Month: March 2014

Vada Pav and JumboKing!

Jumboking Store

A visit to Mumbai and you really cannot afford to miss on the vada pav. My sister who is settled in the UK now, makes sure that feasting on a vada pav is top on her to-do list whenever she visits Mumbai. Much before the concept of vada pav was used as a means for political gains by local political parties in Mumbai by extending vada pav carts to son of the soils, two young individuals (Dheeraj and Reeta Gupta) set out on a journey to popularize the vada pav and make it an ‘indulgence’ food at par with a McDonald’s burger. From the look and feel of the vada pavs to the way it would be prepared and served, every little bit was inspired from McDonald’s and as the story goes, the founder – Dheeraj Gupta even went a step ahead to work at McDonald’s to get a first hand experience into what should be done to revolutionize and internationalize the very much amchi Mumbai’s favorite savory snack and at times a quick lunch / dinner for many! What is worth mentioning is that the duo has taken the concept across India with JumboKing being available at Bangalore, Aurangabad, Mysore, Delhi, Amravati, Indore, Raipur, Pune and Lucknow.

Come April and Jumbo King would be selling its 100th million vada pav and that is no small feat to achieve! Some of the most popular innovations introduced include –

Corn Palak Jumboking:

A healthy & tasty option for all. Patty blended with American corn and green leafy spinach to make a healthy filling in our own soft bread, with a dash of  mayonnaise.

Corn Palak Jumboking

Schezwan Cheese Jumboking:
Jumboking’s lipsmacking invention, giving a chinese tadka to the vada Pav. Available with and without cheese.

Grilled Cheese Jumboking:
Mouthwatering slice of cheese in grilled vada pav. A real feast for modern vada pav lovers.

Crispy Veg Jumboking:

A very good combination of a crunchy veg patty, lined with farm fresh vegetables to make it as a “Desi burger”. Perfect choice for all.

Jumbosa:

A rectangular, convenient samosa packed in a sleeve; with the authentic taste of a samosa and convenience of a finger food.

History of Jumboking

Jumboking was founded on 23rd Aug 2001, in Mumbai.

For the first 7-8 years of its existence, Jumboking was one of many examples of outrageous entrepreneurship; with Gupta being invited to practically every college around the country to inspire young people to take up entrepreneurship.

The last 5 years have seen the company change gears and be seen as a serious corporate. Franchising or appointing ‘regional partners’ have been at the very core of this shift. This is close on the heels of the brand investing considerably, and forging tie-ups to establish a modern frozen supply chain in place. Over the last couple of years, the brand has appointed ‘city master franchises’ (CMFs) to partner with its growth programme.

Confirming both developments, the founder- managing director Dheeraj Gupta shares,  “Our state of the art production line was commissioned in April 2011, and is capable of  manufacturing upto 1,00,000 vadas a day.” That is a huge huge number!!

Also, deriving from a globally accepted business norm that strong regional partners who operate multiple stores and understand what works locally, add tremendous value to national brands, Jumboking ‘s CMF offering has been for  partners capable of an initial investment of about 50 lacs. The franchisees play an integral role in menu development, regional promotions as well as bring a lot of entrepreneurial energy to the table.

Gupta adds, “We are always on the lookout for  150-200 sq feet stores, in high traffic areas, mall food courts, railway stations, high streets, college hubs and IT parks.”

“Jumboking is the ATM of the food industry,” he says.

“We answer a precise consumer need, when people are on the move. There are larger 2000 sq feet restaurants, more like banks. The consumer today needs banks as well as ATMs.”

–          Zainab Morbiwala – 

Metro Shoes – Steps to Success

 The business of fashion in India is witnessing an upsurge not only in apparels and jewelry but footwear too is seeing an entry of a lot many new players and designers – national as well as international. But as the age-old adage goes – Old is Gold; a lot many Indians are still more comfortable trusting the home-grown footwear brands. STOrai traces the journey of one such footwear brand which has created a mark for itself in the footwear category with its innovation not only in the area of design and quality but also making the brand available through its online format.

 The Beginning

Named after the famous theater Metro as was the fad in those days, Malik Tejwani, founder of Metro Shoe Store, launched the first store in Mumbai catering to the needs of Bollywood stars, models and upper middle class. Malik Tejwani was a visionary man with a great sense of understanding of the footwear market focusing mainly on customer service. Taking over the reign from his father, Rafiq Malik ,chairman and managing director of Metro Shoes, decided to take the brand from a one store operation to a chain thereby making Metro Shoes Limited India’s largest footwear retailer with about 144 stores spread across 44 cities. Talking about his father’s modus operandi and how the same still helps the brand, Malik says, “My father was a visionary with a great sense of understanding of the footwear market. His main focus was customer service. He could say ‘hello’ in 14 different languages! He was also very focused on regional customization. Even when we opened our second store in the suburbs of Mumbai, he was particular to ensure that the product at both our stores mirrored the community fashion and tastes. These still remain the principles as we manage our 144 stores.” Adding to this, Malik humbly states, “When I decided to take the brand from a one store operation to a chain, my biggest challenge was to replicate the passion of a store owner and high levels of customer service for which Metro had become famous for.”

