Kinjal Popat had everything going for her; a job of her choice, a great career and regular holidays to prime destinations. The pursuit of cooking however, exposed Kinjal to a whole new world; one of recipes and social media and sharing and bloggers and what have you. Keen to explore just how deep the rabbit hole went, Kinjal ended up learning coding, building a site and ultimately creating a tool for cooks and food bloggers that would allow them to extend the scope of their skills, regardless of where they lived. Kinjal talks of her journey with Suchitra Iyer.
Suchitra Iyer: We believe you’re a passionate cook. Where did this interest begin?
Kinjal Popat: Well, the interest in cooking started late for me. I became interested in cooking after getting married. Being a Gujarati married to a South Indian was like a 2 states story! I was exposed to a plethora of south Indian recipes too. I loved all the dishes that my mother in law cooked for us and I wanted to continue making them. So I started to learn cooking south Indian dishes from my mother in law.
We also moved to US immediately after getting married and so began calls to India for recipes from Mom in law and Mom. Due to the time difference it was not always feasible to call home for recipes. This is when Google came to the rescue. I used to google for recipes and discover amazing recipes from food bloggers who passionately shared authentic as well as fusion recipes. All those bloggers were and are a great inspiration to me and they are the ones who really got me cooking.
SI: What is the basic notion behind ItsPotLuck?
KP: ITSPOTLUCK as the name sounds, is a platform for foodies to share everything related to food. You can share or view recipes and photos of food, which we call the Pic’ed section on our site. Plus visitors can also watch and share Recipes.
From a content perspective, we are a recipe discovery platform where we have foodies who inspire each other and share their authentic and innovative recipes. Their cooking skills and passion build our strong, influential foodie community. Being a leader among such websites and mobile apps, we plan to also empower foodies who are not very tech savvy, to showcase their cooking skills by sharing their recipes on ITSPOTLUCK and also provide a marketplace for them to sell home cooked food via our user friendly mobile app. This is the first step towards the commercial focus of ITSPOTLUCK.
In short we are a platform for content, commerce and conversation for the food industry.
SI: How did the idea come about and how was it received internally?
KP: While trying the recipes from Google I encountered the issue of remembering which recipe I had followed and which new ones to try and who the blogger was and so on. Subsequently, I thought there has to be a platform that brings them all together.
That’s when I came up with the idea of building a unique foodie platform with ITSPOTLUCK. To help test the concept I wanted to quickly build a prototype to give it a try. During the night time I learnt how to code and during daytime, at work I, was making list of all the bloggers out there who I would love to have on-board. Coding at night, I began to gradually build the first prototype.
Once I completed making the prototype, I monitored how the site was performing and how it could not only help bring all foodie communities together but could also provide other capabilities for foodies and viewers trying their recipes. So after the prototype was successful, we decided to hire a software developer to build a formal website and mobile apps for ITSPOTLUCK. Its been exciting since then! We now have more than 38,000 recipes shared by all our foodies. And I have also quit my full-time job to focus on ITSPOTLUCK.
SI: Every start-up has its own share of challenges. What are yours?
KP: Well, challenges are part of learning. As we keep moving we will face challenges and we also learn to overcome them. The biggest challenge I faced was to build a platform as per my vision and incorporate learnings along the way. It was also starting to get challenging having a full-time job and managing my household and yet stay focused on my start-up. So one fine day, surprising everyone, I decided to quit my job and work on building ITSPOTLUCK full-time.
SI: Now that you’ve launched, how have your consumers responded?
KP: We have a great response from the food blogger community and also non-bloggers along with celebrity chefs. The non-bloggers love that they can share their recipes and food photos easily via ITSPOTLUCK mobile app and create their food blog for free without any hassle. On ITSPOTLUCK they make their collection of recipes and then they share their recipes on social networks. This helps boost their confidence to match their tech savvy friends and also keeps their recipe collections growing. We have foodies whose recipes are now in the hundreds, like this foodie profile.
Being a unique platform, we believe food bloggers noticed that aspect of ITSPOTLUCK and joined our growing network of food bloggers. Finding other food blogger friends who are already on the platform also helps encourage people to be a part of our platform. We do get feedback from food bloggers when we feature their recipes and also receive suggestion from food bloggers on how the platform should help them as well as the whole foodie community.
Our FellowFoodie interviews are very popular among the foodie community. We love to know more about every foodie and help spread their inspiration through their personal stories and tips that might not be reflected in their food posts.
SI: How do you plan to expand the scope of ItsPotLuck?
KP: To reach the vision for ITSPOTLUCK in becoming the social platform for food content, commerce and conversations, we will gradually add features and services to our website and mobile app.
We already have content, which comprises recipes from food bloggers and recipes posted by non-bloggers. For the commerce part of things we have started with providing a marketplace for home cooks to sell their home cooked food. This was an ask that our foodies wanted, to have the option to eat healthy home cooked food from foodies on the platform. So we added the service to order home cooked from home cooks in different local areas. Currently the pilot is running in Ahmedabad in India.
We are working with brands in India and abroad, helping them to increase their reach via our foodies network by conducting various activities along with online recipe contests. To increase engagement and conversations on our platform we are coming up with some awesome social features soon. Stay tuned for that. We are looking for feedback and suggestions for our platform. Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time at all!
SI: Quality and consistency are always perceived as issues with ventures like yours. How does ItsPotLuck handle this tricky area?
KP: We scrutinise every recipe posted by non-bloggers and every food blog that is registered goes through an approval process. The goal of ITSPOTLUCK is to provide a platform to all foodies so we do not approve or disapprove a post because of poor quality images or poor content. The foodies want to showcase their talent and passion for food by learning from each other. We acknowledge that and encourage amateur cooks to also post their recipes.
SI: Some ventures similar to yours claim to deliver Michelin starred food. What’s your claim to fame?
KP: We are not into food delivery. One of our goals is to provide commerce to passionate home cooks. This we enable by providing a marketplace to home cooks. We want to empower home cooks by providing them with a marketplace and we are not targeted at the restaurant industry.
SI: Does ItsPotLuck follow a uniform pricing model or are different offerings from different sources priced differently?
KP: The dishes offered on our marketplace have the price set by the cooks themselves. In some cases our cooks deliver their food and in some cases we provide delivery by connecting them with third party food delivery teams. Currently we are working on defining the right business model for our marketplace. As of now we are running this pilot in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India.
SI: Do you think ItsPotLuck would be different if it weren’t the brainchild of a foodie? How?
KP: Certainly it would have been different. Looking from a perspective of a foodie and a non foodie makes a difference from passion to execution. Having experienced the needs from a recipe viewer’s perspective as well as a blogger’s perspective brings out that aspect of the community and not just a technical solution to a problem.
That said I would like to invite everyone to check www.itspotluck.com today and share some of their awesome recipes. Whether you are a home cook or homemaker anywhere in the world, you can register and offer your products. Let’s Celebrate Food.
And lastly don’t forget to participate in our latest recipe contest themed “Mothers Day/Heirloom recipes”. Click here for details.