The Weekend Leader - Story of Aadarsh Choudhary, Harsh Kandoi and Pulkit Kejriwal of Santa Delivers, a startup from Kolkata

Quelling late night hunger is a Santa, who was born on a Christmas Day, but delivers food through the year

G Singh   |   Kolkata


Vol 7 | Issue 27

Three young graduates in Kolkata have built late-night hunger into a thriving business and have almost touched an annual turnover of rupees one crore in just a year and a half since they started their venture – Santa Delivers.

Aadarsh Choudhary, Harsh Kandoi and Pulkit Kejriwal from Kolkata, all in their twenties, launched this food tech startup to deliver food late at night when the rest of the city is asleep and the restaurants have called it a day.

Aadarsh Choudhary, Harsh Kandoi and Pulkit Kejriwal, childhood friends from Kolkata hold equal stakes in Santa Delivers (Photos: Monirul Islam Mullick)  

“The name of the start-up is perfectly akin to Santa who delivers gifts to children in the late night hours,” says Harsh, one of the co-founders.

Childhood friends from the same locality of Salt Lake City, all three co-founders studied in DPS Megacity School and later majored in commerce at college.

Aadarsh and Harsh are graduates of the 2013 and 2014 batches respectively of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, while Pulkit completed his graduation in 2014 from the Bhawanipur Education Society College, Kolkata.

The idea to start a night food service came to Aadarsh on a trip to Hyderabad in 2014.

“I didn’t do well in the Common Admission Test (CAT) examinations in 2013, so I went to Hyderabad the next year to prepare to reappear for the test. It was during my stay there that I came across a Bangalore-based start-up that delivered food during the night hours. I thought of launching a similar service in Kolkata,” says Aadarsh.

When he came back the same year, he discussed it with Harsh, who immediately liked the idea because there was no such service in Kolkata then.

Santa Delivers registers an average monthly sales of around Rs eight lakh 

Investment was forthcoming. The parents of each of the duo offered Rs 50,000 as initial investment. The money helped them buy a second-hand motorcycle for deliveries and print leaflets to publicise their initiative.

They wanted to try it out over a smaller catchment area first. “Initially, the plan was to outsource the food from a restaurant because we were not certain about the response,” says Harsh.

It was easier said than done. As the concept was totally new for the city, restaurant owners did not show any interest in a tie-up.

“They joked that the night was meant for sleeping and not for ordering food. We were losing hope when a restaurateur came to our rescue,” says Harsh. They tried the plan out with Goutam’s, a family restaurant in Salt Lake City.

Santa Delivers was finally launched on Christmas Day in 2014.

Unfortunately, there were no orders on the launch day because hardly anybody knew about it. Around 4 am, the next day the two young men went to a newspaper vendor in Karunamoyee, a populous locality in Salt Lake City, and handed him more than 10,000 leaflets for distribution.

“We stood there for three hours to ensure that the leaflets had been inserted properly in the newspapers,” says Aadarsh. “Then we ourselves went door-to-door in our locality to give out flyers. We had set up a Facebook page already.”

The first order came after two days of the launch.

Santa Delivers has a range of around 85 lip-smacking dishes for customers to choose from  

Within three days, Santa Delivers managed to serve around 20 orders with a total sales of Rs 10,000.

For the next ten to fifteen days, Santa Delivers received an average of 5-10 orders every day, “By the time a month of our collaboration with Goutam’s was over, we decided to set up our own kitchen based on the positive feedback from our customers,” says Aadarsh.

But they hardly had any profits to fund this. It was the parents to the rescue again with Rs 3 lakh each for renting a flat for kitchen space and to pay for five staff members – two chefs, two helpers and one delivery man.

Three months into the business, the two founders were facing a tricky situation: they had got into a two-year MBA at the prestigious Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai.

“It was a tough call to choose between studies and business,” says Harsh. “We had set up Santa Delivers with toil and sweat and didn’t want to let it go, but studies were equally important.”

After much discussion with their families, the two decided to go to Mumbai, but roped in another childhood friend, Pulkit Kejriwal, as the third partner. He pumped in Rs.1.5 lakh into the venture.

It was a seamless transfer of management. “We had studied in the same school and used to travel on the same school bus,” says Pulkit.

The three became partners with equal stake in the partnership firm they called Aahar Enterprise, under which the brand name Santa Delivers is registered.

By then, the orders to Santa Delivers had shot up to 300-350 a month. “Most of the orders are from students and families, for whom time is at a premium,” they say.

A major real boost came in October 2015 when the company got listed on food ordering sites such as Food Panda, Zomato and Swiggy, after the trio approached them. Santa Delivers now receives 1,800 orders per month online and through phone calls. They recently started taking orders for lunch as well and are soon going to have a mobile app for orders.

Harsh and Aadarsh now juggle their time between Mumbai and Kolkata, while Pulkit looks after the day-to-day business, the hours being 12 noon to 3 pm and then again from 5 pm to 3 am.

Santa Delivers, in a span of just a year and a half of its launch, has registered an average monthly sales of more than Rs eight lakh.

Santa Delivers operates with a team of 15 members including five delivery boys 

Currently, Santa Delivers is backed by 15 staff members including five delivery boys and offers services within a 15-kilometre radius in north Kolkata, mainly centred in Salt Lake, Laketown and Rajarhat.

They have 85 lip-smacking dishes on the menu, including everything from French fries to chicken skewers and malai koftas to drums of heaven, and a list of desserts, among others.

As packaging is an important ingredient of the food delivery business, the food is packed in high quality plastic boxes, with all the breads and beverages wrapped in double layer of foil. “We deliver the food smoking hot,” they say.

By next year, the threesome wants to expand their venture to south Kolkata, after Harsh and Aadarsh return full-time to their business post their MBA.

Consolidation is on in other ways too - in maintaining a satisfied customer base. “We make an effort to redress grievances promptly, and also seek random feedback from customers, to keep a check ton he quality and understand customer expectations,” says Pulkit.

Once they have made their mark on the whole of Kolkata, Aadarsh, Harsh and Pulkit are ready with more food for thought – and work. “After we cover Kolkata we plan to seek our initial angel funding to scale up extensively throughout the country,” they say.

Bon appétit to that!

This Article is Part of the 'Super Startups' Series 


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