Tenzin Thargay, Poonam Kanwal and Vivek Jha — three entrepreneurs, who run a quick service restaurant (QSR) Rocket Sandwich, did not have much in common. However, they all had the passion to start their own venture. Rocket Sandwich is an attempt to provide a healthy, tasty and contemporary yet Indian, easy-to-eat alternative to people on the move.
While Tenzin, a B.Tech in computer science and IIM Bangalore grad, knew Poonam, a hotel management and catering student, through a common acquaintance in Mumbai; Vivek, an alumnus of Purdue University, met them by chance at a summit in Mumbai in early 2012.
Later, the trio met a couple of times and thus began their entrepreneurial journey in the food business, which gradually evolved into a quick service restaurant. “There was never a single idea to start with,” says Tenzin. Rocket Sandwich started as a makemytrip for institutional kitchens across Mumbai in 2010. “The idea was to sell their spare capacities since kitchens like TajSats, Birdy’s and the Oberoi’s did not have a business-to-consumer channel and we helped them sell their products in the retail market,” he adds.
Reason for back to back pivots
After selling more than 18,000 meals, the startup moved out from the above model because of high investment costs in setting up a logistics, supply chain management solution and longer gestation period for breakeven. Later, Rocket Sandwich shifted to a party execution model, where it organised over 700 office parties for groups of 25 to 80 people. However, the trio scrapped this model too because to scale it across multiple cities again required huge cash.
The startup moved into QSR space in 2012 and has four running outlets in Mumbai. “We will open 15 plus retail outlets and 20 plus corporate kiosks in the next 12 months,” adds Poonam. This move came because the trio understood the food retail market experimenting with different formats and menus.
“We have pivoted the core idea twice and for the right reasons. Finally, we’re a QSR chain after receiving the first round of institutional funding and now we have a roadmap to open 15 outlets by the fag end of this year,” adds Tenzin.
What’s in the menu?
The sandwiches offered by the startup can be eaten with one hand as they are virtually spill proof. It offers over nine veg and six non-veg sandwiches, including pav bhaji, paratha and salads among others. “Our packaging keeps the product non-soggy and transforms into a plate for your convenience,” says Vivek.
At present, it has five outlets on BKC -CST Road, Galleria Mall (Hiranandani), Mahakali Road (Andheri) and TCS (SEZ, Powai), and plans to add three outlets by the end of the next month. Rocket Sandwich allows Mumbaikars order through WhatsApp, single number calling, website ordering etc. The order is delivered in approx 30 minutes from the time the order is placed.
Raising investment and building team are big bottlenecks
Raising funds for the project was and is a challenge for the startup. “This is because the idea is to scale at a particular rate and not turn into a profitable cottage industry player,” adds Tenzin. Besides this, getting the right people into the team is also a big challenge for Rocket Sandwich.
After meeting more than 50 high networth individuals (HNIs) and angel funds during bootstrap stage, the startup realised that there is no strategy for fund raising. “One has to start the core operations and show traction in the model for raising dollars,” emphasizes Vivek. Rocket Sandwich had raised its first institutional investment (Rs 2 crore) from India Quotient for a minority stake.
Raise funds when you can, not when you need
The startup plans to create an easily replicable modular approach in terms of the infrastructure and processes. “We shifted from the party planning model to QSR only because we did not see growth beyond Rs. 30/ 40 crore in revenue in next three to five years at a national level, whereas we expect the QSR model to grow to Rs 300 to 500 crores in revenue in the same duration,” adds Poonam.
“Stop thinking and start acting. Go with a lean structure as it increases maneuverability,” says Tenzin. According to him, raise funds when you can, not when you need to. “Raising funds can’t be timed perfectly. Our learning is that raise funds when you can and not when you need. Otherwise valuation of the model gets compromised,” he adds.