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Ravisha Sirohi (left) and Aditya Dhuri. Both admit that the challenge of scaling up is to maintain quality. Photo: Yogesh Joshi/Mint (Yogesh Joshi/Mint)
Ravisha Sirohi (left) and Aditya Dhuri. Both admit that the challenge of scaling up is to maintain quality. Photo: Yogesh Joshi/Mint

(Yogesh Joshi/Mint)

Longing for momos fuels entrepreneurship dreams

From a college start-up to a weekly revenue of `50,000, Jabisha Gohlyan’s food chain has come a long way

Pune: It began with Jabisha Gohlyan, now 24, missing the authentic taste of momos, a steamed delicacy native to her Nepal, while studying for her MBA at the Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies (SIMS) in Pune. So, she set up her own counter within the college premises, called MomoZone. Three months later, she and her business idea came to the notice of venture fund IncuCapital.

In March 2012, weeks after finishing her course, she teamed up with another SIMS alumnus, Ravisha Sirohi, a 30-year-old who has a degree in hotel management from Pusa Institute. Sirohi’s dream was to have her own food and beverage business in a quick-service restaurant format. And thus was born Steammo.

Currently, Gohlyan is on leave in Nepal due to family reasons but is expected back. As Sirohi tells it, “IncuCapital, the venture fund, brought us together. She was participating in a competition where an official from IncuCapital was a judge and they got talking and they brought us together."

With Gohlyan away, Aditya Dhuri, also 24, has stepped in, taking over the functions that Jabisha handled, which is business development and “everything other than operations", Sirohi says, adding, “I handle the core operations of the company, the kitchen and the counters."

She was referring to the five counters that J&R Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, the holding company, has set up, three in software company Synechron Inc.’s premises, one in the SIMS campus and the fifth at the Symbiosis campus at Viman Nagar in Pune.

Dhuri, currently a first-year student at SIMS, is also a hotel management graduate from Hyderabad. He had first worked in a hotel, then tried his hand at setting up his own business. That did not work, he recalled, because it was on premises that shut at 5pm, just when his sales would have picked up.

Sirohi and Dhuri, who currently run J&R Hospitality, are both children of army officers, with no relatives—“not even distant relatives," Dhuri says—who are entrepreneurs. While his parents allowed him the freedom to go his own way, Sirohi recalled her father’s opposition to her entrepreneurial dream.

“It was tough convincing him but I finally did," she says, laughing at the memory. The fact that she lives with her sister in Pune has made it easier for her family to accept her staying on here and working long and arduous hours.

“I always wanted to be my own boss and I believe entrepreneurship cannot be taught. Also, I had work experience, in a hotel, before I did my MBA. After my MBA, I worked with Reliance Communications Ltd, so, I am the only one who has work experience. I have worked for a boss, so I know what an office situation is," Sirohi said. “Jabisha would ask me sometimes, since she has never worked in an office, how a situation would be handled by a boss or a superior."

For Dhuri, the dream of turning entrepreneur was somewhat similar, he said. “I knew that if I went into a job, I would not be able to change whatever I thought was wrong around me. It would take me a long time to reach the position where I would be able to contribute meaningfully, to make the changes... Now, I can do it myself," he said.

Although the two founders had some capital to start with, they received 40 lakh from IncuCapital that allowed them to expand the business. Today, their centralized kitchen makes around 2,200 momos a day, with almost no leftovers, leading to weekly revenues of 50,000.

“Yes, we break even but whatever we can spare, we put back into the business. We are now at the scaling-up stage, so first of all, we need equipment to handle larger quantities. Then, in another 10 days, we launch a new, expanded menu. Now, we need an umbrella brand, with Steammo continuing as a sub-brand. Our menu will soon have meals, like Thai curry and rice, all uniquely our signature products. Currently, we serve soups but now our beverage section will have iced teas, juices which are more mocktails... and bakery items," Dhuri said.

The bakery items will feature baked cutlets, stuffed croissants, rolls and even stuffed idlis. “Healthy food," Sirohi sums up.

The challenge of scaling up, both admit, is to maintain quality. “We don’t want anyone to say that the momos tasted different when we had just five counters. They must taste exactly the same irrespective of the number of counters we serve. We have to engage with our customers, which we have managed so far," Dhuri said.

Sirohi noted that scaling up is part of ensuring that the business model is replicable and it should run in the manner it was planned to. The scaling up will not be restricted to just the new menu, which will roll out from 14 January: it will be accompanied by a new brand, with sub brands to cover the expanded menu. The big challenge that they are now gearing up for is to launch in the next city, Delhi.

“We have the time now to plan for our new city entry. We are also looking at retail, which is a very big opportunity. With retail, there is no scope for making a mistake, everything has to be right from the start," Sirohi said.

Both admitted that IncuCapital was keen on funding them further, but they have chosen not to take the offer. They want to grow the business through revenues that it generates, and say that there is enough time to raise funds later.

Mint is a strategic partner of National Entrepreneurship Network, which hosts the Tata First Dot competition.

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