“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
– Joshua J. Marine
The city of Mumbai can’t function without its lifeline i.e. Local trains and Vada Pavs. You see people slaving 6 days a week, buying finger foods like Vada Pav on the streets and running back to their offices or colleges. Despite of having this product in every nook and corner of the city, Dheeraj Gupta inspired by Mcdonald’s business model decided to come up with his own Vada Pav brand, Jumbo King. He believes his idea of selling Vada Pavs hygienically has lead to the success of the brand.
Dheeraj, an MBA graduate from Pune was embarking on a journey of entrepreneurship when his classmates were working in renowned companies. Before Jumbo King, he decided to start his own Mithai (Sweets) business. Although his family already ran a Mithai shop, he wanted to be self-independent and do something on his own, so he came up the idea of selling packaged Mithais with a longer shelf life. He borrowed 5 Lakhs from his brother to launch Manali Foods in 1998. But unfortunately despite of trying various things including setting up a research lab to meliorate shelf life, his attempt was abortive.
Failure of Manali Foods did not oust the entrepreneurship fervour within him. He went to UK to explore the exporting of Indian Mithais and to his surprise encountered something unanticipated. He stayed with a person who was Burger King Franchisee and overhauled the way things worked to run a fast food joint. After returning back, he read a book about the founder of Mcdonald’s named McDonald’s: Behind the Arches. Soon, he decided to follow the same model and launch his own fast food brand.
Dheeraj knew that Vada Pav was the most obvious fast food choice for Mumbaikars. But setting up Jumbo King wasn’t a smooth phase of his life. He faced problems in finding people as very few were interested and wanted to join. Also, he found it difficult to get the right quality of bread which was round, like the burger breads available at Mcdonald’s. Despite of a strong resistance from his family who reckoned he was wasting his MBA degree, he borrowed 2 Lakhs to set up an outlet near Malad Station and called it Chaat Factory. He wanted the open the stores near stations to ensure that the area is crowded enough for the vada pavs to be sold.
The initial plan was selling all kinds of chaats at Chaat Factory in a hygienic manner, but they started only with Vada Pavs. One day he overheard two ladies calling the store a con because they were selling just vada pavs and not chaats. Immediately, Dheeraj decided to focus only on one product and since they were selling larger Vada Pavs than what was available in the market, he renamed it to Jumbo King.
Jumboking’s sales were quite slow for the first five months but Dheeraj didn’t lose heart and kept observing. He realized that all people want is a piping hot, tasty snack! He offered them something extra with an elegant packaging and people were satisfied with a hygienic, tasty vada pav available at just Rs.5
The second store was set up in the same neighbourhood after 18 months and the third one in Andheri. Today, Jumboking has 45 outlets with 35 in Mumbai and rest in Bangalore, Aurangabad and Gujarat. Dheeraj plans to increase the number to 100 in the next 12 months and extend its presence to 27 other cities.
When JumboKing extended to Gujarat, he noticed that the vada pav cart sellers used butter to sell their products and he used the same technique to come up with Butter Jumbo since the people of Gujarat loved butter. This experiment was conducted in Mumbai as well and in the next two months Butter Jumbo accounted 60 % of the total sales of Vada pav in the city. Jumbo King today offers a plethora of vada pav varieties like Chole, Cheese, Grill, Schezwan etc available at prices in the range of Rs. 15-40.
Dheeraj believes reading, education and having a role model are imperative to build a sustainable business. He advices entrepreneurs that apart from examining the success and failure of other businessmen, one should also learn from one’s own experiences for developing a strategic and productive plan.