The Golden Rules for Success in Food Business If your consumers love your taste, work hard on getting it right, everytime

By Pawan Raj Kumar

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In the past couple of years there has been a spurt in food businesses in India, and rightly so. The big Indian market is getting diverse with big enough niches demanding new concepts, packaging and accessibility has given rise to new opportunities for passionate entrepreneurs.

In the past couple of decades I have had a chance to closely watch many food businesses as a co-founder, investor, mentor, supplier or a mere spectator. Some of the big international brands pumped huge monies with little to moderate success. However, a few Indian food service and packaged food start-ups found their paths and succeeded.

From my experience I am sharing the top 5 reasons for success, which could be the golden rules for those aspiring to or those who have already jumped into the cauldron.

Taste is King and Will Remain So
There are many trends — health, fortified, superfood, vegan, gluten free, organic. But none of them comes close to beating taste. If your product does not taste good it is NOT going to sell. Not for long at least. So your first focus has to be on getting the taste awesome.

Watch the Next Big Trend

The average Indian is changing her lifestyle, very fast. There are many new needs and they are yet to be met. Identify them. Work on your formula keeping rule No. 1 in mind and create your space.

The bigger companies will always take time to respond to this pace of change, while a start-up has the benefit of obscurity. Make full use of it. Some of the trends that are ruling these days are Healthy (Raw Pressery), Traditional (Paper Boat, Sattviko, Chaipoint), Convenience (ID foods, Milk Basket), International Flavours (Veeba, Cornito's, Beer Café) and many more.

There is no IP

There was once a secret recipe. It died. Many investors have asked me about barriers to entry in food industry. I tell them, there is none. There was a time when capital and knowledge could be the barriers. Not any more as both of them are now easily available. So entrepreneurs should not waste their time trying to hide their knowledge. Rather, more constructive spend of time would be on acquiring customers. Go back to Rule1. If your consumers love your taste, work hard on getting it right, everytime. If you can do that, then chances are that you have acquired them for life. This is the only IP in this business.

Focus on Costs and New Products

Product development is the key to success. On a continuous basis, the products should be innovated, improved and the processes made efficient to reduce costs and wastage. If you are able to do this well, your competition will never catch up with you. The inherent weakness of the food business, as described in Rule 3, can be overcome by strong and constant focus on rule 4. Look at Zorawar Kalra or even Café Coffee Day. Look at Cadbury's.

Passion to Feed

An actor loves applause, a sportsman loves cheering. A food entrepreneur has to love the smile of satisfaction on the face of his consumer when she savours the taste and goes "ummmm...". Riyaaz Amlani continues to find passion by serving the best coffee to his customers. Rahul Singh breathes beer and cannot stop serving them to as many customers as possible. Prasoon Gupta can't stop asking people to devour his paan-flavoured raisins at every show or seminar. Raghav Baweja still prefers taking orders himself from his customers even after owning 10 restaurants. Suprateek Deb's life is so full of sweet corn that that he is even known as the cornman or Supaman after his brand. This list is endless.

The food business is tough but the success is very sweet. You have to appeal to one of the most important human sense — taste — and then do that consistently, forever, no matter what. Even after the taste and your niche right, there will be many hurdles to cross. You will overcome them with passion, focus and persistence. Going will not be easy, but following these rules will make your journey to success a bit easier.

Pawan Raj Kumar

Co-founder, HoiFood

Pawan, with more than 20 years of experience in the food service industry, is a co-founder of Hoi Foods, a very fast scaling cloud kitchen business currently operating close to 100 kitchen in NCR.

In his different roles as an entrepreneur and investor, Pawan is very positive about the prospects of food delivery and feels that convenience is the hall mark of any consumer demand. During his stint in leading successful commercial foodservice equipment business called Continental Equipment, Pawan worked extensively with various QSRs like McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut etc. His experience with these chains has come in very handy in setting up scalable and standardized supply chain for HOI.

He is also a founder of a packaged food business which sells CPG food products under the brands SUPACORN and MISHT.

Pawan is an Engineering Graduate from IIT Delhi and an MBA from IIM Lucknow.

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