Building an empire from scratch takes a lot of time, sweat, tears and obviously, effort. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. In the 8th episode of Decode, we speak to Sagar Daryani, Founder and CEO of WOW! Momo, who proves to be a perfect example for this saying. We hear him speak about how a venture which started with a 6 by 6ft stall and is now a household name across the country!
About Sagar Daryani
Sagar Daryani was pursuing his BCom at St. Xavier's College, Kolkata when the idea to start a food company struck him. Despite having business in his DNA, he had no clue how to start something in the food and beverage industry because he came from a family that owned a clothing company. He claims that he learned how to be a successful salesperson from a very young age as he used to go to his father's retail store and spend a lot of time behind the counter. Since his school days, he has been obsessed with brands and always wanted to create his own brand, and he felt that creating a food brand ois the best way to go ahead because word of mouth is so prominent in this space and that could fuel his growth. He remembers the ‘’Momo Aunty’’, who used to sell momos outside his school, and how she built a brand around her persona and her momos. She was a hit with the kids and her momos were always sold out. This made him believe that nothing can beat good quality food.
He was going through a difficult period in his personal life when he took his last B.Com exam, and it was so bad that he couldn't focus on his studies alone, so his buddies had to sit with him at night and force him to study for his impending examinations. They experimented with different types of food at this time, such as Maggi, spaghetti, funky sandwiches and paranthas, and so on. He reasoned that if well-branded and packaged pizzas and burgers can perform well, why not momos? This is when he got the idea to start a momo business since he saw a large gap in the market. He wanted his customers to eat the momos and exclaim, "Wow!" to convey their delight, thus the name Wow! Momo was coined.
What began as a borrowing from his father of Rs 30,000 is now a company that generates Rs 180 Crores of revenue. Initially, he used to wake up at 5:30 AM, go to the local market, source the ingredients, make the momos in his kitchen, and then head over to the streets to do sampling to get first-hand customer feedback. Given the stigma around street vendors, he also had to face a lot of criticism from the people around him who used to mock him by calling him a MomoWala. From sampling on the streets to setting up a stall at Spencer’s, a renowned supermarket in Kolkata, to getting a 90 sq. ft space at South City Mall, the business kept growing. Generating a revenue of Rs 11 lakhs every month back then, Sagar Daryani believes that the outlet at South City Mall gave Wow! Momo the initial boost, which made it the brand it is today.
The Present and Future of Wow! Momo
Sagar Daryani is proud of the fact that WoW! Momo has become a trend-setter today. When they first contacted malls for stall space, they were asked why they needed a single momo vendor when a Chinese QSR selling momo would serve the same purpose. However, they have now established a separate category in the QSR market, and now have presence in a number of malls across the country.
Innovation is the key in the food business and the brand is constantly trying out new variants of momos such as tandoori momos, chocolate momos, and momos for special occasions such as heart-shaped momos on Valentine's day. Sensing the current scenario, they will also be introducing gluten-free healthy momos very soon.
Moving forward, Sagar Daryani says he wants to increase the number of stores from 350 to 1000 plus outlets in the country soon. They have launched a brand called [email protected] China which offers authentic Chinese cuisine and they are very excited to see this brand make the same impact as well.
Innovating further, he is super excited to enter the FMCG market with instant momos under the Wow! Momo brand. They already have a few flavours in the market and are constantly experimenting with new flavours which would hit the shelves soon.
Challenges During the Pandemic
Covid was a big blow to the entire food industry and Wow! Momo had to see losses like any other business for the first time in 12 years. He says the business had come down to 1/10th of what it was pre-Covid. To survive this, they introduced Wow! Momo essentials, which focused on delivering essential food items during the lockdown. Though they ended this in July2021, it made the organisation believe that they are open to re-invent and starting from scratch to do things differently when needed. Through this, they ensured the brand was not out of sight of the customers during the lockdown. Covid taught them the importance of pulling traction from dine-in to delivery, as they started aggressively pushing their online delivery model during this time. Momos, being a delicate item, was not very easy to deliver as they are best served hot and steamy. To counter this, they had to come up with different packaging methods so that the momos reach their customers in the best possible manner.
Advice To Budding Entrepreneurs
His advice to budding entrepreneurs is - Be foolish, be hungry. He said it is important to do something which you enjoy and believe in, but at the same time, to be practical as well. It's not only about ideating, but implementing the idea is the real challenge as there are different factors you need to consider when starting a business. The business should most importantly generate revenue, jobs and add value to the economy as well as to the individual. He finishes off by saying - Give your best to whatever you are doing!
Watch the entire Decode episode featuring Sagar Daryani on our YouTube channel now!