Lockdown CEO Diaries: iD Fresh's CEO PC Musthafa used the lockdown to spend time with his parents in his hometown in Wayanad, Kerala while strengthening the firm’s revenues.
Lockdown CEO Diaries: It is said that entrepreneurs have a knack for turning adversities into opportunities and PC Musthafa, co-founder and CEO of packaged food company iD Fresh Food, did just that. He used the lockdown to spend time with his parents in his hometown in Wayanad, Kerala while strengthening the firm’s revenues.
Since the age of 15, he had been out of home, staying in college hostels or metro cities for work. “Normally I would spend only a couple of weeks in a year with my parents but last year was an anomaly. I spent most of my time with them in my hometown,” says Musthafa. He was visiting his parents when lockdown was announced and decided to stay on. While he got to enjoy the fresh air and his mother’s home-cooked food, working from home proved to be a challenge.
“Of course, the issues of working from home were plenty. But we managed,” says Musthafa. The dining table doubled up as an office table. His father’s sitting bench became an office chair. Emergency lights were used as spot lights. Another problem was office clothes. “Since I had gone there only for a few days, I had packed only t-shirts and no formal wear,” he says.
While the logistics got figured out eventually, it taught Musthafa an important business lesson: doing more with less. During the coronavirus lockdown, they decided to stop eight of their most profitable products to focus only on staple products.
“We were doing too many things but Covid made us go back to the fundamental question of why we exist: to simplify the cooking process with the availability of fresh, ready-to-cook products,” he says. Hence, they stopped their high-margin products such as their vada batter and focussed on producing staple products such as the idli and dosa batter, paneer and chapatis. “We took this call to best optimise the limited resources we had to help the customers in need of crisis,” he says.
The narrowing down of product lines actually sped up their business growth. “We doubled the growth this year as compared to last year. Last fiscal, we grew by 15 per cent, this year we are closing at 32 per cent growth,” he says. In fact, in FY 2020-2021, they sold a whopping 35 crore idlis, 10 crore parottas, 4.3 crore chapatis and 2 crore cups of coffee.
“While work happened and business grew, many new product launches that we had planned didn’t happen last year,” he says. Work from home has its benefits but research and innovation suffers. “Touch and feel is very integral to product development which gets completely missed in remote work,” he says. Their office has been now open for the last ten days and two product trials have already happened.
Given an option will Mustafa leverage work from home in the future?
He says working from home helped him realise the power of video-conferencing tools and cut down on unnecessary travel. “I used to travel a lot. Around 20 per cent of my time would go in travelling to the 45 cities we operate in. Now Zoom is my new flight and I meet my teams more often than before,” he says.