Donuts! The sweet and round mouth-watering indulgence! Who doesn’t like them?? The world prefers them sweet. But in India, there is a savory option for donut available as well. The credit for this innovation goes to Singapore based F&B company – Pragati Ventures who introduced their brand Mad Over Donuts in India in 2008.Since inception, the brand has managed to carve an unbeatable niche for itself in the country with not only its concept of having an exclusive gourmet outlet for donuts but also innovation in the varieties offered.
The story started in 2008 in Singapore. Lokesh Bharwani, a resident of Singapore who owns Pragati Foods thought of launching something niche in the F&B sector. Brainstorming with friends, family and team led him to narrow down on opening specialty stores for Donuts. The first plan was to have a Research and Development centre in Singapore and the first outlet in Thailand but destiny had some other plans for them as their first specialty donut store was launched in India! “We had started putting a team in place somewhere in 2008 to open a store in Thailand followed by entering the UAE and then launching ourselves in India. But it so happened that there were sudden change in plans by the directors who were greatly influenced by the growing potential India presented and hence decided to launch our first donut store in India in Noida. Since day one we saw a great response and our journey thus began,” shares Tarak Bhattacharya, chief operating officer, Mad Over Donuts.
Though Bharwani and his team had done good homework before the launch of their maiden store, there were some interesting facts that came before them. Shares Bhattacharya, “Earlier we had decided to go in for non-eggless donuts but post receiving feedback from our customers, we went in for eggless donuts. Keeping the Indian palette in mind, we introduced savory donuts. A very interesting finding that we came across was that where across the world, donuts are preferred cold, in India, we had to offer the option of serving the donuts warm.” Initial apprehension for the team was restricted with regards to its expansion. The group decided to take it easy when it came to expanding their footprint beyond the initial 5-7 stores in the country. Explains Bhattacharya, “We preferred staying still for the first two years. We wanted to be sure of our product acceptance and let our product do all the talking for us. We wanted to innovate keeping in mind the feedback we were receiving. We took on to expansion only when we were confident that we had managed to carve an incomparable niche for ourselves in the market. From the market feedback, we realized the potential donuts as a gourmet food had and that added to our confidence to expand”.
Mad Over Donuts positioned themselves as ‘affordable niche gourmet delicacy’ and that helped them create a market for themselves in India considering India is an extremely price sensitive market and averse to experimenting a lot with its food habit. Since last three years, they have kept the pricing of their donut consistent at ` 50 per donut.
Says Bhattacharya, “All our ingredients including sugar comes from Singapore. It is only the serving spoons, containers and boxes that we purchase from India. The team is sent to the R&D centre at Singapore for a thorough training and the training programme is an extensive process which spreads across 6 months carried forth in India as well as Singapore.” The group has joined hands with Meera Hospitality to tackle various nuances of the Indian market and their earlier association was with Pan India. A challenge that they face in India is related to the shortage of cold storage and supply chain but over the last three years, they have integrated their back-end to tackle all the challenges in-house.
Talking about their mode of operation, Bhattacharya explains, “As of date, we have 45 stores across India which also includes having our presence at the various food courts in the country. We have the concept of mother kitchen and satellite stores. Mother Kitchens where we prepare donuts live before our customers also serve as our distribution point for satellite stores. We call our Mother Kitchens as Donut Theatre as you can literally view the entire donuts making process right before your eyes.”
Where Mother Kitchens are in the range of 600-700 sq.ft., the satellite stores are anything between 250-300 sq.ft. The Mother Kitchens operate in three shifts and are usually placed in malls. Explains Bhattacharya, “This helps us to tackle the issue of licenses and other regulations as malls are very co-operative.” Where malls are currently welcoming Mad Over Donuts with open arms, the situation earlier wasn’t the same. Shares Bhattacharya, “When we entered the country, malls were not too receptive to have us and the usual thing we had to hear was – who are you? Donuts in India are available at corner shops. Why would someone pay a premium for your donuts?”
Recently, the brand has introduced the concept of having a sit-in where a combination of donut and coffee is available. Adds Bhattacharya, “We purposely decided against having a television at the café since it makes better sense to let our guests sit and talk at leisure. “ Every fifth week, a new flavor of donut is introduced and that keeps the excitement levels at an all time high for our patrons.” The average ticket size per customer is ` 150.
Each of the marketing and promotional activities planned by the team has one single focus – engagement and info-on-the-move. The initiatives undertaken include having an Orange Tee day where patrons who keep a tab on the brand through their regular visits at the store or via means of Facebook, Twitter etc or during new store launch can visit the store on the said given time and date spotting an orange t-shirt and the first 50 walk-ins receive free donuts for one month! There is a Donut Day celebrated on June 3 every year where again special schemes are announced for donut lovers. Another exciting activity is the Sneak Peek initiative where an exclusive opportunity to the patrons is extended wherein they invite chosen enthusiasts to their ‘newly’ launched store in a city and they are given an opportunity to visit the “Donut Theatre” where they can witness the entire Dough to Donut making process. Says Bhattacharya, “What’s more, we offer these guests a chance to “Top it Up”- top their own donut. It’s a very memorable experience for many to visit one of our kitchens and get a detailed tour and actually don a chef cap.” While digital is a key platform for the brand to announce their various initiatives, they also utilize radio to some extent. Adds Bhattacharya, “With over 459k + fans over Facebook and 7000 + followers on Twitter and millions of donut lovers in the country, Mad Over Donuts has a strong foothold in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and New Delhi / NCR. We were one of the first Indian brands to have used Facebook Offers and our 3,000 offers were lapped up by our consumers in a very short time. On the 12/12/12 we had run a special promotion pan India where you get a dozen donuts free on the purchase of a dozen donuts.”
Adding on the strategy adopted when it comes to using Social Media, Bhattacharya says, “Our core strategy on Facebook and Twitter is more about letting people see what we are all about and engaging with them; fresh, delicious, gourmet donuts and refreshing coffees. We consciously maintain consistency across the platforms with our communication and content strategy. It’s not wrong to say that one can easily get lost in the fast paced environment of Twitter. So instead of us flooding people with tweets, we get people to flood us! We want to be a part of people’s special moments and every moment that’s spent at our store is valuable to us. So Twitter is more centered on people and their experiences with us. On Facebook, we intentionally tried to be more visually appealing as food needs to satiate not just the palate but also the eye. Also, community building is a HUGE part of Facebook and we want to make sure that every one from our fan base we have on Facebook looks forward to our updates as much as we look forward to seeing their comments and experiences.”
The team is about 600 people at Mad Over Donuts out of which 20 per cent ratio is of female staff. The brand has initiated CSR activity by employing specially-abled personnel at the stores. To motivate the staff, a Special Incentive Programe has been launched which contributes 2 per cent sales increase.
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