Tapping the Indian palate

Food startups are banking on Indian cuisine to woo customers, but scalability won't come easy

Going by the numbers, it is clear that Indians are increasingly spending less time in their kitchens. The organised food services market is already valued at over $15 billion. Of this, cafes and quick service restaurants (QSR chains), which offer food on the go and deliveries, account for 25%, and are expected to grow at 18% to reach $2.86 billion by 2020. 

While the QSR space has been dominated by multinationals such as Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and others, a growing breed of firms is trying to expressly cater to the Indian palate. Chains such as Faasos, which started out by selling wraps and rice items, Goli Vada Pav, Mast Kalandar and more recently Box8, which serves sandwiches and biryanis, are making their presence felt in the market. For Jacob Kurian, partner at private equity firm New Silk Route (NSR), the influx has been long overdue. Kurian, who is also the CEO of fast food chain Vasudev Adiga’s, says, “80% of the Indians prefer local food.” There is little surprise then that these companies are taking local flavours to the consumers.

Vada pav to biryani

Goli Vada Pav plans to take Mumbai’s flagship snack, the vada pav, all over the country. “It is almost like a burger. An easy mix of potato and wheat, the product has an universal appeal,” says Venkatesh Iyer, who along with Shivdas Menon, established the first outlet in Kalyan, Mumbai in 2004. The company initially started out with 15 stores, with kitchens. “But we soon realised that if we want to expand to even 100 stores, focusing on kitchens would kill the business. So, we opted for the franchisee route,” explains Iyer. Today, Goli has about 350 stores in 90 cities. Of this, only five are owned by the company. The vada pav chain though is looking to add more stores besides improving its delivery. “15% of Goli’s sales come through Swiggy,” shares Iyer.

The company has been profitable for the past three years, logging a turnover of Rs.55 crore. One of the reasons for this is low rentals. &


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