Blend Community, a start-up that brings together brands, consumers and creators around food, fashion and fiction

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Communities are the lifeblood human civilization. 

For generations and millennia of our existence, human beings have lived, survived and indeed thrived in communities. Many may come across the famous Dunbar number, which supposedly is based on the research that an individual meets and knows no more than 150 people in the course of his or her lifetime. Whether this is something that’s applicable in the modern world, is something that’s under question, since our identities are now so fluid owing to social media. Yet, for the majority of us, it seems we know a relatively few individuals very deeply, while a lot more many on much more superficial levels based on mutual trust. 

In the digital economy, social media intelligence gathering has become a sort of hive mind. It is used to measure and gather insights on all sorts of trends, patterns, thoughts and ideas optimized around a certain objective. When it comes to topics like food, fashion and fiction, stories create their own sense of mini-worlds wherein individuals across diverse realms of life meet and share common interests and passions. Building communities in such cases is equivalent to governance because one needs to find ways and mechanisms to make sure everyone in the community wins. 

Today, at Bangalore Insider, we spoke to Razia Ali, the founder of the Blend Community, a start-up that brings together brands, consumers and creators around food, fashion and fiction. Rooted around the theme of a community that revolves around content and commerce, we sure learnt a lot today. Below are the excerpts from our interaction. 

Give a brief info about your startup?

The Blend Community is a community-powered intelligence social media brand that provides a niche forum that brings together brands, consumers, creators to create, curate and co-create content across food, fashion and fiction. It was co-founded as an Instagram Community in October 2020 by Hariprasad Shetty and myself, which has now grown to having its own website that reports the latest trends on the above-mentioned themes.

What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?

The idea of Blend Community was triggered during the pandemic when I saw how badly the F&B industry suffered and I wanted to help food brands revive their business without bleeding for profitability, courtesy the food aggregators. Personally, food, fashion and fiction are my passion areas, and I noticed that there weren’t any platforms that caters to these three themes specifically. I wanted to create a platform that curates and distributes relevant content all in one place rather than users having to go to different pages for different topics. That’s how the whole idea was born of creating an online community that celebrates, shares and curates stories around these three specific categories.

Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?

I started my career with banking sales, but I always had a penchant towards communication which made me make an early switch to advertising. I realized I had a passion for shaping brands and consumer perceptions. I lead Dell India’s Consumer and Small Business marketing efforts. I currently work at AMD as the OEM Lead. I was also an Angel Investor to aspiring Start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

The Blend Community is based out of Bangalore. I feel it’s the best place for me because firstly, it is my home. Second, Bangalore has the perfect atmosphere for a start-up. In the sense of networking opportunities, skilled and passionate team members, high density of investors, etc. 

As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?

I would say a start-up is the founder’s brain-child or baby and because of this, the success of the start-up is a lot more personal not just tangibly but emotionally as well. Hence, there’s undeniable paranoia around “What if”. What if my brand tanks, what if no one resonates with the idea, basically what if nothing works out. However, I have found that the way to overcome that is to understand that ideas don’t exist in perfection. You’ve just got to start and keep perfecting it. 

Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?

Like I mentioned, the idea of Blend Community is still very fresh. There’s PopXO that is centered around fashion specifically. But, I haven’t seen another platform that caters to the three specific niches of food, fashion and fiction in one place. With Blend For Food, we are building India’s first Content to Commerce Food Tech Platform powered by Creator economy & Community Tech We will be a one-stop destination for all things FOOD. Food users need not have various doff apps scattered for different needed like Which means we are a combination of Swiggy/Zomato plus Conosh, Masala Box, plus Amazon Fresh, BigBasket, but find them on ONE SINGLE DESTINATION. We are the only players in the market that will bring all your various food choices in one place to make it a hassle-free food ordering experience.

How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

Being not just a start-up founder but also having a full-time corporate job definitely makes it difficult to have a work-life balance. But, I have found that finding the right partners, teammates and resources is very important in order to manage it. As you’re establishing your idea, you need to try to attract talent and team members to not only believe in your vision, but also be able to execute it. Finding the right brands and companies to partner with, is another important aspect in executing your vision the right way. Ironically, these are the tasks that take the longest amount of time, but in the long run, it helps me manage my work-life balance.

Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.

We are a bootstrapped start-up. We will be going for our Angel round in the next two months and our intent is to go for the pre-seed round sometime in the next ten months.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?

I am somebody who always chooses speed over perfection. By virtue of which, people may think that I might compromise on an eye for detail. But that’s not true. That isn’t exactly something you can afford when you are building a start-up because it’s all about the vision, and that has to be executed in the right manner.

What gets you excited about this company?

The fact that this idea is still so new in the country and I don’t see anyone else doing it as of now, makes me feel secure in the fact that we’re on the cusp of something extremely special. Another thing that gets me excited is that I’m able to leverage my passion for food, fashion and fiction and my life experience in advertising and marketing into building a community around it.

Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.

Typically there’s no fixed schedule. I make it a point to reply to all my mails the night prior so that I don’t wake up to a bunch of work. At the start of the week, the first thing I like doing is plan my entire week and then break it down into days. I try to then, assign my hours in a day with the tasks and set up meetings with my team members, partners, etc. I then, head to my day job after which I go to my start-up office at The Hub Bengaluru. Things there have been a little hectic recently with the launch of the Blend For Food app. My day goes as long as it takes for me accomplish my tasks and also deal with the day-to-day operations that come as part of building a start-up. 

Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

My co-founder, Hari and I had been colleagues for over a decade before starting Blend Community. We bonded over our shared passion for food and that is how we got the idea of building a community around food, fashion and fiction. After we did that, and we had learnt so much from that experience, we wanted to explore what was next for the company and how to monetize this community that we had built. That is how we noticed the lack of a platform that was for all things food. We built our initial founding team purely through word-of-mouth and references. Our initial tech team, customer support or operations team comprised of people that Hari and I have worked with in the past, so it was easy for us get them on board and help them visualize our dream with us.


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