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Kolkata brand Chowman is taking big steps in the national f&b scene

Eleven years on, the food chain has ventured out of the city to Bangalore and now Delhi and has even bigger plans

Pramita Ghosh | Published 22.06.22, 03:20 AM
The newest Chowman outlet in Delhi’s East of Kailash

The newest Chowman outlet in Delhi’s East of Kailash

I had promised my team that Chowman will no longer remain the favourite oriental dining destination of Bengal only,” said Debaditya Chaudhury, founder and managing director of Chowman, who launched the brand in 2010 with a crystal clear vision. Eleven years on, Chowman has ventured out of the city to Bangalore and now Delhi and has even bigger plans. The Telegraph chatted with Debaditya on the brand and more.

Congratulations on expanding to Delhi! What made you choose the city?

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If there is anything that’s full of life and joy after my home town, Kolkata, that is for sure Delhi. I mean, Chowman in Delhi was much later decided after we entered Bangalore, but Delhi has a charming diversity of the simplistic and the extraordinary. The people are inborn foodie and are experimental with food just like we Bongs. But if I see the marketing side, well the Bong community in Delhi is also one of the reasons that motivated us into opening Chowman. While doing research for nearly six months about the Delhi market we found out that there are numerous Chinese restaurants there but still I believe that we will hardly have any competition if we compare our taste, quality and pricing with other restaurants in Delhi. Moreover, Delhi is so much about food, flavours and people who truly appreciate the art of food; it would be absolutely unjust if we had not entered Delhi. Hence my decision to take Chowman to the capital city.

Which other cities do you have in mind?

I had promised my team that Chowman will no longer remain the favourite oriental dining destination of Bengal only. It’s going to expand and anchor in every major city of India. So as a part of our national expansion plan, we began with five restaurants in Bangalore and now two in Delhi. We will be opening a few more in Delhi followed by Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Chennai within the next few years.

What is the strategy for Chowman outlets outside Kolkata?

I think more than the strategy what works best is the recognition and support of people. Honestly, the true inspirations behind Chowman’s national venture are the people who came to Bengal, tried our food, fell in love with our dishes and pushed us to dream bigger. When you know and believe that people are loving your food, all you need is a proper marketing strategy, mind mapping, resources and the right team of people. And the rest is bound to follow. I believe that if you are confident that what you are creating is best and truly caters to the people, nothing can ever stop you. But as a part of our long-term strategy we will not give any franchise of Chowman in any city and we will own and operate all outlets ourselves.

The Chowman outlet in Bangalore’s Marathahalli

The Chowman outlet in Bangalore’s Marathahalli

Considering Bangalore outlets have been very popular, could you share some figures?

When we started with Bangalore there was a big blow of the pandemic, which somewhat restricted us. Our focus was on delivery and the curfew had taken a toll. Some of our dine-ins at Bangalore faltered but were balanced out due to the delivery sale. Today, with everything back to normal both sales and footfall have increased to double, enabling us to transform our cloud kitchen to dine-out, including the start of Chowman’s flagship store in Bangalore at Indiranagar. We can easily say today that Chowman is among the highest-selling oriental brands in Bangalore already within this short span of time.

What would you attribute the success of the brand to?

I had always believed that content is the king for anything you do. I think our motto is serving the best content, that is, the best quality food at an affordable pricing is the prime cause for our success. And all thanks to my superb team who are giving their souls behind the scene, including our team of chefs, F&B team, service team, IT team, large delivery fleet and the back-office team. We have recently put more focus on digital marketing and unlike any other F&B brands we executed one of the best, most feasible delivery app called Chowman App, with the best user-face and hassle-free navigation. Recently, we have crossed over 100k+ user downloads on our app, which is a huge number for a single brand like ours.

Five years down the line, where do you see the brand?

Two years back from now when Chowman became East India’s No. 1 brand in Chinese cuisine in terms of popularity and sale (as per reports from Swiggy and  Zomato), I decided to make Chowman the nation’s number one brand in our segment. And down the line after five years I see Chowman’s presence in all major cities of India as the most popular oriental brand.

The true inspirations behind Chowman’s national venture are the people who came to Bengal, tried our food, fell in love with our dishes and pushed us to dream bigger. When you know and believe that people are loving your food, all you need is a proper marketing strategy, mind mapping, resources and the right team of people. And the rest is bound to follow

The true inspirations behind Chowman’s national venture are the people who came to Bengal, tried our food, fell in love with our dishes and pushed us to dream bigger. When you know and believe that people are loving your food, all you need is a proper marketing strategy, mind mapping, resources and the right team of people. And the rest is bound to follow

How has the journey been for you from being a musician to a successful entrepreneur today?

Well, it was always the foodie in me. See, I am a Bong and one knows Bongs are foodies by heart. Moreover, growing up in a locality with one of the oldest Indo-Chinese restaurants in my neighbourhood called Kim Wah, most of my time was spent witnessing the flocking of crowds at the restaurant. I would often visit the place and I was amazed to see the chefs cooking. I loved their food and that is what triggered my love for Chinese cuisine.

Later in my late teens, being one of the founder-members of Kolkata’s leading Bangla rock band Lakkhichhara, I would often be on the road, travelling to various parts of the world for concerts, which gave me a lot of opportunities in exploring more about food. I would be visiting many eateries around the streets and places in my spare time in between my concerts.

In 2010 I started Chowman’s journey with a 350sq ft place. I had imported crockery and cutlery, even the sauces from Hong Kong, Thailand, China, and other parts, and in fact, tried to embed the culture of chopsticks to not just give a bend to the food narrative but simultaneously bring out the beauty of Oriental culture embedded in the food as well. I always wanted to create something different and so my motto was to democratise fine dining by selling the best quality food and giving a comforting ambience where people could have a fine-dining experience at affordable prices. That is why most of our outlets are located in residential neighbourhoods than commercial places. I wanted people to feel inclusive of this emerging fine-dining where they would be eating more pleasurably than consciously.

How difficult is it to manage so many popular brands like Chowman, Oudh 1590 and Chapter 2 at the same time with multiple outlets?

It’s difficult! So Chowman, Oudh 1590 and Chapter 2 comprise a total of 38 outlets, and running all these do take a toll at times. I cover Delhi and Bangalore, extreme North and South in two days. There have been many such days when I started from home at 4am, reached Bangalore, did back-to-back meetings, went back to the hotel, changed, and started for Delhi. But the funny part is that these are my passions. I have somehow learnt to live my passions. I get up at 5.30am every morning and hit the bed latest by 10pm when I am not travelling. I somehow have figured out to keep spare time for myself and my family at every cost and I truly have no qualms about it. I am a happy man!

Pictures courtesy: Chowman

Last updated on 22.06.22, 03:20 AM
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