The Desi Donut Brand

The Desi Donut Brand

Chandigarh-based Ketan Kalra explored his passion for food-entrepreneurship, which led him to launch Super Donuts, a retail venture that sells donuts with a deeply researched Indian twist. Today, his five stores in Chandigarh sell 154 different products, and he’s now gearing to enter other cities. And, I must add, he sells a butter chicken donut!

Ketan Kalra had no prior work experience, not even as an intern. In addition, he also had a few rejections from renowned donut brands in his mailbox. “But my being professionally handicapped never stopped me from starting this business,” says he about his venture – Super Donuts. A graduate in Economics Honors from Punjab University, Kalra wanted to pursue sports and started rally driving in the early days of college. But soon, the QSR space attracted his attention. Following six months of research, he realized that quick bites, sweet and savory, breads and bagels were replacing traditional food habits. “I knew that the market had a vacuum, and rest was all hard work,” says he. The idea of the first Indian-flavor-based, organized, donut brand was up and running in Chandigarh in 2013.

A self-funded venture, setting up the kitchen and spreading awareness were two major tasks Kalra undertook personally. He had to make sure he was not infringing on any copyrights, had to establish a unique identity, elbow competition, “…and, of course take in all criticism that came with being young and less experienced,” he reminisces.

Baby Steps

Super Donuts’ quick service restaurant was established with a small loan in the first year, and now has expanded to five stores, all of which are self-funded.

In the first year, Super Donuts sold 800 donuts a day, a significant number for a small city. The offerings have been expanded to include shakes, burgers, sandwiches, bread varieties, to bring in additional revenue. “All products are based on customer feedback. We try to capture the response of walk-in customers to make sure there is no gap between what we are expected to serve and what we actually have on our menu,” he explains.

It was a one-man show initially, where Kalra managed everything, from the recipe to the sale of the product. He now has a team of about 70 people and five stores across the state.

Overcoming Challenges

The presence of several foreign and Indian brands in this segment is one of the many challenges that Super Donuts faces. Keeping the interest of customers going is another. “People have spending capacity, they understand taste, they have travelled abroad, they’ve gorged on international doughnut brands, so they start comparing. One can have a great product or service, but the bottom line is you have to engage the customer and deliver a superior product,” he opines.  For Super Donuts, Kalra is very serious about a nuanced, social media strategy.

Another challenge lies in sustaining and growing a restaurant once it has gotten some traction. The first and probably most important part of the expansion equation is to hire quality people. Additionally, the majority of dining decisions are made based on location. “As clichéd as it may be to say this, choosing high-traffic locations in great neighbourhoods helps us grow business tremendously,” he adds.

All products are based on customer feedback. We try to capture the response of walk-in customers to make sure there is no gap between what we are expected to serve and what we actually have on our menu.

 – Ketan Kalra, Founder, Super Donuts

Building on Strengths

Though donuts are a western product, Super Donuts was built with a clear perspective of doing India-specific products. “Indian tastes are changing and global cuisine is becoming popular, but so are local tastes,” Kalra points out. To bridge that gap, Super Donuts has been introducing not only classic donuts but also incorporated charcoal burger, donut pizzas, garlic-herb breads, savoury donuts, among others. Giving it a desi touch, it also serves butter chicken donuts and down-town pizza donuts. “This separates us from international brand offerings. As for local ones, we are the only organized donut brand and hence not seen any other company bridging this gap,” he adds.

Expanding Reach

From one store in Chandigarh, Super Donuts has five stores serving about 154 different products with variants across the stores in four years. “We are currently present in Punchkula, Patiala, Mohali and are on the verge of opening stores in Ludhiana and Jalandhar,” he says. The idea is to expand reach one state at time. “We have noticed that a particular state’s consumer preferences are similar. So after covering Punjab, we shall look at neighbouring states,” he explains. The idea is to strengthen its presence in each city before moving on to the next. Particularly tapping tier 2 and 3 cities in North India, followed by smart cities across the country, Kalra is targeting to grow by 20 stores in the next three years. Super Donut stores as of now are either company owned or franchisees. Kalra is open to different formats to enable an aggressive expansion.

Putting together a senior team in place is one of the other key plans to achieve this goal.

Catering to Different Tastes

Today, tastes and preferences are changing fast – people are going for vegan, gluten-free food options and also seek new flavours. So developing products to meet these varied requirements is one of the ways to build customer loyalty.

Loyalty programs are becoming more prevalent throughout the fast-food industry and Super Donut has also introduced the points system in an attempt to retain loyal customers and draw in new ones.

Employee retention and motivation of staff has become a major concern for the industry. But for Kalra, the solution lies in nurturing good relations at workplace, providing material benefits to the employees, recognising achievements, perks as well as training.

Apart from social media, Super Donuts also uses information technology tools such as sales tools to improve sales productivity; data mining, customer relationship management to better understand customers and market more effectively.

The company registered revenues of Rs. 5 crore for 2016-17 and has an aggressive expansion plan to become a household name. Quality, product innovation and customer services are the three pillars on which it expects to achieve this goal and expand to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Following Punjab, where it is currently expanding, the next step would be to create a strong foothold in north India. “An extensive funding plan to develop the brand is going to be the next course of action,” adds Kalra, on a concluding note.

Snapshot: Unicorn Food Products, brand Super Donuts

Year of founding: 2012

Founder: Ketan Kalra

Funding: Self

Focus: Donuts and other quick bytes

Concept in Brief

QSR with Steady Growth

Ketan Kalra did not let rejections set him back from pursuing his goal of working with the donuts. He started a QSR in Chandigarh after studying the market, observing the changing lifestyle and honing in on customer preferences, in 2013. Since then, he has slowly added four more in the city and is now planning to expand to the entire Punjab. Desi twist and adding to the product range based on customer demand have ensured his growth. Now, he wants to go state by state, strengthening his position in each state before moving to the next. To achieve this, he is in the process of establishing a top management team as well as raise funds, in addition to continue with research and development.

Meera Srikant has been working with publishers and publications since 1993, writing and editing articles, features and stories across topics. She also blogs and writes poems, novels and short stories during leisure. Writing for The Smart CEO since 2010, she is also a classical dancer.

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