GoCurry — Starting from Japan, building the largest community of Curry lovers all over the world

The idea

I am a big fan of communities — it gives you a sense of belonging, a platform where you can share your ideas/opinions with like-minded people. Being a lover of Indian food and away from home landed me in the Indian-food lovers or as they say in Japan, “Curry” lovers (カレー好きな) community. Irrespective of our countries or beliefs, we often met at a curry restaurant, talked about a variety of topics, laughed and went back home happy after the relaxing masala chai. Whether it is the love for curry or the joy of talking with people while indulging in spicy food, the whole experience of having a “curry community” was magical!

And thus came the idea of a platform that connects people over curry!

Back to Web Engineering

It was 2018 winters when I came up with a resolution to restart coding after changing my career from a Software Engineer to an HR executive (this story in another blog). Using Javascript, HTML Bootstrap, Java and SQL, I came up with a basic website and shared with my network. The website just showed a list of nearby curry restaurants. The encouragement I received was beyond my expectations and made me think of this project more seriously!

The Stagnation, meeting MY-san and COVID-19

While I always wanted to keep working on GoCurry, it never happened for a long time, thanks to my lifestyle. I was juggling between office, partying with friends, playing sports and studying Japanese. Sooner GoCurry went down in my priority list. Somewhere during this time, I met MY-san, who is a Japanese but lived in India for a few years and wanted to start a business in connection with India. Our common liking for curry had us discussing about GoCurry and soon we had fresh ideas to restart the project again. This was the time when Covid-19 was on the rise in Japan and the government declared a state of emergency. A blessing in disguise, I was able to give more time to GoCurry on my weekends. I also started to take coaching sessions by my company Mercari, that helped me channelize my efforts towards my goals in a consistent manner.

Understanding users and building relationships

While thinking of GoCurry, I was very clear that it shouldn’t be another restaurant listing app. Rather GoCurry should be a platform where people feel close to each other as well as to the listed restaurants. I was glad that MY-san had a similar opinion. With this goal in mind, we created a strategy to build a proof of concept for GoCurry as well as verify what works and what doesn’t. In parallel, we continued developing our product (next section)

  1. Posting restaurants on GoCurry SNS (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube) → We visited restaurants, tried different menu and spoke with the owners/staff. Based on this, not only the food, we tried to show in our posts the ambience, how food is prepared, what ingredients are used etc so the users can feel closer to the restaurants.

2. GoCurry Events → Although it was a difficult time to do physical events due to Covid-19, we tried a couple of small-scale events within our social bubble. In each event we requested the restaurants to prepare a special menu. The purpose of these events was to understand the feelings of the restaurants (owners/staff) as well as the members. It was not surprising that restaurant owners/staff felt a sense of satisfaction beyond any monetary gains.

3. Tying restaurants with GoCurry brand→ There are a very few curry restaurants in Japan which are actually trying to introduce authentic cuisine or improvising to make the experience better for customers. We acknowledged these restaurants by giving them GoCurry stickers. We verified that this gave some assurance to our followers.

Building the GoCurry Product

The Team

This was the most challenging part. The main obstacle was my lack of technical expertise to build the product, that would mean creating a tech team that resonated with GoCurry’s vision. For the first version, the goal was to create a mobile and web platform that would allow users to browse and search curry restaurants near them, check restaurants’ details including user ratings, give reviews as well as mark favorite. HM, one of my close friends started off with the backend architecture. However, things didn’t go long as HM couldn’t spare time to this project due to his personal commitments. This was the most difficult time for the project. I had been searching for Software Engineers who could lead this project from the technical side but no luck. Then one day I went for drinks with my friends (we all worked in the same company). After a few high balls (whiskey soda), I shared the situation with my friend AG, who immediately said he is fine to take place of HM. While I was 99% sure AG won’t remember the discussion the next morning, to my surprise he messaged me and we decided the time to discuss this further (sober this time). And so, we got our tech lead for GoCurry.

We had another missing puzzle in our team. GoCurry or any other consumer application in these times needs to mobile-first. I had some limited conversation with MJ, who worked in the same company as a mobile engineer. I heard a lot about MJ’s great work in a short time within the company. Moreover, MJ had been liking GoCurry’s SNS posts. This triggered me to have a casual chat with MJ to ask their opinions and subsequently, we welcomed MJ into the team! Lastly, we welcomed JG into the team as a Frontend/UX Engineer. JG had worked with AG in the past and is an expert in this area.

With this the GoCurry core product team was created!

The Processes

Even though we are a small team, we preferred spending time to create processes than to spend time later

  1. Use Slack for all communications
  2. Weekly meetings to discuss progress and blockers
  3. Documenting as much as possible and arranging in GDrive
  4. JIRA Software to manage all tasks (including SNS/business)
  5. Best Github practices to manage codebase

The Culture

With all members working on GoCurry as a side project, we follow the below as our undocumented culture

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint → Do things at your pace but consistently
  2. Learning culture → Learn from doing, learn from each other, learn from the experiences
  3. Voice your opinions → With diverse members in the team, each one’s opinions matter to build a great product & team
  4. Transparency → All information is public to each member

The Outcome

With almost a year of researching and developing the product we were finally able to release GoCurry for web and Android!

More than 500+ curry restaurants listed across Japan, you can search for vegan options, read user reviews, add favorites and much more! (Both English and 日本語 available)

Website/app: https://gocurry.page.link/home

Next Steps

Add value to our users

We would be working on features based on 4 pillars — “Experience”, “Rewards”, “Convenience” and “Community” to add value. You can expect better quality data and features like GoCurry point system, restaurant bookings, tags search and more in the next versions!

From Project to Business

We would like to make GoCurry into a business. For the same, we would be connecting with Startup mentors/ advisors.

Support GoCurry

If you are a user, please support us by following our SNS

Facebook | Instagram | Youtube

If you are a curry restaurant in Japan and want to list on GoCurry: https://forms.gle/nN11yb5kLkcmAeb9A

For any Questions & feedback- please email: gocurry.jp@gmail.com

People and Data | Curry and Coffee | DJ and Bollywood