Food and a Business Plan

I keep telling anyone who listens that at heart all I really want to do is open a Dosai/Pongal/Vadai stand somewhere near St Paul’s or Liverpool Street Station. Dosai is so flexible that you can offer filling options and what not. And for the city-struck finance types, comfort food is required. Given the number of desis, Pongal could easily be sold as comfort food no? (If any venture capitalist type people are reading this – I am very serious. I have business plan and all. I will make money. I assure you.)

It’s raining outside. And personally I’d like a Molaga Bajji or two to go with the current mood. I like my workplace a lot – very outgoing people with a slightly twisted sense of humour, but the flipside is that at any given point in time a lot of them are out in the field. So in this moment, between closing one file and opening another, I’d really like to be able to bite into a piping hot molaga bajji. And drown it with some masala tea or filter coffee.

I would have said I will sell Molaga Bajji at my stand, but given my current state of mind, I will probably eat them all up and not sell any of them. But food is definitely on my mind today. I even gave out the recipe for Carrot Halwa to a colleague. Let’s see what comes of it. On that note, I give you one of my all time favourite kitchen songs – Samaithu Kattuvom from Unnal Mudiyum Thambi.

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12 Responses to Food and a Business Plan

  1. WA says:

    I made thayir saadham and urulai poriyal packed it and left it at home :((( I so want it right now


  2. ??! says:

    >> I have business plan and all. I will make money
    Cue Shefaly and her wondrous abilities.


  3. Grasshopper says:

    I am no great cook, but an Italian guy had once told me that I could very easily open a restaurant in Italy. We were sitting under the stars that night, halfway up a hill, (he lived on top, I cooked on the half way point), in Dharamshala somewhere, and we were eating khichdi! Guess he must have been really hungry.


  4. Nandu says:

    Methinks you have updated an idea I have heard bandied about regarding a food cart at Nariman Point in Bombay – my mom was convinced that there was nothing that could beat South Indian food; and that all she had to do was startup, thereby ensuring the doom of the vada pav….:)

    Pongal is comfort food… of the most fattening kind. I would personally want a GOOD idli kadai… Ratna or Murugan global franchise type model. Catering to Kotturpuram or Royapettah or T.Nagar seems to be such a waste of talent, they’re merely fighting similar competition there.


  5. maxdavinci says:

    whoa! I just heard this song yday and i i fell in love with the innovative lyrics.

    talking of molagai bajji, they seem to be lot more popular in andhra for they have a penchant for spicy things! You may not find molagai bajji in every tam restaurant, but every andhra restaurant will sure have mirchi bajjis in the appetizers section!

    trivia: this movie was actually first shot in Telugu as rudraveena starring the megastar Chiranjeevi gaaru. On seeing it become a runaway hit, KB saar made it in tamizh with kamal…

    ok, i’ll shut up…


  6. Beks says:

    Yes! I’m in Chile and craving exactly this food! 😦 I wish someone had done this here.


  7. Adithya says:

    Hah, molaga bhajji is super awesome when it’s raining. Also try vengaya pakoda and semiya payasam. Semma combo!


  8. inbavalli says:

    Milkmaid, molagai bajji… wassup with the London Ladies 😛


  9. Shefaly says:

    @ Neha

    I can’t disappoint ??! can I 🙂 Although even before I read his comment, I was saying loudly, hmm, what are you thinking?

    VC money rarely funds food oriented businesses. You will need to be committed to being your own evangelist and funder… The margins in the business are razor thin – do the costing for raw materials and don’t forget to cost your own labour and travelling costs and licence fees and insurance (did you see the news today that roadside vendors must offer ‘healthy’ stuff like salad and low-fat yoghurt? Yes, that too). Done competition scan? Tiffinbites, for instance? How will you counter their offering? Can you however add on to what they offer? Collaborate first?

    Here is another possible idea. You figure out the delivery logistics and costing. And then market the idea to a big list of even non-City desis who will die for authentic dosai and rasam and sambar delivered to their homes when it is raining like it did yesterday. As you well know, to serve a willing and existing customer costs 1/6 of what it does to acquire a new customer. Focus on us bhookhas and we will be happy to keep you afloat as long as you keep us floating in our sambar dreams.. What say? If you want to be Annapurna (or Dosaipurna), why not start small, make your name and then expand? VC money may also be easier to come by then.

    End of random.

    Now where is my sambar-dosa?


  10. vidya says:

    Everytime I see McDonald or Tacobell I have wondered if at all a dosabell or even a Mc-Pongal model will ever work with Indian food (perhaps idly is an exception). The answer seems to be an emphatic no. Reason being indian food needs individual preparation, not-so-easily reproducible recipes, perishable storage (can’t cook rice and freeze), and dosa making is not like heating a taco and serving it up – something you can’t mass train people in. Why even chutney and sambar are highly perishable. Also at the rate at which the price of rice is going and the margins in the food industry, Pongal as an
    idea seems doomed. Since we rule out the franchising model the only way (as shefaly suggests) is to get into a niche area.Even there it would probably be cyclical way too cyclical for sustainable profits..


  11. Shefaly says:

    @ Neha

    I am not suggesting you get into a niche. I am saying do a proof of concept and demonstrate that you can build a paying, repeat-buying customer base from scratch, that you can do inventory management, logistics, delivery as well as the regulatory hoopla and that you can make profits. That is a powerful story – far more than a PPT you may bring to a VC. An investor – not necessarily a VC – may then fund you to expand at which point be prepared to do ‘management’ rather than cooking.

    A friend in Texas is exactly in this situation. Last she was here we had a long discussion about her expansion plans from farmers’ market to global domination. She is working on some things for 2009. If you are serious, let me know. I am happy to help you develop this – over idli and sambar, followed by onion rava dosa 😉


  12. Shefaly says:

    @ Neha

    Couldn’t help but ask some (desi) people who work in the City. They cited Masala Zone as major competition and some said walking with a dosa just doesn’t cut it – psychologically.

    I hope you are reading these replies. 😛


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