Sridhar Ramanujam, communication consultant and author and Pallavi Gupta, COO of Mast Kalandar, discuss about the food business, importance of advertising and branding.
Sridhar Ramanujam: I learn that you come from an IT background and later, shifted to the food business. What made you start the restaurant?
Pallavi Gupta: When I was working, we wanted a place for casual dining. As individuals, we craved for healthier versions of food. Since not much was happening in the Indian scene for speed and value for money with regards to the restaurant business, this further prompted us to start Mast Kalandar. We identified the gap and served healthy food.
SR: It’s interesting to observe how you’ve branded your restaurant. To start with, the name itself sounds very quirky?
PG: We wanted to be casual in regards to the name of our brand and bring a smile to everyone’s face. In Sufi, the name represents being happy and blissful and that’s exactly what we are trying to convey.
SR: Oh, that’s great to hear! Was there any logic behind serving only vegetarian food? What were the challenges?
PG: Our core audience is the working class and the younger generation, who prefers casual dining. We cater to a rather niche audience, who prefers to visit only vegetarian restaurants. Since customers are no longer loyal to a particular brand, we thought it’s fine to run a vegetarian restaurant. As far as the challenges are concerned, the shelf life is our only issue. However, we are trying to overcome that. So Sridhar, since you are into branding, what is your advice for start-up companies?
SR: I’ve been noticing a trend in start-up firms, where they wait for a magic number. They are always in a hurry to get the big order and spend crores on television commercials, thinking that it will help them earn a better name. Companies should learn to spend money smartly. There should be a perfect balance between advertising, public relations and branding. One must set objectives and work towards it.
PG: Since digital marketing seems to be the current buzz word right now, do you think it works?
SR: Not much. For some companies, it has worked while for few others, it hasn’t. However, it depends on how one markets his company in the web world. For instance, several start-up firms have done really well after publicising themselves in social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and the like. It does really help, especially, with these websites at bay.