Think big, think different: Venkatesh Iyer, MD & CEO-Goli Vadapav

Feb 14, 2012 | Posted by admin in Campus Corner, Events & Happenings   2 Comments »

Venkatesh Iyer, MD & CEO-Goli Vadapav shares the mantra to his entrepreneurial success with students at Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research.

“The inspiration to think big and be different came from Paulo Coelho, Gandhiji and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.Can I overcome fear and soar like a daring eagle, dreamt little Jonathan. He didn’t mind being bone and feathers, worry  about getting thrown out of the flock, he just wanted to fly at the highest point in the sky ,that’s all, he just wanted to know what it was all like.  An entrepreneur goes through all the hardships ,takes on the challenges life throws at him with only one thing –Courage, Courage and Courage“ Venkatesh Iyer, the dynamic MD and CEO of  Goli Vadapav Pvt. Ltd was sharing his adventure with a group of students from Euromed  Management, Marseilles, who were at WeSchool for Destination India program.

“During the early 90s liberalization ended the license Raj and Indian entrepreneurship started growing. Infosys, Wipro became household names as people from the middle class seized the opportunities and turned to businesses through IT, ITes, BPOs, telecom, malls and multiplexes. I had a strong urge to start a business venture but nobody in my family had ever got into a business and here I was not only wanting to take a leap into an unknown territory but propagating that creation of wealth should be accompanied by its distribution among  the stakeholders . India with its bourgeoning population presents a huge opportunity for the FMCG Sector. Our day begins with Colgate tooth paste, Palmolive shaving cream, Lux soap ; we wear Peter England Shirts, Reebok shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses .In this multi-layered, multi-cultured country of ours we may use a variety of foreign brands but when it comes to food we still love Desi food laced with Indian spices reflecting the typical flavors of the region or community. So I thought of introducing Indian finger food that was easy to make, pack and carry, did not require huge investments in real estate like large kitchen and restaurant spaces, fancy furniture, all kinds of crockery and cutlery. And we chose VadaPav, a popular food item that is made in every Marathi home and is available at every corner in Mumbai .In fact Amchi Mumbai was a constant source of inspiration, its lingo, cutting chai and adulation for Bollywood films and stars have influenced us and our branding, yet, Goli is a product meant for all palates, all tastes” said Venkatesh.

This was the thought process behind Goli Vada Pav, founded in 2004 by Venkatesh Iyer and Shivdas Menon, with a seed capital of Rs One crore, most of it borrowed from friends and relatives. It took the snack indoors into a more gentrified ambience and made it into a sterilized, up market version of its original self, all the while without tinkering one bit with the unique taste that sustains vada pav’s mass appeal.

“We invested Rs1 Crore to buy equipment and a van, and build a 500-sq-ft kitchen at Dombivli. We hired 20 people to handle the kitchen, eatery and transportation. For the next one year, we visited every vada pav vendor to get the taste of our product right. We would surreptitiously ask them the number of pavs they sold every day to get an estimate of their sales. The first few years were financially tough as is the case with all start-ups “

It was a gamble that paid off, thanks to rising incomes and fast-changing dietary habits among Indians in a buoyant economy. But how was he going to get into the space of bigwigs like Nestle, Unilever, Kelloggs, and McDonald?

“While taking care of creating a hygienic product we also gave a lot of  thought to the brand by  creating the ’Goli’ logo that depicted an Indian man with a moustache wearing a Gandhi cap. Red symbolizes the hot, spicy Taste, White symbolizes cleanliness and Green was the color of our pungent chutney. The ‘Goli’ itself came from the famous blockbuster ‘Sholay’ where a menacing Gabbar Singh says “Ab Goli kha!” before shooting his petrified henchman. “Kyon Goli deta hain re?”  is commonly heard lingo at  college canteens and hangouts ,so we combined the spirit of Mumbai with vadapav, cutting chai and Bollywood masala  to create the brand, without any budget but did it successfully with our innovative approach. The decision paid us rich dividends as our one outlet grew to become 12 outlets in no time” he said as he shared has secret behind brand Goli.

