A screen grab of Hello Curry website.
A screen grab of Hello Curry website.

Indian cuisine food chain Hello Curry raises $1.5 million in bridge round

The Hyderabad-based firm will invest the money from this round to develop new food products and delivery mechanisms

Hyderabad: Hello Curry Pvt. Ltd, a quick service restaurant chain that serves Indian cuisine, has raised $1.5 million in bridge funding even as the firm prepares to raise its first venture capital round.

The round was led by entrepreneur-turned-investor Sashi Reddi, who has already pumped in 3 crore through his seed stage venture fund, Sri Capital. A US-based high networth individual (HNI) also participated in the bridge round, said Raju Bhupati, Hello Curry’s co-founder and chief executive without disclosing his identity citing confidentiality.

The Hyderabad-based firm will invest the money from this round to develop new food products and delivery mechanisms, design a framework on the lines of international food chains, and to open new stores.

“If we have to grow from 30 units to 300 units, we need to have a framework in place," Bhupati said in an interview. He aims to build Hello Curry into India’s biggest food brand on the lines of international food chains such as Pizza Hut and KFC. To ensure that Hello Curry’s food tastes the same worldwide, the company is developing a strong framework and is standardizing processes, ingredients, cooking method, supply chain and packaging.

“No matter where you go in the world, our biryani has to taste the same. We need to do immense R&D (research and development) for that. (We need to figure out) what kind of rice we will need, the kind of oil and masalas we will need," pointed out Bhupati. “The entire cooking should become skill-less. We will produce best quality and highly tasteful food without having to involve too much of skill. That is where we will differentiate ourselves with immense R&D."

Hello Curry is also foraying overseas by tying up with local franchise partners. It will open its first foreign outlet at Brisbane in Australia in two months. It will also start home delivery in Manhattan in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“We are building a very strong food brand that is going to emerge as a global Indian food brand," said Bhupati. The overseas expansion is one step in that direction. “The US market is about to explode. This is the right time for us to enter the US."

Hello Curry is not targeting overseas Indians alone but is also aiming to woo people from other nationalities. “When you are going universal, the communities we are targeting should not be (Indian) specific. We are targeting the global crowd. That is where your success will be measured," said Bhupati.

Hello Curry, which has 31 outlets in three Indian cities—Hyderabad, Pune and Bengaluru—will expand further in Pune and open outlets in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada. It will also open micro-format kiosks under the Hello Paratha brand to compete against the likes of Tibb’s Frankie.

The two-year-old start-up will enter newer markets by opening a single unit. Once it understands the local market and turns the unit profitable, it will expand there.

“We will be opening steadily. We will focus on profitability," said Bhupati. “Lot of companies are trying to open 15 units without knowing the depth of the waters, without knowing the competitive landscape, without understanding the customer dynamics. So the unit-level economics is suffering. Our craving is not about expansion alone."

All of Hello Curry’s eateries are profitable but for two outlets, said Bhupati. At a corporate level, the company will be profitable in about two months.

Once the processes and supply chain are well oiled, the company will focus on expanding its network. The expansion will be fueled by money raised from its first venture capital round. The company could raise as much as $12 million in the so-called Series A round within four-six months.

“Once we raise Series A, we will gun for expansion. We are getting unit-level economics right. Once 100% of the units are profitable, we will be in a position to grow rapidly," Bhupati said.

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