India is a very price conscious, competitive and sensitive market: Sanjay Chhabra

Talking to Retailer Media, Sanjay Chhabra, Director, Wendy\'s India
India is a very price conscious, competitive and sensitive market: Sanjay Chhabra

Wendy's opened its first outlet in India last month after reading the market consciously and deliberately. Talking to Retailer Media, Sanjay Chhabra, Director, Wendy's India, shares, “We spent almost two years behind the scenes before we launched Wendy’s in India.”   

Considering the global trend, don't you think you are entering India a bit late? Or do you think it is the right time?

We don't believe we are late. India is a very big and deep market. The level of penetration in India is low when you talk of international food chains, and other consumption led brands. The market is far more mature today than it was a decade ago and there is so much ground to be covered here.

Brands like McDonald's, Burger King, Johnny Rockets and Dunkin' Donuts are already here. What strategies you are likely to pursue to get a share in a tough competitive market?

India is a very price conscious market, very competitive and sensitive.  We try to stand with few legs here which really are the differentiators for us.

We have a menu unlike any other brand. We have a very large range of vegetarian offerings, most of our menu is culinary driven and is not coming straight from the factory. We’ve worked hard to create an ambience which is seen a notch above what the market has seen so far from QSRs. We’ve focussed on things like different seating formats, the music we play, lighting etc to ensure we offer a better food experience.  We serve our food in proper crockery along with table service and all our food is cooked only when you order it. So, there are several differentiators which will make us stand out.

How much time did you take to sign the deal and introduce Wendy's to Indian market?

We have taken a lot of time; and done so consciously and deliberately. We have been working with Wendy's US for almost two years to bring them to Indian market and it's almost one- and-a-half years since we have signed the agreement with them. We’ve spent a lot of time on working out on what will be our product offerings, what will be our service module, what will be the customer experience etc.  All this has taken time, but has helped us transform from the conventional and traditional QSR to what we are calling a QSR Plus.

What is your expansion plan, cities in your radar? Are you planning to tap tier-II cities as well?

We are planning to open over 20 outlets in the first two years. Initially we will focus on NCR and North India, of course, we will be going out of the capital region and covering the full country, but for the first two years, North India will be the focus.

What segment of market you are focusing most in India and why?

Frankly speaking, I would say, every segment is our target segment. We are placing our offering in front of consumers who are looking for quality products, who prefer good service and who realise the difference between what fresh produce and products are. If I have to define our target segment, its people who want to have a differentiated food experience rather than defining it just by an age group.

What are you doing to make your product suitable for local customers?

We have spent over a year on product development to ensure our products are relevant to the Indian consumer. We’ve worked out an extensive vegetarian menu to suit the Indian palate. So yes, I would say we have tailor-made the menu. We have engaged a culinary team which has worked with us in different capacities in our restaurants in our food businesses. It's a team of chefs who have worked with various casual dining chains. And there was very active participation from US Wendy's team to help us develop the same.

How do you view the competition from local entrepreneurs as you have also acquired brands like Barista and Kylin in India and you are also in talks to bring Jamie's Oliver to India?

India is at the cusp of the food retail explosion today, the consumer is far more mature, aware and therefore, we see a lot of potential for different cuisines and formats that can come to India. We are bringing Jamie's Italian in a different format to India and we feel that it fits into a different space or mindset as compared to Wendy's and so does our cafe chain Barista and Pan-Asian chain Kylin.

How has been the response so far?

The market has received us very warmly. We are extremely excited and are planning to roll out 10 more restaurants this year and another 10 next year. While we have aggressive growth plans, we want to continue keeping the focus on our product quality and experience and don’t want to jeopardise the same for the sake of numbers.

Sanjay Chhabra
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