But it was certainly no cake-walk for the enterprising duo as wastages, pilferage, lack of standardization, process fluctuation and chef based operations became rampant devils that were eating into Goli’s profits and reputation alike. As 9 out of 10 random food samples collected from streets of Mumbai are contaminated and therefore unfit for human consumption, they had to innovate methods of preserving the quality, which needed technology; which in turn demanded investment in research and innovation. After trying several experiments in this direction, Goli Vada Pav discovered Vista Processed Foods, a subsidiary of the US based OSI, one of the world’s largest food processing corporations, which prepares burgers for McDonald’s and outsources the manufacturing of the dumpling to its fully automated plant near Mumbai. The plant is certified for hazard analysis and critical control point, a global standard for food safety, and can prepare 100,000 portions in five hours.

Here every step – slicing, peeling, dicing, and packing – is automated. The hygienic conditions under which the potato dumplings are made increase their shelf life from one to 90 days and cuts down waste. Each finished dumpling goes through metal detectors and is X-rayed, ensuring greater standardization of the product. The gram flour-coated dumplings are packed, sealed in cartons, with manufacturing and expiry dates clearly stated, and transported in refrigerated trucks to warehouses and thereafter to franchises, where they are unpacked, deep-fried to order, and served hot to customers. The single-touch fryer, designed especially for the company is devised by engineers at the VJTI.

As Goli played with the media, the investors began to notice this small little company and their credibility increased. Soon they had 350 booths of AAREY across  Mumbai at their disposal, which were renovated  and painted in  sync with the brand image , fitted with fryers and other equipment  and were all set for a big launch with much fanfare. The disaster struck just a few days before inauguration. And since it went on to take the shape of a political issue; Venkatesh had to withdraw from what could have been an opportunity of a lifetime not only for him but for all the stakeholders. One disaster followed another, as Lehman brothers, Satyam, Subhiksha and others nose-dived, creating a myriad world of economic disaster, there were no takers for this venture, Venkatesh was left with his product and machinery, the rest was gone. But he had his dream, his passion and vision to make a big difference in the world.

‘Entrepreneurs are great explorers” he reminisced. So he kept looking for opportunities and one day got a call from a complete stranger from Nasik requesting him for a franchise of Goli Vadapav. With borrowings from various banks, Goli resurfaced to open a new store in the fast growing hub named Nasik. Soon inquiries began to flow in, and Nasik was followed by Aurangabad, Latur, Jalna, Nanded, Beed, Parbhani etc. Goli today operates over 100 stores across Maharashtra, Karnataka & Tamilnadu and offers a range of vada pavs including palak makai tikki, cheese vada pav, veg cutlet pav, schezwan vada pav and aloo tikki pav, has proved to be a big earner.

But we still don’t see any big advertisements of Goli vadapav anywhere, do we? “We use Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, you name the digital media and we have used it. The young with-it crowd, whether studying or working is more hands-on with the social media, so we feature ourselves there. Some of these brand-building efforts include public procession of Lord Ganesha with vada pav, vada pav songs at the stores and Goli Rock Shows. The firm has attracted over thousands of fans on Facebook. Plus we get invited by IITs, IIMs, Food forum, TIE for presentations and talks .ISB has done a case study on Goli. Even US universities have started noticing us, and the buzz is increasing day by day. This zero cost, word-by-mouth publicity is the best thing for us ” added Venkatesh.

The growing popularity of vada pav, which is native to Mumbai, across India, does not surprise him. The success of the brand is a reflection of the surging growth of India’s agricultural and food business, which is expected to double to US$280bn by the next decade, according to ICICI. He is therefore continuing with his expansion plans with a view to create employment and encourage entrepreneurship. To this end, he has sent up a training institute that offers multiple programs of one to six months in quick service restaurant management.Venkatesh’s journey is a depiction of how New ideas take the form of knowledge and concepts, inventions result in new technologies and business models, and innovation exploits inventions to allow for the creation of value through commodities, goods, services and experiences.



2 Responses to “Think big, think different: Venkatesh Iyer, MD & CEO-Goli Vadapav”

  1. Avantika Sharma says:

    A great initiative by Welingkar. Much that management students can learn from.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you !

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