360 Pivot: How Covid-19 disrupted then propelled YHANGRY
YHANGRY is a London-based startup providing private chefs for social get-togethers at home. We launched our beta website in May 2019, when Siddhi Mittal and I were still working on the trading floor at Barclays in Canary Wharf. We were 10 months into our startup journey when COVD-19 brought our business to a grinding halt.
Having spent Lunar New Year with family in China, I was surprised at the ‘laisser faire’ attitude upon my arrival back in London at the end of January. Having left in a DIY hazmat suit expecting to get thoroughly tested, and potentially denied access after landing, all I ended up getting is discriminating stares. Due to the mask I was wearing. Or due to racial profiling of East Asians. A quick A/B test (removing the face mask) demonstrated that the disdainful stares didn’t go away and people still made more space than usual walking around me. Being petite and quite used to getting pushed around having more personal space was actually pleasantly refreshing, if not for discriminatory reasons.
We initially experienced a mini explosion of private chef requests beginning of March as Londoner’s became more cautious and looked for alternatives to going out. However 90% of these bookings ended up falling through because of one reason: guests started cancelling on short notice with the increased focus on hourly updates to the global death toll.
Meanwhile on the chef front we experienced an explosion of calls/emails/texts from talented chefs who were desperately looking for jobs. The first wave of chefs were freelancers working with large catering businesses specialising in big corporate events and weddings. The next wave was laid off chefs as restaurants laid off staff with lower footfall in restaurants starting from February.
I moved in with Siddhi for lockdown and together we went back to the drawing board to find new ways of generating revenue to keep our business afloat and be able to provide our chefs with income when during a time of need.
Test balloons were mentioned by Rachel Carroll, CEO & Founder of Koru Kids, during a webinar hosted by Microsoft and Sifted. After re-thinking our business model, determining our lockdown north star and conducting scenario analyses, our test balloons were the following:
1) Daily ‘insta live’ cooking demos with our chefs or influencers
2) Private virtual cooking classes with our chefs - EXCLUSIVE zoom cooking classes with friends/family locked down in other households. Around the world. As an interactive way to hang out/have a dinner party virtually
3) YHANGRY Delivered: batch cooking for when the initial cooking excitement wears off and fatigue sets in. Which in our eyes was just a matter of time. Can’t take the convenience nature out of this generation! And artisanal chef made picnic deliveries once lockdown rules would be eased and many would take to the parks and gardens to enjoy the record weather
Results: We generated revenue. We helped our chefs. We provided some subjectively entertaining content for our ‘insta live’ audience. And most importantly, we raised awareness as a brand, translating into a record number of bookings now that social gatherings are allowed again.
This confirms the statistics we took into consideration when conducting our scenario analysis for the post-COVID-19 new normal: increased appreciation for home after record home decor expenditures during lockdown. Increased appreciation by quarantine chefs for home cooked food and the effort required.
Although our physical private chefs at home service has come back with a bang, pivoting to virtual experiences and food deliveries unlocked lasting revenue channels, diversifying our business at an early stage, putting us on a more resilient path for future growth.