Food beverage Jun, 09 2011

Baking success through franchising

By Ramanjit Kaur
Baking success through franchising

Giving consumers an opportunity to savour the taste of fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies, the brand has gained widespread acceptance. In an interview, Pattabhi Rama Rao, President, Cookie Man India shares the company’s expansion plans across India.

Ramanjit Kaur (RK):   Shed some light on the inception of Cookie Man India?

Pattabhi Rama Rao (PRR): Kevin Hicks founded Australian Foods in 1958, when he opened the first Cookie man store in Melbourne, Australia. Seeing a gap in the fresh-baked cookie market in India, Australian Foods (I) Pvt. Ltd set up the label Cookie Man in India. Today Cookie Man has 35 stores in Tier 1 and Tier-II cities across India.

RK:  What is Cookie Man India all about? What kind of products and services it offers?

PRR: The USP of Cookie Man is fresh-baked cookies. It gives the customer the opportunity to savour the taste of fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies. The cookies are made in proprietary, patented serpentine ovens, developed by Kevin Hicks to ensure even browning of the cookies. Apart from cookies, there are Cookie Man ice creams, available in a range of delectable fresh-fruit flavours.

RK:  When did the company enter India and through which route?

PRR: Cookie Man, manufactured by Australian Foods (I) Pvt. Ltd, was launched in India in January 2000 and is today the number one brand of fresh baked cookies in the country. The Cookie Man business is based on the franchisee model.

RK:   What inspired Cookie Man India to take the franchise route to expand its presence in India?

PRR: Australian Foods (I) Ltd established its presence in India with a franchisee model. The franchise route is an exciting way to grow a business. Not only does it bring together a diverse group of people, it also ensures that people who take on a franchise have a genuine interest in the product and making a success of the business. It ensures a good understanding of local business and cultural nuances that are very important in the food industry. Above all, it gives the mother company the ability to scale up and establish a presence in multiple markets with relative ease.

RK:    Did you face any challenges while establishing the business in India? If yes, what were they and how did you overcome these?

PRR: NO. Cookie Man has grown and established itself as a brand. It has gained widespread acceptance across India.

RK:   What practices and initiatives have you introduced in Cookie Man India?

PRR:  The practices and initiatives of the company are:

  • Sampling - Every customer passing our store will be called upon to try our products, even if they have no intention of buying.
  • Sniper Marketing - Cookie Man has a very robust ongoing direct marketing campaign. We reach out to our target audience with door hangers, paper inserts and other Cookie Man branded memorabilia; send sample gift packs to potential customers of each city; interact with ladies clubs/circles across the country.
  • New product launch - Every two months, we add new flavours and tastes to the Cookie Man range. This ensures that we have our regular customers coming back to our stores.

RK:   How many franchised outlets do you presently have in India? What are the company’s future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?

PRR: Currently there are 13 franchised stores in India. Cookie Man has built a brand for itself in terms of being a pioneer in the fresh-baked cookie space. The name has become synonymous with the delicious aroma wafting through the malls where Cookie Man has a presence. We plan to continue to expand our footprint through malls, kiosks and airport counters across India. We will continue to introduce new flavours of cookies and ice cream, as we have done in the past.

RK:   What are your target locations to expand in India?

PRR:  The target locations for this FY are: Nagpur, Mangalore, Mysore, Durgapur, Jaipur. We would also have some additional outlets in existing cities like: Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Noida.

RK:    What is the eligibility criterion for selecting the franchisees of your company? How much area and investment is required to take up the franchise business of Cookie Man India?

PRR: Targeted Franchise Profile would include persons of age early to mid-30’s, educated couples, owner operators (franchisee should work behind the counter on a regular basis), enough capital to meet current and expansion requirements, have investment to form a substantial portion of their net worth and someone who is comfortably off materially, but still hungry for the challenge this brings.

The area will vary from store to store (Between 60 - 600 sq.ft) and the investment will vary from type of store (between Rs 5 - 40 lakh).

RK:    What kind of training and support a franchisee gets after partnering with your company?

PRR: Australian Foods (I) Ltd is extremely supportive of franchisees. We believe that all franchisees need to have a deep understanding of the business and ‘speak the same language’ across outlets. While the company takes on the marketing support, it also provides on-site training for the franchise owners. We believe that the ideal way to grow a brand through the franchise route is to keep all channels of communication open so as to inculcate best practices from various regions into our business.

Related: Creating healthy wealthy franchisees

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