To exploit the huge potential in the Tea & Coffee market in India, The Infinity Hotels Pvt. Ltd has launched its newest brand Chai Coffi. In an interview, Abu Farhan Azmi, CEO, Infinity Hotels Pvt. Ltd shares the journey of his company so far and its further expansion plans.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Tell us about the concept and growth of your company?
Abu Farhan Azmi (AFA): The Infinity Hotels Pvt. Ltd came into being in 2001 and by this time the company had already got two brands under its umbrella, Koyla (ethnic cuisine) and Cafe Basilico (bistro & deli), both in Colaba, Mumbai. Koyla was started as hangout for my friends but the unique concept and the breath taking location of this first rooftop restaurant in Mumbai that started serving north Indian Mughlai food and Sheesha, caught the attention of space starved MumbaiKars and within a year we expanded and made it a 200 seated Mediterranean theme restaurant. Café Basilico was first of its kind in its own genre and in no time it became a place where everyone wanted to be seen and enjoy the fare on the menu. This followed by a franchise outlet of Koyla in Hyderabad, then we opened our own second outlet of Café Basilico at Pali Hill, Bandra (W) Mumbai.
NB: What according to you is the USP of your brands?
AFA: We are extremely confident of the brands we have developed over the past few years. Koyla - ethnic cuisine, Café Basilico – bistro & deli, Chai Coffi, Basilico House, Bakers Vault – Central Kitchen. All these brands are unique and different in concept from each other. Every brand is well established and marketed and has successfully carved its niche for itself over the past few years and the goodwill of each brand is enjoyed by the other brand of the company. Personalised service, high quality food, hygiene, unique ambience, a well trained and performing team of over 425 people, well equipped central kitchens, a great back office team and audit and F&B control team is the USP. We believe in slow and steady and we are in no rush to expand and lose control like many others in this industry. We would like to take one step at a time although many feel it’s too laid back an attitude but we believe, in order to keep the high standards of all our brands we have to keep the basics of each outlet intact and consistent for us to successfully expand at our pace.
NB: Why did you prefer to take up franchise route for expansion for the brand?
AFA: Franchising is a unique way of sharing and expanding any brand with people who believe in the same ideologies as us and it definitely takes the brands to places one cannot even imagine. In current market status brands come and go every day, especially with this industry where not many enter with the right attitude and end up messing it up due to fast expansion and no control on the back end. We believe Chai Coffi particularly has a huge potential in the Tea and Coffee market and the economics of this brand is very fruitful.
NB: How many current locations do you have?
AFA: We have recently launched our latest creation, a boutique brew house called Chai Coffi. The first flagship outlet has been successfully launched at Yari road, Andheri (W), Mumbai. We are currently operating; a) first Koyla outlet in Colaba since 1999, 18,000 sq. ft, owned property, b) Café Basilico outlet in Colaba since 2001, 1,400 sq. ft, of owned property, c) Koyla’s first franchised outlet to Maytas Infra in Hyderabad, now closed, d) Café Basilico second outlet in Bandra since 2005, 1,800 sq. ft., leased property, owned business, e) Koyla’s second franchise outlet since 2010 to Celestial hotels, 5000 sq ft rooftop restaurant and 2,000 sq ft banquet in Andheri west, Mumbai. Chai Coffi flagship outlet opened on Feb 14 2011, 1,200 sq. ft, leased outlet, owned business.
NB: Could you share company’s further plans for expansion?
AFA: Infinity Hotels has big expansion plans now, and the only reason we took this time was to make sure each outlet got the deserved attention and care, quality controls and the right team to run the show. The ones in the pipeline are listed below too Chai Coffi first franchise to Impresa Hospitality, 1,700 sq. ft, in Colaba, Mumbai, opening shortly. Chai Coffi second franchised outlet to Celestial hotels, 500 sq ft, in Bandra(W) , Mumbai, opening shortly. Basilico House, 10 room boutique hotel and spa, owned property, 30,000 sq.ft opening in November 2011in Candolim, North Goa. Koyla & Café Basilico, opening next to each other, 13,000 sq. ft, leased property, owned business, opening in November 2011. Also, we are negotiating with a potential franchisee for Ahmadabad and Pune for Chai Coffi.
While we believe in setting up our own outlets is the best way to retain control of service and food, franchising is an important tool for brand visibility and valuation, hence we’re looking at five outlets in every Metro city to start with, hopefully we shall achieve this by the year 2013. Out of this calculation some will be our own outlets and some will be franchised depending on the region.
NB: What is the selection criterion for the franchisees who would like to associate with you?
AFA: Passion for food and perfection in ambience, hygiene and quality, and not to forget the finance and the right location is all we’re looking at. People who do not even know the business can enter this industry as we’re ready to even run the show for them in case some franchisees do not want to run the business themselves.
NB: Could you share the initial investment outlay and space requirements for the franchisee to start up the outlets?
AFA: For Koyla, minimum area required is 5,000 sq. ft rooftop with lift access, parking and permission or ground floor with some open area and investment of a min 80 lakh (no prop deposit included). For Café Basilico, minimum area requirement is of 1,500 - 2000 sq.ft indoor and outdoor, good frontage on ground floor and investment of one crore without deposit. And for Chai Coffi, minimum area 500 sq.ft, indoor and if possible outdoor as well, good frontage on ground floor, investment of 45 lakh without deposit.
Further, for Basilico House, the minimum required area is 25,000 sq.ft, investment of at least two crore not including the property. Also, the property has to be self owned.
NB: How do you propose to provide support and training to the franchisees to operate the business?
AFA: We’ve been in this business for over a decade now. We’ve built our own team of highly trained professionals for each department, i.e. Supervisor to assist during setting up the outlet, Vendor support, Good will, Purchase managers, Chefs, F&B control team, audit and accounts, human resource for all departments, service training at our own running outlets so the boys get firsthand experience of how we run the business, marketing and PR support and ways to get the best out of each outlet by keeping the costs in check and sales too. When we franchise outlet we take enough interest in the business as if it’s our own, in order to maintain the same taste, same service or better and standards of hygiene. From changing of menus, introduction of weekly specials / fortnight specials / events and innovation, all these fall under our supervision and we assure every franchisee that we will be there alongside their team to make sure they achieve what we have set out to.