New York, A City of Entrepreneurship
My experiences in my hometown
New York City has always been my home. No matter where I am or who I am meeting, I have a distinct sense of pride in telling people where I am from and justifying why it’s the greatest city in the world. It is a global center for media, arts, music and business. A bustling, diverse metropolis with people from all walks of life united in working for a better standard of living for them and their families. This is what defines New York as a city of entrepreneurship.
I learned this first-hand through my parents. They arrived from India in the 1970s, following their siblings across the world. While in the beginning they took on various jobs to get settled, pay the rent and have a steady paycheck, I eventually came to look at them as the ultimate entrepreneur team. A gas station, travel agency and import / export business are just some of the ideas they’ve put into action. And while they may have had varying degrees of success with some of their ideas in the past, one thing that never left them was the burning desire to push each other and test their capabilities. I have been amazed countless times by their passion, dedication and willingness to risk near-term satisfaction to realize a vision / goal. I’d like to think they passed some of these traits to me — to never settle for anything other than my dreams.
So, with my own goal in mind, I set off to build a company, just like my parents. Although I always planned to build my business back home, I initially thought that New York wasn’t the right first step for me. The tech scene in 2008 wasn’t developed as much as it is now, and to be frank I didn’t have the capital to get up and running. I thought at the time that New Delhi / Gurgaon were much more cost-effective for recruiting an initial team and getting a product off the ground. For some time this strategy worked. I lived with family and made new friends in the land where my parents grew up, and I met some incredibly intelligent and dedicated individuals that helped me establish the foundation of my business. My team and I built a concept from scratch — the idea of a sustainable online food ordering platform — in an environment where online ordering didn’t really exist in a meaningful capacity. India provided a unique opportunity to build a new business in a rapidly developing country.
But as I continued with product development in India, the tech scene in New York was rapidly developing as well. Every week new start-ups were popping up, and even well established giants like Google were touting how New York was poised to become the tech hub of the East Coast. Whenever I came back to visit my family and friends, there was genuine enthusiasm in the air as people recognized the potential for the tri-state area’s tech industry.
In 2010, I eventually decided the time was right to move back and capitalize on what my hometown had to offer. As the CEO of a food-tech business, New York provided an ideal environment to foster my growth. Its leadership is firmly established in one area — from fine-dining establishments to gourmet street carts — while there was a push to quickly make it a leader in another. This provides unparalleled network effects. I could take the focus of my business — helping restaurant owners use technology to grow their businesses — and put it into practice to great effect. I could meet a food truck owner in one part of town and explain how we could help them gain more customers, then zip back to meet with my developer and get the food truck owner up and running with online ordering and delivery. Moreover, having grown up as a first generation Indian-American and in an immigrant household made it easier to relate to restaurant and food truck owners — many of whom are immigrants themselves. I can better understand their potential struggles in running their businesses, having seen my parents go through many of the same experiences in the past. This enables me to better serve them as my customers.
It hasn’t all been easy though. The tri-state area’s status as a hub for innovation naturally breeds intense competition. There is such a plethora of amazing, dedicated individuals with unique ideas all striving to reach their goals, and it can be incredibly overwhelming at times. Each day you are constantly going up against people trying to be heard — to get their message and voices across to the public. While competition definitely hinders the speed at which you can implement your vision, it has to be viewed in a positive context. It ultimately teaches you to remain humble and agile with respect to your ideas. Each day the marketplace can change, and you need to be dedicated, passionate, enthusiastic and flexible enough to alter how you operate to fight another day. It can be an emotional roller-coaster at times, but it serves to make you a better in the end.
Growing up and working in the tri-state area has been a truly rewarding experience. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everyone has dreams, and if you are passionate, dedicated and have a strong support system, you just might be able to realize them.