Branding a Commodity: Jumbo King Vada Pav

Who knew that Maharashtra’s quintessential tummy-filler could one day be branded? Vada-pav, the name itself is synonymous with small, dimly lit, makeshift stores where people gather to share a laugh and bite into some light food while sipping on some strong masala chai. Nobody associated vada pavs with Pepsi. Nobody associated vada pav with cheese. In fact, nobody even associated vada pav with a chain of fast food joints. All that changed on 23rd August, 2001, when the first outlet of Jumbo King was started.

 
Jumbo King LogoFounded by MBA couple Dheeraj and Reeta Gupta, the concept was inspired from western models and applied to an Indian context. Jumbo King has combined Maharashtra’s favourite snack with hygiene and sells it at affordable rates.

The truly amazing thing about Jumbo King is the fact that they took a commodity and gave it a new life and sold it to the same people who were responsible for commoditizing it in the first place. Genius would be an understatement.

So here’s how things worked for Jumbo King:

They took a basic Vada Pav and spiced it up (literally and figuratively)

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People never had the option of having a cheese vada pav, or a schezwan vada pav before. Neither was the pav ever grilled. This automatically drew attention. Also standardization helped. (The pavs are exactly 3.75 inches in diameter, 1.5 inches in height and 50 grams in weight. The patties are 2.75 inches in diameter, 1 inch in height and 40gms in weight).

Rapid expansion across Mumbai also helped. After the first store was opened in Malad, the chain quickly took up prime locations near local train stations and caught the eye of people on their way back from work.

Now, in the last 12 years, the chain has streamlined its operations and are present in various cities even outside Maharashtra. They have decreased their operating cost with right kind of demand forecasting. The brand has a tie-up with two bakeries which supply the pavs, and two more vendors who manufacture the patties. These stocks are replenished every day, while every thing else is replenished once a month.

Today the Jumbo King brand is India’s largest selling vada pav, having sold over 9 crore Vada Pavs since it began. In 2007, Jumbo King received an award for New Concept in Franchising, and it has also been featured by BBC as one of Asia’s Most Innovative Business Models. Their latest accolade was the one received in September 2013 for the Best Indian QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) Chain.

The question now is, can Jumbo King take the Vada Pav international one day?

 

Author: Arko Mukherjee

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