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“Customers in smaller cities are now expecting International standard”

“Customers in smaller cities are now expecting International standard”
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7th Heaven, a brand under Kitchen Fragrances India LLP, opened its first store in 2013 and is currently has 175+ stores in 75+ cities and 21 states. Swati Chugh, director of 7th Heaven shares her journey and way forward.

 Take us through the journey of 7th Heaven?
7th Heaven, a brand under Kitchen Fragrances India LLP, was conceptualized in 2012 when 5 family members decided to open an online cake selling venture. After roaring success of that, they decided to open the first outlet in Lokhandwala, Andheri – a prime location of Mumbai. It was just the beginning as the bakery chain now has expanded to more than 175 stores across 21 states. 7th Heaven is now India’s largest bakery chain in terms of its presence in a number of cities. With an uncompromising standard set in quality, 7th Heaven creates its distinction with the variety, freshness, and trust of the product and associated services.

What’s your assessment about F&B industry in India? What are the growth drivers?
There has been a rise in people’s disposable income that has helped in increasing sales. With more players in the market, competition has gone up. But so, it has the quality of both products and services. Consumers now just don’t want to make purchases when they are out, but they also want products delivered to them. This has led many companies to open more outlets and have a seamless delivery chain.

What innovations have you introduced in this space?
There are two revolutionary steps that have been taken by us. Firstly, we introduced the concept of Live Kitchen, where cakes are made in 7 minutes in all our stores. In the bakery industry, often there is an issue of stale cakes and desserts because most other chains use a central kitchen for baking and then distribute those goods to the outlets. The bakeries also try to minimize wastage by keeping the products on the shelves for longer. In 7th Heaven we are committed to providing our consumers only the freshest products and the softest cakes. That’s how the live kitchen concept came into being.

As far as our second USP is concerned, we decided to live up to our name by actually turning into heaven for our consumers by giving them everything that they could ask for under one roof – brownies, macarons, cheesecakes, customized cakes, and anything and everything related to desserts. We have an R & D department to come up with new items every month.  Further, our out-of-the-box promotions set us apart.

How consumer behavior has evolved as far as F&B is concerned?
Consumers now constantly want to be surprised. They are looking to get value for money, and they are constantly comparing with international standards that are set. They love innovations and always ready to try something new.

According to you, what are the latest trends in the market?
Latest trends are always something which is new, exotic, and tasty. The latest trend is Entremet cakes and desserts. These are cakes and desserts with multiple layers of different textures like mousse, crunch elements, and so on. We have experts who study trends across the world through websites and magazines. They also pick these trends up from traveling to different national and international business conventions and exhibitions.

Who all do you consider as your competition? How do you plan to compete with them?
As bakeries and cake stores are local businesses, each city or area has its own set of competitions. We have managed to outperform them through our multiple USPs. For example, a wide variety of goods, reasonable prices, Live kitchen concept, best quality ingredients, chef support, innovative promotion, development of new items, international style store, customized cakes, and others.

 Being an F&B player, what kind of challenges do you face?
Taking care of 175+ franchises is a huge job and requires a lot of investment. Initially, you must invest a lot of money in developing stores, promotions, R & D, supply chains, etc. Then later, there comes the question of being approachable to be able to solve all their queries. You need to have strict measures to make sure that company standards are maintained, those new products are introduced properly, marketing is done properly and so on. You also need to make sure that the staff is performing well and we need to train them time and again. Customers are the key and therefore, you need to make sure that the customer service is up to the mark throughout all the stores, and so on. Luckily, we have built a very strong and robust system to take care of these things, as we are well aware of the latest technologies.

What % of revenue comes from online and offline space?
About 80% of revenue is offline sales. Cakes have different designs, and we have noticed that often customers like to customize their cakes. Therefore, they prefer to visit the store and select their cakes or customize them. Besides we tie up our Franchisees with home delivery services like Zomato, Swiggy, etc.

What’s your franchise strategy? What sort of franchise partners are you looking to handhold with?We are looking for family people who are passionate about having such a store. These are the people who will invest not only their money but their time and effort into our franchise. If one has all the resources in hand but has no inclination or no basic selling traits, then no amount of hand-holding can make that store successful. We are looking for motivated individuals and hence we reject many franchise partners and accept 7-8 franchise partners per month.

How much emphasis do you give on store design and layout?
Even customers in smaller cities are now expecting International standard environments. Therefore, we give substantial emphasis to the store’s look and design because we want to appeal to the customer’s aesthetic requirement. We have a professional interior team to design the layout of the shop.

The interior design is kept standard for all the stores, right from the flooring, to the wallpapers, lighting, and basically everything. This exact design is provided to the contractor making the store. Apart from interiors, a retail outlet requires many other things like machinery, packing material, uniforms, billing software, raw material, staff training, menus, and much more that we help with. A to Z set up assistance is given by our team.

 What are your expansion plans?
Our expansion plan involves going international. Our first international store is going to open in Dubai soon, and thereafter we will focus on expanding our franchises in more countries.

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