Biryani360-how it all began

Biryani is one of the most loved dish in India and has inspired the creation of many statups but ‘Biryani360’ is here to change how people look at biryani and especially how they cook.Today we are in conversation with Mr.Shayan Ilalia the founder of this mumbai based super premium, gourmet Biryani delivery service.So lets see how he plans to tinkle your taste buds.

Tell us a little bit about your startup.

Biryani360 is Mumbai’s first ever 100% online, super premium, gourmet Biryani only delivery service. We launched in Mumbai on 01 March 2015 via our state-of the-art Michelin-grade kitchen situated just 2 min from Bandra station. Through our tasting sessions which constituted over 1,000 people (everyone from foodies to the press and blogger communities), we have managed to secure feedback which has helped us create the best possible product for the marketplace using the latest of technologies and methodologies in food. We are also, currently, the highest rated Biryani on Zomato

What inspired the creation of it and how did you come up with the name BIRYANI360?

An outright Parsi at heart, I have always loved food and was introduced to ‘world cuisine’ at a very young age. Although I know nothing about cooking, I have dined at some of the best restaurant the world has to offer. The fact that I was born and bred in Hyderabad, led me to experience an array of local multi-cuisine, including the holy grail of Mughlai Cuisine – Biryani.

I moved to London later and at one of our evenings, remember having a conversation with my brother of why the city needed a midnight Biryani place that would cater to the owls of night.

Fast forward to a few years, in Mumbai, I am going back to where it all began: A musician and songwriter at heart, I have always loved dabbling with creatives. For instance, I remember distinctly creating a fun animated 1min video about the launch of a new Biryani place. The video introduces two quirky characters, who profess their love for each other over Biryani. I showed it to my techie friend, who instantly fell in love with the concept of the venture. Later that day we met a renowned food-expert who too, fell in love with the concept. He announced that he wouldn’t mind placing an order for the Biryani. Others in the room echoed his sentiments. They all fell in love with the characters and announced that they wanted to buy the Biryani. Umm, the worst part, there was NO Biryani or Biryani place called Biryani360 at the time!!!  It only existed in myth; the characters were real though 😉

What I learnt that day was that there was a market in Mumbai that was never really tapped. We were looking at selling Biryani, which could be ordered in through a few clicks of a button.

Our name and concept was entirely experimental, but my team and I believe there was something special here and so the journey of Biryani360 began.

What is your target audience and how do you reach them?
 In the months prior to our launch, we’ve been running tasting sessions in Bandra West to the tune of about 12 people a session. In one of our sessions we had a large margin being older people (over 50’s), which was amazing. We even had two ladies with walking sticks. It was such a pleasure to be part of that session. They gave us invaluable wisdom, feedback and even left a review too on Zomato! Now this to me is NEW INDIA. Our entire ethos within Biryani360 is to look at the facts and make informed decisions. So let’s not discriminate or compartmentalize. What we have going for us is that we’ve got a universally appealing quirky and fun brand that everyone from a 5yr old to a 95 yr old is being exposed to and potentially loving the same. If you love Biryani, then we’re worth a try, is what we say! Are we the best? Probably not! Are we the most different and memorable? ABSOLUTELY!

If you have strong preconceived notions of Biryani (i.e. Veg Biryani is a pulao, Veg Biryani can never be more expensive than Non Veg, NonVeg must be Mutton, bla de bla), you’re probably going to hate us so look the other way and by all means head over to your local biryani joint and binge away J.

Having said this, yes we are looking a wide gamut of audiences ranging from corporates to housewives. We have also been receiving party orders.  

We can tell you this. In the first month, we’ve processed 1,033 orders of which 54 have been rejected. That’s a pretty good ratio and a decent start.

How difficult was it to start your venture?

Being born in this country, I have been denied a low interest loan in India against a property I own with no loans against it, which is truly bizarre. My brother is an NRI. I have the highest credit score, no loans to my name and can afford the monthly payments, but because my brother is an NRI we don’t get the same privilege as Indian Citizen. So I’ve had to take a business loan at a staggering 18% to run the business which gave me a miniscule amount in hand too due to the max cap of the loan amount. If I was abroad, almost all banks would be more than happy to give me a loan at the best interest rates available. 

A few VC’s have approached me for funding, (primarily after seeing press coverage and how the press has positioned us in the market). I’m currently in talks with them. Let’s see how things unfold.

QUALITY is everything. QUANTITY means nothing and HUMOUR is instilled into our very existence.

What problem does your company solve?

