Mast Kalandar which started its operation in Bengaluru serving North-Indian cuisine in the southern region has grown from a regional chain to a national brand over a period of time. Here are excerpts from the interview:
How did the idea of serving a north Indian delicacy in Bengaluru popp up?
My wife Pallavi and I were working with IT professionals here and we were not getting our kind of food in Bengaluru as we were working as a technology professional in the city. The food which was available here was not of good quality, and we could not get at cheap price point and according to our taste. And then we decided that why don’t we start delivering the food ourselves.
As you have now raised four round of funding, what is your next big investment plan?
We are not looking for any investment right now, but within next six months, we may look into raising another round of funding to grow our business in other regions.
Supply Chain and inventory management can make or break a restaurant? Who is your supply chain partner?
As far as the inventory is concerned, we do a just in time kind of inventory and maximise the inventory management to reach to best possible cost, making sure there is no food wastage.
We don’t have a supply chain partner as we do it ourselves. Though some of the vendors supply directly to our warehouse, but from there the supply chain is all ours.
You are presently operating in cities like Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. What is your expansion plan?
We are planning to enter Delhi-NCR and Mumbai by next year. We are also looking for some interesting cities in South India and other parts of India; Coimbatore, Kochi, Mysore, Vishakhapatnam in south, in central we are looking at Surat, Ahmedabad, Indore, and in North India we are looking at Lucknow, Dehradun, Chandigarh and Ludhiana and Nagpur in the West and Kolkata in the East.
You recently closed your website migrating to MK Dabbawala app. What was the need? What is the number of orders that you receive on a daily basis?
We noticed that it was more relevant from customer’s expectations and demands because when a customer comes to our website, the thing is that he wants to order food, but now we have two different models which are available. One is the MK Dabbawala which is a fresh menu everyday kind of a concept, where the menu is changed every day and the food delivered is very fast. Other is the Mast Kalandar menu from which when you order, the order goes to the respective outlet and from there it is delivered to you. Our motto is to give the customer what the customers want. After almost a month’s launch of Dabbawala app, the orders have increased to a large extent and we can say that we are already the market leader in food-app segment.
Through mobile channels we are giving around 2,000 meals a day and through outlets it is anywhere between 15,000-20,000 orders a day.
As you claim to serve fresh and authentic foods of North India. How do you maintain the authenticity and from where did you source the ingredients?
We source the ingredients from various cities across India. Some of the ingredients come from Pilibheet, Meerut, Modi Nagar, Hakrat, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Kolkata amongst other. We want to source products from places which are known for their cuisines. Meanwhile, our cooks are all from north India so they know the basic cooking and we also train them for our developed recipes. We also try to maintain the same consistency and taste across all our outlets for which we have an audit team which will go all around our outlet and they will check whether the cook has prepared the meal correct and its taste is good or not.
You have a daily changing menu at MK Dabbawala. So, how difficult or easy it is for you to balance the changing menu?
For the creative side, we have a brain storming session and we decide the dishes, but from a production side, we have the expertise in-house, the corporate chef and the team who takes care of the production, so it’s not a challenge. The bigger challenge is thinking about new dishes.
What is the most challenging role of a restaurateur that you think differentiates him from other segments?
I think the most challenging role of restaurateur is to keep up with the demands and expectations of the customers because over a period of time it keeps changing.
Who do you see as your competitor?
We have two types of competitors today. One is, irrespective of the cuisine, the restaurant offering in same price point, we consider KFC, McDonald’s, Domino’s as our competitors. So from price point wise, all the global chains, fast food chains, local chains even the local dhabas are all our competitors. And from cuisine point of view, there are various online channels that have come up with a variety of cuisines. And from retail perspective, there is no one who’s our direct competitor, but there are many small north Indian restaurants who have opened in various cities are our competitors.
Who do you see as your customer in the market?
Our customers are mainly the educated-middle class customers who are migrants or the locals. Almost 50 per cent of our customers are people who have come from other parts of India. A typical customer is a professional from a technology company or a banking and finance.
What is your expansion plan for next two years?
We want to become the largest Indian chain, in fact, in this category, we are already the largest chain. We want to be around 500 outlets in next five years and in next two years, I think we will reach about 200 outlets. We also want to build our technology business on pan-India basis and want to reach at least 20 cities in next two years.