How I Helped Sell $38,000 Worth of Biryani With $1,729 Ad Spend

It all started with friends complaining that you couldn’t get a decent biryani in Islamabad. While Socialoholic focuses on launching digital businesses as soon as possible with minimum viable product, I would see my friends planning features on top of features for a biryani delivery service which did not exist yet. And the discussion would always end with one big question.

Will it work? Is there enough market for this biryani delivery service we are planning to open? Are we going to lose all the money we are going to invest?

Sick of this continuous discussion with no end in sight, I wondered if an offline business can be launched like a digital MVP startup.  I downloaded a beautiful biryani creative from Google Images, created a facebook page with a logo I designed in 2 minutes and ran a Facebook ad with $5 budget. 

To ensure that people were actually going to order biryani instead of just liking and commenting on a beautiful biryani photo, I added a phone number in the Facebook ad and hoped to see the phone ring. Lo and behold, in about 10 minutes of my ad getting approved, the phone started ringing and everyone wanted to order the biryani which did not exist in real world. Being a growth hacker, I just told everyone that biryani is sold out which further hyped the biryani startup.

Keep in mind that there is no biryani to sell yet. We are just running a Facebook ad for a biryani restaurant while sitting in my bedroom.

Once we had the calls, everyone was confident that Biryani Express is going to work and Fasih, the CEO of Biryani Express got to work. But our focus still was that we have to test this with minimum possible investment.

Instead of hiring chefs, Fasih ordered biryani in bulk quantity and sold it on per serving pricing and hence pocketing the difference in revenue vs expenses. In earlier days, we were even doing deliveries ourselves just to prove that my thesis of running a small business with no money is true.

Once we had proven the idea, Fasih, started hiring chefs and created the logistics infrastructure for Biryani Express and today it is one of the most famous biryani delivery service in Islamabad.

What started with a $5 ad on Facebook is now a great small business which employees 8 people and has generated $38,000 against a life-time Facebook ad spend of $1,729.

This just shows that the concept of lean startup and MVP is as applicable in offline world as it is in digital world.

P.S I have anonymized the actual name of Biryani Express as my friend didn’t feel comfortable sharing revenue numbers with actual restaurant name.

About the writer: Saad is co-founder and CEO of Socialoholic. He can be reached on twitter.

Here’s How You Can Validate a Business Idea In Under $5

I see a lot of people waste tens of thousands of dollars trying to setup their businesses. In the end, I often hear that it didn’t work out as intended. I understand that. I more than appreciate their efforts. Failures happen whether you like them or not and I’ve failed plenty of times myself. But I’ve a fundamental problem with those who don’t do some pre-launch research.

Some just don’t know that its a thing; pre-launch market research. And others, just don’t know the right or cheap way to do it. As co-founder of multiple start ups, I have tried and tested hundreds of different business ideas and as a company, we have developed a very solid strategy for testing them before launch. I’m going to write about the easy and cheap part from our strategy below.

Often this strategy costs us $20 or less. Sometimes as little as $5 depending on the target market. And this strategy works for both online and offline businesses. Some of you might hate me for making you wait, because it’s pretty simple but I guarantee you it works. Even if you’re setting up a huge business, this will help.

Run an ad. Yes. Whether you want to sell a product or a service, run a Facebook ad before you create the product. Before you invest in your brand. Set up a dummy page. Call it a name using this tool. Create a free logo; head over to this tool, click click click, and you have your logo. Decide your target market. You can target different age groups, interests etc and spend $5 per ad-set, or more if you need more data or if your target market lives where ads are expensive.

In a day or two, you’ll have some sort of sales, leads, or whatever was your end-goal. Apologize to your customers because you’re out of stock and delete your dummy business. If it works, awesome. If not, either you don’t know your target market well enough, or your business product or service is not needed as you expected. Make changes, try again.

Let me know your thoughts if you think it’s a good idea, or if you think it’s just stupid! We’ve had great success using it. In fact, my co-founder built a large offline business using this strategy in addition to all the online businesses that we build, and I’m pursuing him to write about his experience. I think he’ll just do that very soon. It’s a very exciting story.

How Our Dropshipping Business Grew by 837% in 4 Weeks

This is the third part of the three-part series of posts that I planned to write on dropshipping. The first post explained what dropshipping is. Second part highlighted our scaling strategies, and the third part explains the final trick that boosted our sales by 837% as we handled over 10,000 orders everyday.

By mid 2017, we were successfully running 3 e-commerce stores. I was extremely busy running day to day ad-ops for our company. Fulfillment had been automated completely. But Saad, my co-founder, still had a few things outside of our core business ops that kept him very busy.

We were doing nearly 2000 sales a day, and posting growth month over month. I was happy with the progress but also very busy launching new ad-sets and optimizing existing ones. We were constantly trying to scale globally. We were extremely proud that we had a major portion of sales coming in from Brazil, Mexico, Portugal and Australia. Combined, this was bigger than US.

Meanwhile, Saad tried to crack an altogether different code. If you remember, I mentioned in my last post the #1 trick to scale a dropshipping business. I said I can’t stress enough it’s importance. That is exactly what Saad was busy with. He hired a team of developers in Ukraine and we ended up with what we internally call hypersonic. A product spy tool, only to be used by us that gained us leverage against every other dropshippper. We scrapped every single dropshipping store in the world, and found winners in real-time.

This helped us find 3 more winning products within 4 weeks, allowing us to eventually scale 8x. At the moment, we only privately use this tool because of the kind of leverage it provides us against others and haven’t decided to offer this as a service. However, I highly recommend serious 7 and 8 figure dropshippers to develop something like this internally to ace this game.

Seizing the Opportunity

Opportunities are everywhere. Literally everywhere. You come across them hundreds of times everyday but you often ignore them, or you misread them, or you just can’t see them hidden in plain sight. Some people have the ability to see them very often. This in my opinion is the single biggest differentiator between entrepreneurs and those who are not. Let me give you an example.

In 2012, we considered expanding our marketing business beyond the scope of just promoting our own products. We looked into client servicing (hated it and never did it again). But we learnt a great deal from it. Since one of my businesses at that time was a Pakistani music blog, naturally the first customer for our marketing agency was a band.

They were going to pay us X amount of money for growing their Facebook page, adding organic and authentic views to their youtube videos, and overall assistance with their new song launch. After we had concluded the agreement, they mentioned to us that they are also going to spend Y amount of budget on a radio channel in Pakistan who would play the song a certain number of times in the next month. On hearing this, my co-founder, Saad Bassi, saw an opportunity and seized it. We took all of the budget that they were going to spend on radio, hired a full time resource whose job was to call many hours everyday to all the radio stations in Pakistan. In the end, their song played more frequently than it would have had happened with paid advertising. Not just that, it played on more number of channels increasing their unique reach. They incurred lesser cost and our company made a profit after paying for the resource.

It is one of the many examples of how the world presents you opportunities and how you can seize them.