The Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) market in India is estimated to be worth $35.5 billion. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent during 2021 – 2025 (India Quick Service Restaurants Market Report, February 2020).
About 10 million vendors in India make up a thriving street vendor market estimated to be at around Rs 8000 crore daily. A 2019 RedSeer Consulting report pegged that the unorganized, street food market contributes about $41 billion daily. The top concern for local street food remains hygiene and quality. And the pandemic further precipitated the need for more quality control hygiene as abstinence and cutting down on street food isn’t a practical solution in a food-loving country like India.
Gol gappas – one of the most popular Indian street foods and essential to many Indian regions and cultures – has now taken the spotlight. Soulgappa, a food startup is hyper-focused on innovation and R&D in Golgappas to overcome the various issues facing the popular food item. SoulGappa is the brainchild of Yukta Rajpal, a 23-year-old MBA student from Indore. The idea that emerged as part of her startup challenge at Masters’ Union School of Business, is slowly developing into her passion to (in her own words) ‘build a multi-million dollar Golgappa empire’.
SoulGappa has been built on extensive research and a commitment to providing safe and hygienic street food options. Through diligent market research, Yukta discovered that there was a significant demand for a brand that could provide hygienic and varied golgappas to customers. With a local vendor every 1 km selling 200-500 plates of the popular street food every day, she saw an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the industry. By opening a chain of stores with hygiene as a core value, Soul Gappa aims to solve the safety concerns associated with street food and provide customers with a stress-free and enjoyable experience.
“Traditionally, golgappas are hollow, crispy fried balls filled with a tangy and spicy mixture of potatoes, chickpeas, and chutney, topped off with refreshing and minty water. But SoulGappa intends to serve delicious, healthy, and innovative street food that is sure to appeal to all and would have regional flavors as Dilli wale Gol Gappe, Mumbai wale Pani Puri, Hyderabad wala Gupchup and Kolkata wala Puchhka, and fusion flavors as Pizza Soul Gappa, Spicy Guava Soul Gappa, Aam Panna Soul Gappa, and Kiwi Soul Gappa,” said Yukta.
Yukta said, “In a world where we are constantly bombarded by the latest technology and gadgets, it's easy to forget that some of the most successful businesses come from addressing the simplest of problems. I moved to Gurgaon to pursue MBA from Masters’ Union, and everything was going great until one day, I decided to indulge in some golgappas from a street vendor. Big mistake. I got sick and ended up unwell for days. The problem was the lack of hygiene. I noticed that while almost every other food had a national brand, golgappas were being overlooked. This realization led to Soul Gappa, a business dedicated to providing hygienic and innovative golgappas to the masses. After all, they're the ultimate street food, loved by everyone.”
Yukta differentiates Soul Gappafrom the existing Indian street food brands such as Haldiram’s based on her niche and focus on innovation. While Haldiram’s has a wider range of products, including snacks, sweets, and ready-to-eat meals, SoulGappa takes the industry ahead with its hyper-focus on Golgappas and offers flavors such as Pizza Golgappa, Spicy Guava Soul Gappa, Aam Panna Soul Gappa, among others.
“I began by perfecting my recipe in my hostel room and getting it tasted by my hostel mates. Their validation gave me the confidence to put up a Diwali stall in my college. After that, I had the chance to get the product tasted and validated by people such as podcaster Ranveer Allahbadia, Tanmay Bhatt, everyone's favorite Shark Aman Gupta and Pratham Mittal, the founder of Masters' Union. Their validation and direction gave me further confidence to make this college project into my own multi-million enterprise,” said Yukta.
From having a pop-up store at Worldmark Gurgaon to gauge customer response and launching the first permanent outlet in Sector 56, GurgaonYukta is now busy solidifying her expansion plans. She focuses on expanding her retail footprint, and menu options and creating a solid and scalable supply chain to meet the anticipated customer demand. SoulGappa secured pre-seed funding from Masters’ Union as part of the college’s Venture Initiation Program (VIP).