain called “Trinethra” and gained a positive massive response. This startup clicked well and they soon expanded into the markets of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka with about 300 stores. However, they decided to sell this business off to Aditya Birla Group.
Menon was never the person to give up and always believed in pushing himself ahead and moving forwards. So, after the success of Fabmall, Menon had gained a lot of confidence and had decided to give the original idea of an online grocery store another shot. He along with his partners decided to launch BigBasket in 2011 and the startup finally kicked off at the right foot.
BigBasket was co-founded by Abhinay Choudhari, Hari Menon, Vipul Parekh, and VS Sudhakar in October, 2011. The platform is currently India’s largest online supermarket and delivers the entire range of groceries. They have a wide range of household products in around twenty-five cities in India. But the success didn’t come easy. During the initial days of operation, the only form of advertising they were able to do was through word of mouth and their biggest challenge was to maintain a capacity and build a customer demand.
Soon the startup saw a new light and was able to gain a growth rate of 25%-30% along with 60%-70% customers returning per month to repurchase groceries. They were able to do this due to their strong dedication and hard work towards achieving their dreams. Menon was convinced to make this startup work and build strong strategies revolving around customer satisfaction and ensured a good quality of products and service to attract them and encourage them to spread the word about the startup. Most of the new customers came through referrals which showed that the customers were satisfied with their service and were spreading word-of-mouth. And soon his efforts resulted in the new momentum, and the startup was able to secure its first funding of about $10 Million from ChrysCapital and Ascent Capital.
What entrepreneurs should learn from Menon’s story
As previously stated, Menon is the kind of person who never gives up. He has always pushed himself to learn and do better and continues to do so. During the initial days of BigBasket, he had set up a training and innovation function to increase the skills of his labor force and make sure that the customers were satisfied. This was one of the main reasons for the success of BigBasket.
Menon continues to put the customers at the front and develops strategies around them. According to him the customers are the most important stakeholders of a business especially a one like BigBasket and so transparency and communication with them is extremely important. Along with the customers, he also concentrates on his employees and said that during lockdown last year, he was constantly in contact with both the stakeholders to encourage them and lift their spirits during the weird times.
Menon is truly the epitome of inspiration and his passion to keep going and never give up is something that all entrepreneurs should adapt to in today’s world if they want to be successful.