Javed Laher of Chef 33: “To be positive”

To be positive. To take an idea from a dream to reality, requires a positive mindset. It requires trusting that things will work out and that people will use the product. Everyone has to start from somewhere and no one gets 10,000 users overnight. It takes time, day by day. As they say, Rome wasn’t […]

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To be positive. To take an idea from a dream to reality, requires a positive mindset. It requires trusting that things will work out and that people will use the product. Everyone has to start from somewhere and no one gets 10,000 users overnight. It takes time, day by day. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For me this positivity supported my want to jump out of bed and work away at my dream.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Javed Laher.

Javed is the founder of Herts Technology, a company that has created a disruptive home Food tech app to serve the gig economy, called Chef 33. Javed’s background is in Digital Marketing and he has worked for global companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM. Javed’s business is part of Google for Start-Ups. Based on his recent MBA, Javed specializes in the impact that new technology and artificial intelligence will have on UK Jobs and the Skills Gap where he has predicted significant changes in employment trends with reductions across the board.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always wanted to call something “my own” and since the age of 14, I ran small businesses at school, selling tennis balls, caps, scarves and caps to my classmates. I then went on to do several part time jobs, had a market stall and then landed a placement with Microsoft as part of my university course. I was fascinated with technology and saw so much potential. Combining my work experience with my studies, I saw something even bigger — a changing future for the world of work because of technological innovations. I then decided to leave Microsoft to get working on my food app, Chef 33. This was because I was so sure a recession was coming. Fast forward to 2020, and here we are, the deepest recession in history. I thought it would be because of the 4th industrial revolution with technology taking over jobs. Instead, it’s because of covid-19. Either way, my predictions for the impact on the world at this time were spot on.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

In the current climate, there has been quite an impact on the food and restaurant industry which has impacted the livelihoods of many. The hospitality and travel industry have been hardest hit with people out of work and significant competition for every role advertised. What I’ve created is a disruptive app to bring talented cooks onto my platform to enable them to earn a living from home. It creates an entire new area of food supply for authentic food which competes with the likes of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. I’m going for a market which has the potential to be bigger than the current restaurant market alone due to the number of people who could potentially sell food from home.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I’ve made was posting something for my private social media account to my Chef account which I didn’t realise until I saw my notifications explode. It was a picture of me with my 5 year old daughter, where I shared funny captions of me being told off for making too much noise whilst eating crisps. I’m happy to share such stories with friends and families on my facebook, though may be not so much with my followers. My business followers saw the funny side and felt it added a really personal touch to the face behind the business, though my lesson was to always check which account you’re posting to!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I value everyone who has been encouraging and supportive in whichever way possible on my journey. I also really appreciate those who may not have as it’s fueled my fire and desire to succeed to another level. One of my mentors is actually my school teacher from secondary school. His name is David Bromfield and he’s been an incredible mentor. He’s known me for a very long time and is always there to remind me of the “why” and also “what” I’m about. My dad was my strongest and most trusted mentor, and losing him to cancer in 2017 left quite a big hole especially as I’d consult him on my ideas to hear his incredible wisdom on so many aspects of life, relationships and business. Another is my close friend, Danish Bagadia, from Google. He’s always been there to provide guidance and support in terms of business, technology and encouragement. I’ve really appreciated it. The world seems like a huge place and everyone needs a strong network, however big or small. I’m grateful my contacts came along at the right time to keep pushing me to chip away at the idea which is now public. Some of the guiding principles from David in particular was to always be humble, be positive and to finish what I’ve started. It certainly helped especially when I faced various challenges when starting up the business where I was at cross roads whether to continue. I’m so glad I did have the app finished and happy I launched the business.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think there are many industries yet to go through disruption, so can foresee the term being used a lot more in the near future as people look at new ways of doing business. For me, disruption is simply changing the way things are currently done and introducing new methods or platforms to solve for existing problems. I believe it can lead to healthy economies when done in the right way. In my example with Chef 33, I’m bringing to surface a “new market”, for home chefs to sell food. Other than social media platforms or groups, there’s not been a major brand which has launched into this market with the right level of investment. This I believe can help with wealth distribution for a lot more people. It’s essentially supporting the gig economy for food. However, with companies such as Amazon where I’ve once worked, whilst their efficiency is great, there is a clear detrimental impact on the high street and conventional stores. It’s an interesting business as they have so much data from third party sellers that they could take over many businesses with their purchasing power which they have slowly and successfully done over time. Amazon is considered disruptive in retail despite the impact on the high street. I’d say that’s the difference between positive and negative disruption, the impact on the livelihoods of others. I hope to be adding to livelihoods and providing more wealth distribution.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The 3 different words of advice I’ve received on my journey are;