Most press critiques who have reviewed us have complimented us on our focus on freshness and the health aspects of our biryanis as well as our UX for packaging. As a gourmet Biryani brand, we are here to showcase the market for food which is healthy, also giving everyone a wake-up call when it comes to defining ourselves. People believe that if a Biryani has to be tasty, it must be oily. With us, that is not the case. At our reviews, we have had our patrons tell us how they found absolutely no oil at the bottom of their plates. Maybe through Biryani360, we are able to shatter myths and common preconceived perceptions about Biryani. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post on this very subject that became quite popular. 

 Who are the founders and key team members?

This concept is my own. I am the Founder and CEO of Biryani360. I work closely with my branding and marketing personnel who are in charge of PR and external communication. In total we are a team of 23 people including Kitchen Staff and Delivery. It is a system created to military command. Of the 1,033 orders processed so far we’ve bungled up 3 orders, forgotten 1 due to a technical glitch in our system and have had 7 orders turn up late due to incredible amounts of road works and train delays on a Sunday. We deliver all over Mumbai from Cuffe Parade to Borivali. Our statistics are highly impressive and showcase we really have a reliant system!


What relevant domain experience do they have?Sessions-By-Biryani360

None. But experience also let’s you think one dimensionally. We want to think 3 dimensionally, to falter, to fall, to rise and challenge new ways of entering the market, the industry and take it by storm. Our very foundation is doing things and taking roads no one has ever done before. That’s what makes Biryani360 so special as a brand and has got everyone talking in a very short span. And what we’re doing next is going to blow anything out of the water completely. Stay tuned.

 How many hours a week do you spend on work?  What about family/hobbies?

I don’t believe this is work. For the moment I’m loving it. It’s also so hot that I’m losing all my weight in the office and keeping fit in between. We have a healthy working environment where there is a lot of friendly banter in the kitchen and people get 3 hours in between rest time to regenerate for the evening! I am at the kitchen from 10 am to 3pm and then 6pm or so to 10 pm. In the middle of business, I usually focus on working out at the gym and doing my chores, meeting family etc. This helps me relax my body and mind. Music is like a blissful retreat to me. Being a songwriter and a creative personality, I spend my time writing my own songs, reading on lots of technology and how to improve the business model and sharing ideas with friends and cousins. My family is the best sounding board for me as they are diverse, come from successful backgrounds and understand different personalities and how people think! Nothing in our plan is perfect. Every day we evolve and improve the engine!

Why do you think this company can beat the competition?

The entire brand originated by accident, the entire recipe is  not referenced and the entire methodology of creating the recipe is unique and original and can never be replicated if you don’t know how it’s made. I believe that as a brand we are not here to copy anyone else too. We have clear vision and differentiation and therefore everything we do is unique. We are here to create and establish a sizeable market for those seeking gourmet food options. We would be thrilled if other foodie entrepreneurs start their own gourmet delivery experiences for patrons. This sector is right now very hot. But its also chaotic. There can only be a handful of alphas.

Have you been in a failed start-up before?  Why did it fail?  what would you do differently?

Biryani360 is my first ever venture. There is nothing known as failure, its only opportunity and experience to learn from and try again. Was Thomas Edison a failure when he tried for 200 times to create the light bulb?

Who is your role model?
 My brother probably. Only because he’s practically raised me after my parents passed away, seen me through every high and low and still has a super amount of energy towards whatever I do. We’re not millionaires, form humble beginnings, but what I have in life; having seen the lives of many millionaires and billionaires, is far more I can tell you. The only thing missing is a strong purpose, some travel, a little love/romance and I’m sorted. Ha ha! The world’s my oyster. Just need a little financial push and Biryani360 will go places like no one could ever dream of! 

What is your advice to young entrepreneurs starting today?

The key to being successful is to focus on creating something that is not available. If the idea is great, nothing can stop you from ensuring it takes wings. Yes, it goes without saying that hard-work is the key, but it is also essential to ensure that the right amount of energies is necessary, nothing more, nothing less.  Energy is 80%. If you don’t have it, stick to your job! Lastly I live by a published saying of mine: “If someone tells you something cannot be done; it’s just their way of saying they cannot do it”.

How supportive were your family and friends when you decided to start your own venture ?

My family is very open minded and very supportive of everything I do. My Mum and Dad taught us both brothers very well for the short time they were in our lives. No regrets. It’s a great life and its only going to get better. The worst is behind us…on with the show!!!

Where do you see yourself and your venture 5 years from now, any traction or milestone you have achieved till now ?

If I get the funding I require I think Biryani360 can become one of the most loved and respectable food brands nation wide. I do everything by the book and can’t even lie to save my life. I have a distinct goal and know how to get there and am evolving every day. It’s going to be an awesome journey and there’s no way we’re not going to succeed as our foundation and principles are rock solid! One life. Live it!


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