Having won the Franchisee of the Year award for his successful Subway franchise in Mumbai, India for the year 2009, Ashwin Dhanuka speaks about his award, franchising and his story so far. Dhanuka presently owns one location in Mumbai that he operates with his father.
Jasmeet Sahi (JS): How does it feel to be awarded ‘Franchisee of the Year 2009’ from amongst 4,000 franchisees?
Ashwin Dhanuka (AD): No doubt, it’s an honor to be selected from amongst 4,000 franchisees; however I think that I was able to accomplish this because of these other franchisees! I have been a franchisee since 4 years or so, whilst others have been here from the beginning. Picking up tips and learning from the more experienced franchisees, including Mumbai’s DA, Chetan Arora and India’s ADM, Bobby Gulri, has helped me achieve this award.
JS: When did you enter into the business of franchising? What inspired you to be a franchisee for Subway?
AD: I started franchising in 2005 when I migrated to India from Australia. Having lived overseas all my life, Subway was a prevalent brand and one of my favourite picks for meals. My keen interest in food and general fitness coupled with my MBA in Entrepreneurship motivated me to enter the franchising world.
JS: What new initiatives and practices have you introduced in your outlet?
AD: The basic rule of survival for players in the QSR industry is to provide high levels of customer satisfaction, which I am certain, is present in all outlets. However, I feel that an equally important aspect is employee satisfaction and is directly related to providing good customer service. Happy employees = profitable business!
JS: What support does the franchisor provide you to efficiently run the franchise?
AD: The franchisor, through its team provides all stores with operational directions and tips on improving business whether, in the form of introducing new products or through training and providing best practice examples.
JS: You have called your outlet a ‘family-run business’, could you elaborate on that?
AD: When I say family run, I literally mean family-run! There have been times when my wife and I have worked for 14 hours straight, mopping up floors and cutting vegetables! My father is also involved in the business and manages day to day operations. And at the end of the day, aren’t crew members part of our family? Regardless of whose birthday it is, a crew member or my wife, we celebrate it at the store together and every celebration comes with a new flavor of cake!
JS: What are your future plans? Do you plan to take up multiple locations?
AD: Yes, I would like to expand and become a multi-unit owner. However, given the Indian market, locations are not as easy to come by and its not feasible to have outlets located close to each other as is usually the case in countries like Australia, USA and Singapore. So yes, I would like to expand, however, it may involve international expansion as well.
JS: Any advice for young entrepreneurs?
AD: Franchising is a good blend of owning your independent business whilst receiving support from the franchisor. Yes, there are restrictions in running operations to ensure standards remain high, and you cannot decide to take drastic steps, but knowing there is a franchisor ready to support you always, makes it worthwhile. My advice for potential entrepreneurs is, do your research and study the franchise model carefully, because once you’re in it, you cannot have second thoughts; it is not like flicking an “on/off” switch!