In just months into lockdown, Dhruv Dewan and the other two co-founders launched Thrive in August 2020. Startups and unicorns have been the buzzwords for some years now, and needless to say, this decade has been the decade for startups.
Thrive, co-founded by Dhruv Dewan, is an online food ordering system for restaurants to accept orders directly from their customers.
Here’s Icy Tales in conversation with Dhruv Dewan
Q) ‘Thrive Now’ was launched in August 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic. How was the experience of transforming your idea into reality, how challenging was it?
Dhruv Dewan- Our product is a pandemic baby, so we reacted to the pandemic. We launched a new company, and our earlier product, Hashtag Loyalty, provided a marketing solution for offline retailers. We are doing very well, and we are thriving.
Our revenues were down to zero in March, April, May when the lockdown was suddenly announced. And that’s when we felt we needed to go back to the drawing board and launch a new solution. We launched a campaign called ‘Save Local’ where we were selling gift cards for our merchants to generate revenue. We raised about 25 lakh rupees in about a month, which helped our clients and partners with cash flow.
Beyond that, we realized that times are changing for good or bad so we need a new company, face & product. So that’s when we launched Thrive. It’s in line with digital adoption across industries, so the product is piggybacking on the theme & since then, we have expanded, added a lot of services & features.
Q) The pandemic has changed the course of many lives and businesses. How has it impacted you, personally and professionally?
Dhruv Dewan- In the first six months, like all other professionals, we were highly impacted. We had to dig deep and figure out how can we continue to scale and grow rather than sustain or die because that was something we didn’t want to do.
It was very challenging, and I don’t deny that. We are lucky to have a strong set of team members and a good group of core members in our team regarding management & leadership. We are fortunate to have been backed by investors who believe in us, and a culmination of everyone’s effort is what helped us kickstart.
Every quarter or every year, we realize that there is still a bigger challenge ahead. Pandemic or no pandemic, I think beyond a point to scale an organization is difficult. We are at that juncture right now where we work probably two times what we worked pre-covid.
I think the challenges don’t stop. The pandemic has been an accelerator, not a burden; that’s how I see it. Because it pushed our team, our brand, towards adoption and taking risks, that may have never happened. So it’s just one way of seeing it, as to how it had a positive impact.
I’m privileged not to have lost anyone close to me, I am happy about it, and I think I have coped well and spent a lot of my time with my family.
Q) There is a never-ending competition around food service and delivery. How does Thrive Now aim to set apart from other companies with the same goal?
Dhruv Dewan- There is a lot of competition when the market is very big. The way we see it is, even today, only about 10-15% of the market that we cater to has adopted the product, whether it’s with us or with our competition.
As a country, we are still very nascent in adopting digital. I’m talking about unorganized in Tier II, III, IV, and V cities. There is a very big market to cater to, and as a whole, the market is only growing. So from that perspective, I feel that it is better to build for a very large market, it allows you to create a very big platform, and that’s something we want to do.
I am not worried about the competition at this point. I think we either have competition that is too large or too small; we are somewhere in the middle right now. We are all educating the market. According to me, there is enough room for everybody. If our products, services, support, and everything improve, we will gain a higher portion of that market share.
I think probably five years down the line, someone may have to evaluate competition before starting when there is some saturation. But it is very early right now; we are still defining the market.
Q) As we see the ongoing culture of startups, do you think it is better than a 9-5 job, or it has its share of challenges?
Dhruv Dewan- I think people should do what they want. It’s a very personal decision; there is nothing better. Everyone has priorities and understands how aggressive they want to be with their work, lifestyle, the kind of work-life balance they want. I think those who force their decision upon themselves will not be happy whether they are entrepreneurs or working somewhere. The responsibility and ownership are there irrespective of where you are.
Don’t take a risk if you cannot. Starting something at scale can be capital intensive and a financial burden, so I would say only take that risk if you have an alternate source of income or you can manage both things side by side. I’m not a big fan of everyone becoming an entrepreneur. I think there is always a right time, age, product.
Eventually, I feel that you should try and solve big problems. If you want to manage a million-dollar company, you have to take up very big issues. You can solve them in different ways. There are enough materials and resources out there that can help you solve a big problem and that’s the market we are in.
Q) As an entrepreneur, you are inspiring many to take up risks and live their dreams. Any advice you would like to give someone who wishes to venture into entrepreneurship?
Dhruv Dewan- The best advice I can give is to put a price on what you are doing and start selling your product as if it was there, even when thinking about an idea. It could be an Instagram page or a website, and you will get the likelihood of people wanting to pay and adopting your product. I think sales is the biggest sort of validation, so doing that early before going all in.
Q) What do you enjoy the most about running a company of your own?
Dhruv Dewan- I don’t have any boring days. Sometimes I crave a relaxing day where I don’t have to make any decisions. That doesn’t happen. But I like that, that’s the thrill I enjoy. It is the thrill around the growth that we have that is what keeps me going.
Q) So there would have been a journey full of ups & downs behind all your success, could you tell us something about your journey?
Dhruv Dewan- My journey has been exciting. I started in 2015 with my first venture, and like most entrepreneurs, I was solving the wrong problem for the wrong market in the wrong way. We were still backed by an accelerator, incubator, got clients on paper, and everything was doing well. But as we spent more time, we realized that our dreams were far bigger than this. So at that point, we made our first set of changes in our journey to see how can we solve the same problem but for a bigger market.
Then the next couple of years was interesting. From 2016-18 there was a lot of learning, and we were trying to get scale ready, figuring out how to become a global platform, which is what we were edging towards.
In 2019, as part of my journey, I stumbled upon a SaaS accelerator called Upekkha, spent a lot of time with the founders there, with different cohorts, came to realize a lot of other mistakes that we have been making in terms of our thinking. That I felt in my mindset was sort of a turning point.
At the end of 2019, we were ready to go back again in the market with the new offering. Then the pandemic hit, and I think at that point so many learnings, failures we had that it felt like the right time to launch a new company and have a fresh start.
Before this, I was working, the experience was great. But the experience was great, I was working with great people, but I wasn’t progressing at a fast enough rate for me. But I think I came to realize what I don’t want rather than what I want.