Weekly Startup Profiles > Crazy Noodles
|He sold his call centre business to plunge into food. But instead of starting from scratch, Ashish Chand decided to go the franchise route - saving himself over a year.|
A chain of casual dining restaurants offering Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines.
Dressed in wasabi green and fluorescent pink, the angular d
Within the food retail industry, Chinese cuisine beckoned Ashish. He had read a report that listed Chinese cuisine as the second most popular cuisine in India, after Indian food. "The demand for affordable, high quality Chinese food was on the rise, especially among youngsters, who comprised one-third of the population. That is when we thought of creating a restaurant for the young," he says.
Ashish was also inspired by the increasing number of harried working women who didn't have time to cook, neighbors who complained of standing in queue at overcrowded restaurants, and young friends who were exposed to global culture and wanted to experiment with new cuisines. Good food, great service and a value-for-money dining experience is what they all wanted, he realized.
The market was big, and he believed the demand was strong - but so was the competition. That, combined with his non-food, pure-IT background led Ashish to look for some help in starting his restaurant business. In the end, Ashish decided to jumpstart his operations by obtaining a master franchisee license from a proven success: Mark Pi.
"What attracted us was the fact that Mark Pi developed processes whereby he took the art out of Chinese cooking and systemized it. In fact, he made it so systematic that even his sauces could be mass produced. This made the food consistent, which is an important aspect of restaurant chains," explained Ashish.
The franchise arrangement provided help with the food, but perhaps more importantly also with the operations. "Back end in terms of Mark Pi's high-end food technology helped us systemize those processes and tune it to meet our unique needs in India," says Ashish.
But even with this arrangement, it wasn't all smooth sailing. When he first launched in 2005, Ashish used the brand Mark Pi and served American Chinese food. It didn't work: people couldn't identify with the name and didn't like the food. Ashish went back to the drawing board. They tweaked the menu to add the staple Indian Chinese dishes, and served Japanese and Thai cuisines as well. They changed the name, and defined a new image. And Crazy Noodles was born.
Crazy Noodles comes with generous helpings of fun and variety. The restaurants are vibrant, lit with unconventional pinks and greens. The tables are decorated with games and quizzes and funky cutlery.
In addition to developing the distinctive look-and-feel, Ashish has also positioned Crazy Noodles carefully in the market. "Fast food chains like Yo! China and Mc Donald's had products starting at Rs 20, while gourmet restaurants like Mainland China had a price point of Rs 500 upwards per customer. We didn't want to be too expensive as that would limit our customers, so we stuck to mid range with products priced at Rs 200 onwards. We are more in the Pizza Hut category," Ashish explains.
In the end, their advantage may lie in their willingness to innovate constantly. "Crazy Noodles takes customer feedback to heart and to drawing boards and constantly reinvents to satisfy them," Ashish reveals.
Initially, the company ploughed back the sale proceeds from the call centre into Research and Development and setting up of outlets. Crazy Noodles also received angel investment from Ashish Gupta of Helion Venture Partners and Sunil Singh of US Based Informance in 2005.
In September 2007, HT Media invested an undisclosed amount for a 10 per cent stake in the company. "The additional investment has gone into building a corporate office, brand building and hiring human resource," says Ashish.
Today, each of its six outlets generates an annual turnover of rupees one crore, which is about 200,000 USD.
Crazy Noodles was started with a five member team that looked into different areas of operations: marketing, technology, supply chain, finance and operations. With the franchise they added the renowned Chef Mark Pi to the team. "Mark Pi himself came to India with two more managers from his company and stayed here for six months to support us. We benefited greatly from their technology, IT processes and back-end expertise," Ashish says. Mark Pi continues to support Crazy Noodles remotely.
Today, Crazy Noodles has six outlets in Ahmedabad, Ludhiana, Haldwani and Noida/ NCR. They plan to start 15 more restaurants this year in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. "From 2009 onwards, we plan to add 30 restaurants every year until we reach our goal of 200 Crazy Noodles outlets all over India," says Ashish. They also have plans to expand to other markets in the Middle East.
Do they plan to alter their business model in future? "Yes, we do," affirms Ashish. "We plan to add an alcohol component to some of our restaurants to drive per customer bill amount." This is specifically being planned to deal with some specific issues of meeting some base costs of real estate.
"Finding the next site", he says. "Making value business profitable with the rising real estate prices is a huge challenge," he adds.
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