Ritu Soni Srivastava’s startup — ObiNo — is a health app that will help you lose weight and get healthy by explaining to you why you need to do what you need to.
She tells us that her journey started 8 years ago when she became pregnant. At the time, she had a high-profile job leading the Brand team at Bharti Airtel. She tells us that during her pregnancy, she put on 25 kg. “I literally ate my way through my pregnancy,” she says. She had always been skinny, and petite, so she had never thought about weight before.
Pregnancy is the only time when people celebrate putting something in your mouth. If you are not eating, you are doing wrong, she said. She said she had fun, and didn’t think it would be difficult to lose weight.
However, two years after the birth of her baby girl, she had only lost one kilo, even though she had tried her hardest to lose weight. She hadn’t even bought new clothes for herself, because every time she went shopping, the only size that would fit her was XL. Before her baby, she had been an XS. She was getting concerned and weight was always on her mind. So she finally went to a dietician at her company, who charged her an exorbitant amount of money.
The dietician, who she went to for three months, would spend only around two-three minutes with her, and would write down something for Ritu to follow on a piece of paper. “I couldn’t understand why she would tell me things like eat only paneer for three days, but I followed it,” Ritu says.
We don’t know what we are doing, what are the mechanics of losing weight, what is the logic of eating smaller meals. Everything you read tells you what to do, but not why you should do it. And when you don’t understand something, you will not follow it
The dietician wouldn’t really give her personal care, nor properly explain why she was making the recommendations she was. However, Ritu followed her and lost close to 7 kg in three months. So Ritu, being naturally inquisitive, collected all the notes that the dietician had given her and analysed them to find patterns and trends.
Common Roadblocks to Losing Weight:
Over the next 6 months, she lost another 12 kg by herself. She realised that when it comes to health, there is an information problem. “We don’t know what we are doing, what are the mechanics of losing weight, what is the logic of eating smaller meals. Everything you read tells you what to do, but not why you should do it. And when you don’t understand something, you will not follow it,” Ritu says.
She also realised that even if you have a plan which you do understand, you may not necessarily follow it. Losing weight is all about consistency, and follow through, she says.
The third problem that she found was that even if you do follow through with a plan, there will come a time when you will plateau. Your body keeps changing and so your journey keeps changing, and you have to understand that.
Taking the Plunge and Starting Up:
While Ritu was going through her baby weight loss journey, the demands of her full-time corporate job also started taking its toll. She had a baby, had to run a household, and no time. Her in-laws, who had put their own lives on hold and had moved in with her, had moved out again. She had a full-time maid, and only saw her baby late after work. “This is not the meaning of being a mother,” she said.
Everything came together. I don’t want a structured corporate career, and so why don’t I start-up, she thought. Her husband was supportive, and so they started cutting extravagances, and even sold a car. She had some money as savings, and told herself that when that money runs out, she would go back to a job.
The first version of ObiNo was made for Telco customers. Her former employer, Airtel, was her first customer. However, value added services at the time were not doing well, and she had to pivot to a B2C model. However, the experience with Airtel gave her the confidence to continue.
Her team is now 50-people strong, and ObiNo has over 7 lakh downloads. It has already raised two rounds of funding, and is in talks to raise the third round.
On Fund Raising
It is as bad for women and men, says Ritu. However, she did have to face the issue of age. She was in her late thirties when she founded the business with 13 years of work experience and a kid. Now is the age of IIT dropout founders, she says, so people asked, how will you do it? She was rejected by 41 investors, before she got funding.
The key is to just do it till you can, and not overthink. Do it till you have money in the bank
How To Keep At It
“The one thing you need is positivity and believing in your idea,” she says. “Because when you are starting up, everyone will ask how you are going to make it, and point holes in the idea.”
Ritu says she didn’t realise how difficult the journey was going to be. “When you look at it from the outside, you only see the glamour. Nobody talks about the failures, and when they do, it is glossed over. Nobody tells you how hard it is to not have a pay check, how it affects your relationships with your family, your child, your husband.”
“It is a hard and lonely journey. There have been when I polished my CV and put it on job portals.”
But she also said her friends and mentors really rooted for her. And kept telling her to keep at it. “The key is to just do it till you can, and not overthink. Do it till you have money in the bank,” she says.
Work-life balance is a myth, she tells us. There is none. But the most important reason why she started up was the ability to have flexibility, she says. In her corporate career, she was at a senior level, where people used to come to her, and wait to take meetings with her. But things were very different as an entrepreneur.
“As a founder, you are the one waiting, with your hands spread out,” she says. “It is a levelling experience and strips all pretensions away. There is no cushion of a brand, a job, or company. It is just you and the market.”
She loves being an entrepreneur because she loves innovating and challenging herself. “When you do something that you thought you couldn’t do, and when you prove yourself wrong, the high is unnatural, whether it is cracking a deal or growing a team, or moving to a bigger office.”
“Start early. We wait too long, worrying about what people will say. Just jump in and you will figure it out.”
Also Read: How To Avoid Post-Pregnancy Weight Gain