In an exclusive interaction with Restaurant India, Hitesh Bhatia, Founder and CEO, Noodle Play shares about his fund raising plans and expansion for next 12 months.
Noodle Play was started by spreading its brand online rather than investing in physical outlets. What is the reason behind that?
In the F&B business, CAPEX is considered to be a dead investment. I personally saw many businesses shutting down or not performing well as the heavy CAPEX had left the entrepreneur without funds for marketing. My idea was to create a model that was not capex heavy. Also our model lies on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The current ecosystem favors entrepreneurs who have the capability to invest heavily.
Have you tied up with any local caterers? Or have you brought experienced chef on your platform?
Ours is a hybrid model! We have tie ups and at the same time also have an experienced team of highly trained chefs.
Currently you are delivering in Mumbai. Do you have any plan to enter other metro cities?
Yes we do! Our thought process is to capture the Mumbai market and be the king within that city before expanding to other metro cities. We will be focused on Mumbai for the next 12 months post which will enter other cities nationally.
What is your expansion plan?
As mentioned above, within the next 12 months we plan to cover Mumbai with 50+ kitchens. Post this we will go to the next city and from there start opening National outposts.
You have recently raised over 15 crore from group of investors? When can we see other funding happening as it was in news that you may raise another round in few months?
We are in the process of raising 15 crore and have a few milestones to meet. We expect this money to hit us in the next 4-5 months. The business we are building is growing at a rapid pace and will continue to do so. Our fund raising will never stop.
Now-a-days food-tech ventures have become thrilling for the investors? What is your view on the same?
My only view on that is no one is able to define food tech. A lot has been said about this, however what a lot of players offer today is only one of the following i.e. either good tech or a daily changing menu. Most people forget the essence of food & the essence of restaurants. The food service market is bigger than the groceries market and is posed to grow faster. There is room for quite a few players here today and most of them will grow.
Noodle Play is also known for best quality ingredients it uses in food. So, from where do you get it? How do you maintain your authenticity and who is your target audience?
Noodle Play’s cuisine is adopted from the by-lanes of China Town in Kolkata and is made using the ancient forgotten art of Chinese ‘Hakka’ cooking (the way it was when it came to India).Using high flavor ingredients and absolutely no added MSG, all dishes are prepared using very little to no oil and are delivered hot and fresh every time, at uber pocket friendly prices! Also since we have a locally tossed model we do not need a central kitchen, invariably this means everything is sourced locally which ensures freshness and quality.
Our customer is the 22-28 year old aspirational youth of India.
What is your view regarding the transformation in the taste of customers in India?
The Indian consumer is now traveling all over the world and is exposed to the internet and is also actively following master chef episodes across the world. The Indian consumer is a demanding one but also forgiving. To generalize his palette as one of to the likes of Indian Cuisine would be wrong, taste buds change within a 10 Km radius. International foods that are popular in Mumbai won’t even be seen maybe in Delhi or Bangalore.
The part I love about the transition is seeing International food become part of Indian street food. The Shwarma is a classic example of this. The use of garlic curd instead of hummus talks so much about the transition of taste for the Indian consumer, ‘A Mediterranean classics, Indianized with garlic curd for the Indian consumer’.
Who do you see as your competitor in this segment?
I personally feel we are up against the Dominos and the local Chinese players in this country. Individuals across the country have their local favorite Chinese take outs; these are the actual competitors for us. Personally though I might call Dominos my competitor as they are the only player focusing extensively on home delivery, I know that deep in my heart, most brands ought to come together to fight the unorganized players in the food service space.