We are glad we have Avinash Maurya to share with us about his venture Maarewa. More than any of our interview to date, this discussion brings to life the things that people can appreciate and relate to easily. Someone said, Entrepreneurship isn’t a designation-its a way of life. We hope you find this interview as inspiring as we do.
Avinash (and maa rewa) celebrated Maha Shivratri this year in Varanasi. He answered our questions during the journey and shared with us some snaps he clicked. You will find them as he answers!
Satyam: Hi Avinash and welcome. We have been hearing about MaaRewa lately. What is it about?
Avinash: Hey, Satyam! Thanks for having me. Yes, I’m really excited about the prospects of maa rewa. The aim of maa rewa is to celebrate the food culture of India, the epitome of which is our street food. So, it’s meant to be a guide to as many eateries as possible in India and a place to talk about them. Ultimately we believe it’ll become a social network around Indian food.
Satyam: That’s great! What’s the process of adding an eatery on maarewa? Is it a lengthy/ time consuming process?
Avinash: Sign in with any one of your existing logins (gmail/ facebook/ twitter) and add some necessary details about the eatery… thats all. The whole process will hardly consume 5 mins. An important point to rememeber is it’s not at all mandatory to have all the details or a photo. In fact, the right way is to do it is, to create an eatery with the info you have and tell your friends about it, so that they’ll add the details that you missed. We are working continuously to make the experience of adding an eatery even more seamless.
Satyam: How did you get the idea? Whats the story behind the name maarewa?
Avinash: Well, the idea came at a time when I was looking for something exciting to work on. One evening a friend of mine called me to share the experience of his first visit to Indore. During the conversation he mentioned how he had to call up one of his local friends to find decent and easy-on-the-pocket places to eat. He went on to say a lot more, but my mind had started to connect the dots by then. I told him the idea right then – curating all the eateries (big and small) of India. After the call all I could think of was how to make this work. As I went deeper into the idea I realised that no single individual or corporation can accomplish this herculean task. The excitement grew when I thought, why not let every Indian be part of it. Next day, when I shared this idea with one of my other friends (who is one of the three people behind maarewa), another layer got added to the story. He suggested having conversations via social media around each eatery that gets added.
The story of the name happened after a long gap. It took some time for the idea to take a shape. Meanwhile, I had got highly inspired by the earthiness of the music band Indian Ocean. I had heard their songs during my undergrad days but maybe because my ears had not matured for that kind of music, I couldn’t really appreciate it then. But during the last year, I had immersed myself in the music of the band. “Leaving Home – The Life and Music of Indian Ocean”, a documentary by Jaideep Varma helped me connect with the band members and I discovered the whole philosophy behind the band Indian Ocean and the music they make. A lot of names for the website were floating around during those days. But none of them represented the earthy and Indian characteristics that I wanted. The process of rejection continued for many days until one day I thought of checking the domain name availability of the songs by Indian Ocean. Kandisa was taken, so was marewa. Added another ‘a’ to the spelling and found the name was not taken. maarewa fitted the philisophy behind the idea very well. Maa means mother and rewa means narmada river. Its a tribal song to worship the river Narmada which lauds selfless service. I said to myself- This is it!
Satyam: Indeed, Indian Ocean music is great and their documentary ‘Leaving Home’ is one awesome watch. I remember watching it together when we met last.
Since it’s the consumers who create and consume content here; little different from how conventional businesses work. What kind of audience do you target and how?
Avinash: The diversity of the food culture in our societies is inherited by every Indian. So, everyone is a part of this celebration. Our doors are open for anyone to join and spread his or her discovery of taste. Since sharing this joy is made even more easier by Social Media, we plan to make use of that tool too.
Satyam: In what ways is it different from Zomato, Burrp and other such websites?
Avinash: maa rewa is a people platform. It’s where,
People share their favourite eateries with other people.
People contribute in making other people’s experience even better by continuous edits on eateries.
People make use of already existing tools to have conversations around each eatery.
Satyam: That’s a Huge Difference! By the way do you need technical background to start an online business? Did you hire skilled manpower or outsourced it?
Avinash: This reminds me of something that happened to me 5-6 months back in Bangalore. I was surfing in a cyber-cafe at Indiranagar. Suddenly, an exhausted middle aged women rushed into the cafe and began asking everyone there if they were on Facebook. I noticed her disturbing the peace and immediately pretended to be busy, hoping she would avoid me. But it was not to be. She came and asked me the same question. I looked up and reluctantly answered her, “Yes”. That began a wonderful conversation that revealed her story. Ever since the time of the dot-com bubble burst she had dreamed of creating an e-commerce website of her own. However, until about 6 months back she had never been able make the most of her life due to certain circumstances. Since early 2011, she had dedicated herself to studying about ‘How to create a website?’ and executing it. It was only a few hours ago that she had made her website live. She wanted to achieve 25 Likes to get a permanent url for her website’s facebook page.
So, having technical knowledge is not absolutely necessary. A vision of what you have to do is the indispensable part. Nowadays, the proliferation of APIs and third party systems has made creating a website more like making a Bhelpuri. Mix the readily available ingredients according to your taste and its done. An even better option is to make geeks your friend 🙂
Satyam: How does an online business like yours get exposure? Most entrepreneurs focus primarily on the product and do not realize until it’s too late that marketing and sales are hard.
Avinash: We believe if you are providing real value, now there is more chance than ever to get noticed. Since our content is completely user generated, it’s very important to spread word about the site. So, now we see both of these- focusing on improving the user experience and features of the site and giving it publicity- with equal priority. We plan to do this at different levels and via multiple channels.
Satyam: Is there any way an entrepreneur could validate his idea before starting? Most are afraid they will fail so they never start.
Avinash: Really good question, Satyam! I believe, the bigger the failure more is the learning. So, as soon as you have your own validation of the idea, the best way forward would be to give it shape. Execute it and do not wait for a perfect moment. While maa rewa was shaping up, I asked Jimmy Wales on twitter, how many articles did wikipedia have on its day one. He replied, “None. Wikipedia went live as soon as the software was ready.” That answers so many questions, doesn’t it?
Satyam: Was maarewa in your mind when you dropped out of your B School? What was your state of mind when you dropped out?
Avinash: Nope. I had no solid ground to land on at the time of dropping out. I didn’t even have plans to make one for myself in the near future. But one thing I was absolutely sure of at that time- and that was- what I didn’t want to do. Dropping out was the first decision in my life that I took for myself, the consequences of which I was willing to face. Never before in my life had I felt so aware of myself.
I didnt have anything against MBA. Only while pursuing it did I realise that it was not for me. I was like a surfer, who keeps trying to balance himself on the volatile surface beneath his feet. Embracing change, being in the moment and trusting himself to live through it.
Satyam: Future plans for Maarewa!
Avinash: There will always be only one future plan for maarewa and that is, to practice this: Connect -> Listen -> Respond.
Satyam: Any message for would-be entrepreneurs?
Avinash: Keep doing different things that interest you in life. It’s absolutely fine to do things, completely or incompletely, and put them on shelf. If you allow serendipity a space in your life, you will be surprised to see how these dots connect later.
That’s well said Avinash. Thanks a ton for taking out time to answer our questions, hope this will motivate our readers. I hope we shall meet over a conversation soon again when maarewa achieves what it aims to. All the best.
If our readers have any questions for Avinash and curious about maarewa or if we left out on something important, you can ask them in the comments section.