India’s passion towards food and eating out is unquestionable. More so, when it comes to Ahmedabad, where eating out is almost a ritual. The market for food services is predicted to be at $50b showing a growth rate at 16-20% every year. In a blooming market for conventional food start-ups, consumers are spoiled for choices, which often confuses them about which restaurant to pick.
Just in time, the savior was born – Foodaholics in Ahmedabad (FIA). With a massive membership of 28,000+, FIA is Ahmedabad’s biggest platform on Facebook for people interested in discussing food – Recipe to restaurant suggestion to sharing one’s preparation at home. Nikita Dudani and Saloni Gandhi caught up with Rohan and Esha for a conversation.
“We were having a discussion with friends about food. We had no idea where it would lead too”, says Esha Shah, who founded FIA with Rohan Bhatt. The duo made a Facebook group to facilitate food discussions. To what began with 200 mutual friends, added at random, has now grown into practically every Amdavadi’s must-read group before hopping into a new restaurant.
“We made the group so we could talk and understand about food at deeper level and communicate with others. If you see our initial posts, they were very casual”, says Rohan.
Rohan and Esha were managing Goodies restaurant when they started FIA in 2012.
“We were super busy back then. Once we had some time, we became active on this group and then nothing stopped it from growing year after year”, says Esha.
“We hardly had 13 people in our first meet at Municipal Market to eat food. We discussed about food and realized how everyone interprets food in their own way. Some just eat food for the sake of it, while, some venture into tiniest details”, adds Rohan. After surprising hit of Foodaholics in Ahmedabad, the founders made sure they set high benchmark for the content quality.
Rohan is currently a partner at No Mad Baker, while Esha is a corporate trainer. Despite their busy schedule, they ensure to curate the discussions personally.
“We check for the content very strictly, since Facebook is an open platform. We don’t add people without a profile picture or those who have a profile not older than 1 year. We want to have only genuine food lovers and hence we avoid any chances of spams”, says Esha. In an open forum one bad experience can also ruin one’s business badly. “We discourage unflattering comments as much as we can”, Esha adds.
Esha and Rohan have been friends for last 7 years and got engaged recently.
“He came back from Banglore and it was like a cultural shock for him, since there weren’t many ‘happening’ places in Ahmedabad. We used to hop around places, discovering food and gradually got close enough that there wasn’t anything we didn’t know about each other’s life”,says Esha. They began managing Goodies, a food outlet together where they saw each other’s best and the worst. “Till now, we haven’t proposed to each other. It just happened”. Talking of FIA’s role in their relationship, Esha says, “It is our baby. Most of our patch-ups happen because of some or the other FIA reason!”
Foodaholics in Ahmedabad has organized successful events such as Winter and Spring Energizer. “The shift from Winter Energizer to Spring Energizer was huge. There was so much of brainstorming happening that it used to become intimidating at times, atleast for me. I was surprised to see a doctor cooking an edible tiara. It was fascinating,” Rohan adds. Esha adds to this by sharing, “After Winter Energizer, Radio One offered us to take this entire activity online. It was a huge shift for us. It was overwhelming for everyone, especially for members as they got space to share their recipes. Before that we just used to write reviews of the place, since Rohan specializes in back-end preparation and I, in front-end – we used to provide a proper review of the places, we had been to. Before Energizer, DNA approached us to write columns, which is published every Friday.
All those who have been following the group would be aware of their recent and path
breaking offline activity at Weekend Window edition 6. “Weekend Window had been approaching us for last two season. We were not courageous enough to take it up, as we were not confident”, says Esha. “We have seen Foodaholics growing. We know its weakest points hence, we could never be confident enough.”, Rohan adds.
FIA Studio was a game changer for everyone.“It was a whole new experience. Kshama Parikh came especially for this activity from UK. She scheduled her trip just to be here. She brought all authentic flavors and edible silver and gold balls from UK. Same goes for Pratik Khubchandani, Shiavngi Sharma, Neha Anant Malwade, Pavana Bhatt, and Bhumi Rajgor. They all come for backgrounds such as law, medical, etc. It makes us beam with happiness.I believe Foodaholics if taken in right direction has a potential to teach anyone to open up a restaurant”, they say.
Foodaholics in Ahmedabad are soon to shift their platform from Facebook. “We want to make it more professional. There are a lot of plans and events in the pipeline”, Esha says.
As they sign off, Esha suddenly remembers something important.
“Rohan, we have such a straight line love story, man. We need to do something exciting. Let us break up and I’ll go, climb the water tank and then you take me back wooing me with a dozen cupcakes. Are you free today?”
“Does the water tank have a good eatery close by?”, Rohan asks.
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