Mumbai-based fast food restaurant chain Jumboking is poised for nationwide rollout as an Indian burger brand. Over the next few months, the company would expand to 13 cities and the plan is to significantly expand the Rs-100 crore brand in the next few years, said Dheeraj Gupta, founder and CEO of Jumboking. The company attempted a nationwide rollout as a vada pav QSR brand in 2008-09, but had to turn around after badly burning its fingers.
When the company launched its vada pav quick-service restaurant chain in 2001, the ambition was clearly to be a desi version of McDonald’s or Burger King. The idea was to make the ubiquitous Mumbai vada pav a national phenomenon. Just as McDonald’s has a range of burger variations, Jumboking has also had various offerings such as a Schezwan vada pav and Achari vada pav, among others. The Mumbaikars took over the QSR-style vada pavement, which spurred the brand to go national in 2008. It opened stores in Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad.
However, after the initial excitement, consumers in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore did not show sustained interest in vada pav. To make the consumption of vada pav a habit, the brand had to spend crore on advertising. The Indian start-up QSR did not have deep pockets and therefore decided to withdraw from these markets in 2011.
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Although vada pav is a staple in Mumbai, research also revealed in Jumboking that the younger generation does not find vada pav ambitious. They weren’t too interested in paying a premium for vada pav because of its street food credentials.
“There is also a price problem with the vada pav. Consumers did not want to pay more than 20 rupees for it and we were not able to offer the product for less than 25 rupees because we were using the best technology available to make our vada pav hygienically ”, explains Gupta.
In 2015, the brand repositioned itself as an Indian hamburger brand. He launched a line of burgers that had international appeal, such as corn and spinach, crispy veggies, and mac and cheese. This movement met with instant success. The ambitious Indian consumer, Gupta says, clearly wanted a product that had international appeal but at the same time was looking for Indian flavors.
“Our burgers are designed to fit the Indian palette, they’re spicy,” says Gupta. Consumers wanted burgers with an Indian flair, but they clearly weren’t in favor of desi burgers like vada pav.
However, Gupta believes that just as too much Indianization doesn’t work in a product like the hamburger, neither can one meddle with the taste of street food like vada pav. “We have developed products like Achari vada pav and Schezwan vada pav and they have not worked.
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Today the brand only has the Mumbai Burger, which is the classic Mumbai vada pav. Priced at Rs 25, it is Jumboking’s entry-level product that competes with McDonald’s McAloo Tikki burger. An average Jumboking burger is priced at Rs 75, while McDonald’s is priced at Rs 125.
Gupta has the ambition to take Jumboking beyond the current 13-city plan. He wants to open stores in level 2-3 cities. While he plans to open restaurants in small towns, his model would be largely “on the go”. “I want to be the ATM for QSR businesses where consumers can buy burgers on the go.”
In fact, global coffee chains such as Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have a similar model all over the world. Gupta says its stores won’t be bigger than 200 to 300 square feet because that’s the only way to turn a profit.
Gupta says he built his business by observing the business models of global QSR giants such as Burger King and McDonald’s. In terms of his store strategy, he adopted the Subway franchise model. “Subway has a 100% franchise model, with 78,000 stores around the world. A franchise network helps generate profits, ”he says. The QSR chain currently has 100 stores in Mumbai and Pune.
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