Malik very knew that the brand had the capabilities of becoming a national brand he accordingly devised means and measures to scale the brand’s reach across the country. Says Malik, “As I entered the business, my immediate goal was to make Metro Shoes available across all major cities of India without compromising on value that made us popular as a one-store retailer.”

Stumbling Blocks
As rosy as it looks today, the journey of this shoe brand has had its share of challenges and roadblocks. According to Malik; like food habits, footwear fashion changes every 100 km. Perhaps that is the reason why fashion footwear has always been dominated as well as successfully managed by local retailers. E.g. the crowded streets of Linking Road in Mumbai! Malik also feels that till date the footwear industry is largely unorganized (again the best example to talk about would be the ever vibrant Linking Road of Mumbai) and hence it is not an easy task to replicate the passion and zeal that the brand owner has and pass it down to the employees and store personnel. According to him, one of the challenges this industry faces is of getting a good front-end staff that has absolutely no inhibition performing his duties. Explaining this, Malik says, “Footwear retailing primarily involves touching the feet of our customers as part of service and hence the front end does not attract the best manpower in terms of education, technical expertise and sophistication.” Another challenge Malik cites as, “The fashion footwear industry primarily consists of a large number of vendors with limited capacities and minimum technological investment. This works well for the unorganized sector as their requirement is primarily limited to a shop or two. But this provides a challenge for large retailers who have a capacity of more than 100 stores.”

Overcoming the Challenges
By developing an unmatched product strategy, devising an enviable business plan and taking up the task of being a ‘mentor’ to its suppliers; Metro shoes managed to cut across all the roadblocks. On the product strategy followed at Metro, Malik shares “Among other things, India’s diversity is also mirrored in its footwear fashion. Metro Shoes realizes that only those organizations that take advantage of this diversity truly prosper in this industry. Merchandise customization as per regional sensitivities hence has been the primary basis of our product strategy.”

At Metro Shoes, the business model is developed around one reality – “Most Indians make better entrepreneurs than employees”. Hence, Metro Shoes follows a Performance Linked Business Model that is applied to both its internal as well as external stakeholders. Realizing the need of sharpening the roots itself, the brand took upon its shoulder the task of mentoring the suppliers. Elaborating on the inclusive growth strategy, Malik says, “The Footwear Supply Industry being plagued by the shortcomings of investments and information requires strong direction and support. Metro Shoes has voluntarily taken up the role of a mentor for its suppliers providing them financial, technical and business intelligence assistance. This has ensured growth of vendors parallel to the growth of Metro Shoes.”

Technological Leap
Malik takes pride in talking about his internal IT team stating, “We are very fortunate to have one of the best internal IT teams not only in the footwear but in the Indian Retail Industry. We were one of the first organizations in our league to computerize all stores. This feat seams significant against the fact that most of our store staff were technically illiterate and hence the systems needed to be simple yet provide the necessary information to manage their stores. Considering these limitations, we could not find a single product in the market that could fit our requirements. Hence, our internal team developed a unique 3 click system that ensured all required reports were just 3-clicks away. Recently we also developed a Vendor Management Portal that provides our vendors with easy access to information about their products, sales, inventory and sell through as of last Sunday. This enables them to manage their inventory effectively.”

The Evolution of the Indian Customer
With an experience of being in the market for more than 6 decades, Malik confidently says that today the Indian customer is more fashion conscious than before. Sharing details he says, “We have seen the Shoe industry grow for last 60 years. The priorities have changed from price range to quality to design and now to fashion trends.  However in the last few years Indians have gone through a dramatic transformation in lifestyle by moving from traditional spending of food, groceries and clothing to lifestyle categories that deliver better quality and taste. In the next decade we see a shift in consumer preference towards more casual, clearer and younger style. This would be a result of increasing global travel coupled with increased media penetration that has led to heightened awareness of international trends and lifestyles among domestic consumers.”

Commenting on the Indian consumer being value conscious rather than price-conscious, Malik says, “Indian consumers are definitely value conscious. Currently both the value segment as well as the luxury segment is booming, while this may seem like a paradox the truth is that at every price point the customer is more concerned with value derived whether it is a 99 pair of chappal or Rs. 50,000 Diamonte Collection Boot, customers will only buy it when their perceived value matches its price.”