  1. To be positive. To take an idea from a dream to reality, requires a positive mindset. It requires trusting that things will work out and that people will use the product. Everyone has to start from somewhere and no one gets 10,000 users overnight. It takes time, day by day. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For me this positivity supported my want to jump out of bed and work away at my dream.
  2. Not to be a perfectionist. For me, as my personal brand is attached to my product, I kept delaying the launch and even when we went live, I still found things in the app I wasn’t happy with when it was in the live environment. Though if I kept perfecting it, I wouldn’t have launched for another year. We’re at a place now where we can say we’re happy with things so far and look forward to iterating further.
  3. Keep going. Every day, to keep going, inch by inch, mile by mile. Progress takes many forms, many directions and at different speeds. The main thing is to keep that momentum going. With that mindset, I see daily downloads of the app, especially as the word gets out more and more about my app.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

For any business to get quality leads, the first step is defining who that lead is. This information includes data on age, gender, demographic, interests, hobbies, professions. Then, it’s a case of identifying where these leads are likely to be found. Are they going to be reading newspapers or will they be found online? Are they likely to watch TV or are they more likely to be on a Yacht in Monaco? Using these fundamental customer insights is then essential to identify the medium to use. In these examples, it could range from luxury magazines to search engine marketing. For me, my main audience are on Instagram and Facebook, hence my marketing strategy has a 95% focus on social media which has been working efficiently.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Predicting the future and creating solutions is something I’ve always loved doing. I’ve usually done it for the corporates, so it’s nice to have taken the leap of faith to work on something of my own. The next project is under-wraps though it’s got the potential to be a huge positive disrupter in the UK and beyond. I’d love to say more though do follow me on social media to keep up to date where I share my ideas, thoughts and predictions.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne is the main book I absolutely love. It’s a life changing book which focuses on our mindset and being positive to use the “Law of Attraction”. It focuses a lot on visualisation to “attract” your dreams into your life. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who is open to try new ways of thinking and for me it has led to phenomenal achievements which were once a dream. This includes travel destinations such as The Maldives, having certain cars which were always a dream, as well as completing an MBA which was always a goal. I truly believe this is one of the best books written and recommend it.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote of all time is “Worrying is like sitting on a rocking chair. It gives you something to do though never takes you anywhere”. From a young age, I’d always worry about things not going the way I wanted or fearing failure. Hearing this quote was a life changer for me. Around the same time, I came across another quote which was “feel the fear and do it anyway”. This led to me taking risks I’ve never imagined I would have and have personally grown as a result. I feel like I’ve come leaps and bounds since following my heart and fulfilling my own dreams and it’s amazing how hearing or seeing a quote at the right time in your life can really change direction. I believe paying attention to such things in life is so important as it could be the wisdom each person is seeking in their lives at that time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement I would inspire is for world unity. For people to use the resources around them to take the time to learn about the wonderful world we live in and the countries which exist. My ambition through my app which I don’t talk about often is the want to unite people through food across different cultures. I want to live by example in the sense of promoting the concept of unity across cultures, countries and the world which is why my goal is to have as many cuisines as possible. I believe we truly are one world and am so proud to have friends and family from so many parts of the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’d love to connect! I’m on most social media platforms as Javed Laher or Javed_Laher — do feel free to connect. I appreciate your interest.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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