When 25-year-old Nabeel Alamgir became chief marketing officer (CMO) at Bareburger New York in 2015, he had “the same itch.”
“I have [it] again and again, that is to say, it is not enough. I can do more, we can do more, we can do more to help restaurants; it was just the innate need to help more and more people,” Nabeel recently said in a Zoom interview with The Business Standard.
It was then that he felt compelled to take action to change the integrated system of the food industry in New York, which – not too dissimilar to Bangladesh – prescribes third parties (such as GrubHub , UberEats) to deliver food to customers. and charges restaurants a very high commission.
“When you order food [from your favourite restaurant] and you give them $100 [for example]. Do you know how much profit this restaurant makes?” Nabeel briefly paused to guess. “$5 is all,” he added, saying, “it’s not profitable for restaurants , it’s not something restaurants can survive on. “
The Bangladeshi American wanted to disrupt the industry. And in a few years, his idea came to fruition.
In January 2019, Nabeel (along with three co-founders) founded LunchBox Technologies. Its customers are restaurants.
What does it do and how do they do it? Lunchbox, essentially, bypasses the need for third parties (e.g. UberEats) and instead creates an online ordering engine for restaurants. It enables restaurants to create personalized online digital ordering systems with its brand image for its customers through services such as marketing, website and application design, online ordering, data processing, etc and features such as kiosks, loyalty programs, etc.
And through the services that LunchBox offers to restaurants, “they [restaurants] will make as much profit as if you [customers] were dining. And that’s what we want to do: we want to eliminate profit margin differences,” Nabeel explained.
Additionally, Lunchbox prioritizes helping disenfranchised small restaurants and equal opportunity. For example, through a loyalty program, which is technology that allows customers to scan a code with their phone and pay for food. By doing so, customers can collect “points” – which can potentially get benefits and discounts for customers.
“It’s something that only Starbucks and Domino’s and bigger systems like McDonald’s can do. We give technology to everyone, even if you have a restaurant, you can have the same level of technology as McDonald’s. is our promise, and that’s what we wanted to do, provide the space [for smaller companies]“, said Nabeel, CEO and co-founder of LunchBox.
When the pandemic hit, less than a year after LunchBox launched, it amplified its focus when all restaurants closed and only delivery was available, according to the CEO.
During the pandemic year (2020), Lunchbox sales increased by 700% to 800%. Not only that, when companies downsized or closed, the company went on a hiring spree. Their employees have grown from 12 to 100.
“It’s one of my ways of life, which is to be fearless, to go fast, to move forward,” Nabeel said, “and my years in marketing have taught me, ‘if everyone world do x, you do y’ ‘.”
“We’ve already saved $53 million in savings alone, so we’re extremely excited about how we’re moving things forward in terms of helping restaurants, you know, saving money.” , said Nabeel.
LunchBox has also raised $72 million over three years. It took more than 70 investor rejections for LunchBox to get its first round of venture capital.
Break through with a ridiculous, ridiculous amount of work
Born in Chattogram, Nabeel moved to Kuwait at the age of seven with his family. His parents moved again, this time to New York, USA, when Nabeel was around 15 years old.
Why the moves? “It’s a better life for your children, it was like that, they just wanted to make us better off again and again and they did. And you know, their dream was always for me to be a doctor, I was always very studious,” Nabeel said.
Nabeel dropped out of pre-med at Syracuse University. How did your parents react to the news? “You know how Bangali parents take it when you drop out of school. It’s not like they’re Americanized, they’re brown. But it’s okay, you have the right to panic. Because you don’t know a different world. It’s not their fault they haven’t seen, you know, the privilege that this country has and that Americans have.”
However, “I saw it and I want it. I want it now, I want it tomorrow, I want it yesterday. But they [parents] put myself in a position to ask for more and not agree with what I [already] have,” Nabeel explained, gesturing with his hands in his energetic voice, perhaps reflecting the common sense behind his professional success.
At 17, Nabeel (2007) started working as a waiter at Bareburger. How much did you earn as a busboy? “I was making $8 an hour and working almost full time. [35-40] a week,” he said, earning about $300 a week. And how much do you earn now? ” I can not tell you. But it’s a huge difference,” laughed Nabeel.
He first rose through the ranks to become CMO at Bareburger in 2015. Nabeel also has two failed startups under his belt before launching LunchBox in 2019 where he faced a series of rejections.
But “when you work a ridiculously ridiculously ridiculous amount, only good things happen. And I’ve also been blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Nabeel also said that rejection is commonplace in this industry, but he has faced a significantly higher volume of it due to his skin color and background. The success story is not rosy. In fact, behind it are many obstacles, setbacks and a lot of courage.
So what was the driving force for you? “I think the driving force behind how I see my life is the same as most people in Bangladesh. And I just wanted to make sure that we weren’t just visitors to America, that we were a member from the public and we just watch Americans go about their lives and just be, you know, a stranger looking inside,” he replied.
“I wanted to break into that. The best way to get ahead and be an insider is to contribute, so I got a job as a busboy. And I had what a lot of people have from our country, that is to say a lot of work ethic, a lot of hustle and a lot of determination. So I work better than everyone,” he continued.
“The rules of success are the same for everyone, you outperform everyone. You strategize for everyone. And that’s what I did for eight years. [from the age of 17 to 25 at Bareburger] and I continued to do so,” he added.
At the age of 25, Nabeel retired both of his parents and bought them a house in Queens over the next three years. “Queens was a perfect place to raise an underdog [putting a hand on his chest] and a perfect place for us [co-founders] to come together and start this business,” said Nabeel, who is very fond of the borough of New York, considering it the most diverse place in the world.
The two co-founders of LunchBox are from Pakistan and another from Ukraine, and they all met Nabeel in Queens.
In July this year, LunchBox reduced its workforce from 180 to 120 employees. Why? “I wish I didn’t talk too much about it. I’ll say a bit if that’s okay with you. In America, the world of venture capital has changed in the last four months. Companies that increased company value were valued one hundred times more than Now it’s back to about 10. So there’s a 10X seismic difference in what the venture capital world has been like so everyone in America is reacting to it, every company is downsizing or shutting down to hire, so we were just one of them.
LunchBox is working on new features and expansion plans to counter market setbacks. “The first is that we will offer products in the Bengali language,” Nabeel said.
Are you going to visit Bangladesh? He replied, “I’m just a little obsessed with work right now. But I would definitely love to visit in the future.”