Mode of Operation
Though the brand is strong on its expansion plans, it must be noted that inspite of crossing the hundred mark, they still not ready to toy with the idea of expansion though the franchise route. Says Malik, “We are a strong believer in expansions that does not dilute the organization’s core principles and belief that our internal staff are the best custodians of the same. Hence, we have not ventured into the franchise model as yet. We currently operate on an investor model, whereby our expansion is funded by individual’s who invest in locations and/or fixtures and enjoy a percentage of revenue for the same. The company manages everything from staff, stocks, marketing, operations etc.”  Understanding the importance of a good customer service, the brand introduced a loyalty programme – The Shoe Shoppe  where the loyal customers of the brand are rewarded with a high percentage point amounting to 4 per cent as against the market standard which is about 2 per cent.

Differentiating itself from its competitors, Metro Shoes have adopted 3 pronged approach to its business – Product customization, fostering entrepreneurship skills amongst its staff and dedication to customer service. Citing the expertise in design, Malik proudly says, “Our expertise lies in sourcing products and retailing hence our focus is in scouting for best possible footwear across the world: from India, Brazil, China and Italy and then retailing them in the best ambiance. However, we work closely with our vendors to ensure that products are brought in as per trends and that they uphold the quality that Metro Shoes is famous for. Metro Shoes is can be credited for mentoring many vendors and upgrading their pair capacity from 50 pairs per week to 2000 pairs per week.”

Talking about their most recent marketing campaigns where the brand roped in celebrity couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Malik justifies the move stating, “It is not crucial to have a celebrity face. However, it is important that there should be a good synergy between the brand and its ambassadors in terms of shared principles and values. Metro Shoes, we were looking to reinforce our image as a National Fashion Brand for both Men and Women. Saif with his classic fashion sense and Kareena the trendsetter perfectly fit our brand attributes.”

The brand has ambitious expansion plans to more than double their network to reach Rs1000 crores by 2012-2013. Says Malik, “Our major thrust would continue to be Tier II & Tier III cities as well as aggressive expansion of our value format MSL – More Shoes for Less.”

Sharing quick do’s and don’t a retailer in India needs to keep in mind, Malik shares –

1. Customer Orientation: You may think that this is such a fundamental fact but as organizations expand they forget this golden rule that eventually drives customers away.

2. Retail is in Details: Hence companies should invest in information systems and keep a close watch on the numbers. However, organizations need to also move a step ahead and be constantly grounded regards to the qualitative realities of the market.

3. Vendor Relationship: Companies should look at developing a win-win situation with their vendors. Since, we operate in an eco system and can scale higher only if we a have supportive network system.   

Chronology of Events

1947:

A lone footwear store was launched in Mumbai catering to the fashion needs of bollywood stars, models and the upper middle class. Like all footwear stores at that time, the store got its name from a famous theatre – ‘Metro’

1988:

 

  • October: Metro Shoes starts its expansion spree with its first store out of Mumbai at Surat.

2000:

  • August: With a vision of catering to the ever increasing population of the youth, Mochi – The Shoe Shoppe, a lifestyle footwear store catering to fashion conscious Indians was introduced. 

2001:

 

  • April: Metro Shoes launches its 25th store

 

2003:

 

 

  • April: Metro Shoes announces strategic alliances with Top Brands like Florsheim, Lee Cooper, Levis, I.D and Red Tape.

 

  • November: Metro Shoes associates with Designers Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal and Rina Shah to launch Signature by Metro

2006:

  • March: The beginning of retail boom and availability of retail infrastructure enables Metro Shoes to open its 50th store.

2008:

  • April: Metro Shoes launches its 75th store.

 

2009:

 

  • April: Metro Shoes Limited partners with Millenium Marketing to form a JV called MetMill. MetMill operates Shop-In-Shop brands Lemon, Pepper and I-walk available across Shopper Stop, Pantaloons and Big Bazaar
    • October: Metro Shoes becomes India’s first footwear retailer to launch an e-commerce site www.metroshoes.net
    • November:

Metro Shoes forays into the value segment with the launch of MSL Footwear – More Shoes for Less.

2010:

  • January: Metro Shoes becomes India’s first fashion footwear retailer to reach 100 store mark
  • March: Metro Shoes Limited ties with up D Mart to retail its brand ‘MSL – More Shoes for Less’ in its stores
  • September: Encouraged by its success in D Mart, Metro Shoes launched ‘MSL – More Shoes for Less’ in Spencers