Investment banker’s love for food takes shape as bootstrapped Savor
Mumbai-based Savor offers a premium lunch subscription service, a secret supper club, and curated events.
At a glance
Founder: Kanu Gupta
Year it was founded: 2012
Where it is based: Mumbai
Sector: Food catering and services
The problem it solves: Offers a lunch subscription service, a supper club and organises events.
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Thirty-five-year-old Kanu Gupta’s love affair with food started early. His mother was an avid cook and his family would travel the world to experiment and experience different cuisines and styles.
“We travelled solely for food, and there were two unwritten rules on the road – first, there is nothing that shouldn’t be tried, and second, we never ordered the same thing on the menu. Every meal was communal and travel was as much about the people we would meet as it was about their food. My parents taught me that the greatest form of travel was to be at someone’s dining table in their home,” says Kanu.
He started out as an investment banker, but the calling of food was far greater. His love for food manifested as Savor, a gourmet experience company that is run by chefs, and offers a lunch subscription service, and a supper club called the Secret Supper Project. The company also curates events under the Savor Experiences vertical that include catering, sit down dinners, canapé events, and chefs tables.
How did it all start?
Born in London, Kanu was raised in the Middle East and went on to study in the US and in France, and joined Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. His job took him all over the world, allowing him to indulge in his passion for food, and explore local cuisines. He first visited Mumbai in 2006 as part of the team that set up the onshore India operations for Goldman Sachs, and that is when, he says, he fell in love with the city.
Two years later, he quit his job to work with a start-up selling organic food, and took on a six-month stint in the kitchen of Lou Lou, a Belgian chef who owned a four-room hotel in Goa.
While pursuing his MBA in France, Kanu became acquainted with the then-emerging concept of ‘Secret Supper’, where people hosted intimate gatherings at their home for a handful of strangers and cooked for them.
He took inspiration from idea and started the Secret Supper Project in 2012 in Mumbai. He held the first gathering in Mumbai – a meal that brought together 40 strangers from various walks of life to experience a menu they knew nothing about. Kanu claims to have hosted over 200 such dinners across the world in several cities including New York, Paris, Belgrade and Mumbai.
“Through Secret Suppers, we look for those who want surprise and wonder in their food as much as they do in their lives. The only criteria for the location of secret supper is that it should be charming and that is why this can happen anywhere. Be it the galleries, roof-tops, libraries, book shops, museums, etc. It keeps varying,” says Kanu.
Alongside the Secret Suppers, Kanu was also organising and catering at events under the Savor Experiences vertical. In January 2017, Savor expanded operations to offer lunch subscriptions.
Kanu says, “Our goal is to be a Michelin star lunch box. We cater lunches for both individual and offices. The principle here is that no menu is repeated in a month and is all about variety and quality. We offer over 14 cuisines. ”
Most of Savor’s lunch subscription clients are companies that sign up on a long-term basis. The lunch subscriptions are currently available only in Mumbai.
Talking about his biggest challenge, Kanu says, “It is scaling a business without compromising on quality and building the brand of values and mission.”
He continues, “Building a culture takes time, we need patience and perseverance - gourmet is not just defined by a price point. We have a responsibility to everyone that works with us or dines with us.”
All the 17 employees of Savor are chefs themselves, while logistics and delivery of subscription lunches are taken care of through third-party contracts.
“We are fortunate to have cooked with an incredibly talented group of independent-thinking chefs from all over the world and as a result, have built a world-class team. Members of our team have set up the gourmet catering company, The Cantonese Kitchen, as well have been the youngest head chef of Botticino, the prize Italian restaurant at the Oberoi,” says Kanu.
Savor has tied up with over 50 corporate clients for its lunch subscriptions, and does at least three dinner events a week. The lunch subscription comes at Rs 575 per meal, and a 20-lunch monthly subscription costs Rs 9,500. Rates for events and surprise suppers differ from client-to-client.
The company claims to have a month-on-month growth rate of 20-30 percent.
Kanu says, “Generally, in the food industry, the margins are quite low and that is driven by the fact that most of it is spent on real estate. While in our all of energies are spent on ingredients and people, hence our margin profile is always better than a restaurant.”
Savor is privately funded and has a board of advisors including Vault Fine Spirits Co-founder Anjan Prakash, Management Consultant Rama Bijapurkar, Morgan Stanley Managing Director Raja Parthasarathy and artisanal ice cream company Sucres Des Terres Co-founder Yohaan Dattoobhai.
According to FICCI-Technopak in a report titled ‘Indian Food Services Industry: Engine for Economic Growth & Employment - A Roadmap for Unlocking Growth’, the Indian food services market was estimated at Rs 3.37 lakh crore in 2017, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10 percent over the next five years to reach Rs 5.52 lakh crore by 2022.
There are various startups with customised food delivery and subscription-based business models. Talking about its differentiator, Kanu says, “There are multiple factors, like every ingredient we use, including the bread and sauces, are made in-house. Besides, we have an immense variety as no menu is same in a month, and takes from different cuisines. For events, there is no template and there are no formats. For every event/occasion, we create something unique and bespoke.”
For the future, Kanu says he has no plans to go the restaurant way, and wants to continue what he is doing, only, “bigger and better.”