Pooja Yadav

Kolkata-based Wow! Momo eyes global market, aims to be India’s go-to snack à la Maggi

With revenues from Rs 222 crore in FY22 to over Rs 400 crore in FY23, the brand has seen substantial growth.

In India's organised Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector, where international chains have traditionally held sway, Make in India QSR is carving out its niche by championing local flavours. The Indian restaurant industry underwent a significant transformation in the aftermath of the pandemic, with QSRs emerging as the primary beneficiaries.

Despite the presence of global chains like McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Taco Bell, one indigenous QSR chain Wow! Momo has been steadily making its presence felt.

Established in 2008, Kolkata-based Wow! Momo, an indigenous QSR chain, has witnessed substantial growth in the past year, with its revenue surging from Rs 222 crore in FY22 to Rs 400+ crore in FY23 (as reported by Tracxn). The chain has expanded its footprint in terms of the number of outlets and the cities it serves during this period.

"Our goal is to reach a top-line revenue of Rs 650-700 crores this year, up from Rs 435 crores last year."

Murali Krishnan, co-founder and CMO, Wow! Momo notes, “In the last fiscal year, we added nearly 200 outlets, and we now operate in over 30 cities. During the first two quarters (Q1 and Q2), we have successfully added 60 outlets. Our goal is to reach a top-line revenue of Rs 650-700 crores this year, up from Rs 435 crores last year.”

What started with a modest investment of just Rs 30,000, one table, and two part-time cooks has grown into a Rs 2,000 crore enterprise. The name Wow! Momo was chosen in an effort to ‘wow’ the customers.

He adds, “We've evolved beyond merely being a product-focused company; we've become a logistics powerhouse, ensuring the timely delivery of momos and other ingredients to our 620 stores every single day."

Broadening its horizons

After a decade of specialising exclusively in momos, the company has made strategic moves to broaden its horizons which includes venturing into the FMCG segment in 2021 by introducing frozen and ready-to-eat momos. These products are now available across major online e-commerce platforms, with 1000 touchpoints established in modern retail outlets.

To further broaden its horizons Wow! Momo launched Wow! China in 2019 and Wow! Chicken in 2022. In 2023, it unveiled Wow! Eats, bringing together all three of its brands under one roof. 

The first Wow! Eats store was launched in March 2023 in Chennai, followed by another opening in Hyderabad. Additionally, the brand is gearing up to inaugurate its flagship store in Kolkata. 

In addition to these developments, another new vertical Wow! Kulfi is also on the horizon. While Wow! Momo remains the primary revenue driver, Sagar Daryani, co-founder and CEO, Wow! Momo envisions significant potential for its verticals.

Here are the key developments to anticipate:

·   Wow! Eats will encompass all four verticals: Wow! Momo, Wow! China, Wow! Chicken, and Wow! Kulfi.

·   The first quarter of FY24 will see the number of physical Wow! Eats stores increase to 10 across key metro cities.

·   An upcoming Wow! Eats app will  facilitate online ordering for dine-in and delivery from all three brands.

Discussing the introduction of Wow Kulfi, Krishnan states, "We've transitioned from the roadside setting to a branded environment with Wow Kulfi."

Kolkata-based Wow! Momo eyes global market, aims to be India’s go-to snack à la Maggi

He further explains, “In the context of food branding in India, the key is not to establish numerous brands but to build a single brand that caters to multiple occasions. I want to emphasise that I am very focused on this concept. My primary expertise doesn't revolve solely around momos; it's about efficiently operating a QSR. Consequently, our expansion strategy has always been well-defined and aligned with this vision.”

In addition to this, he emphasises that Indianising the menu is a must. Brands that fail to do so struggle to survive.

Market potential

The Indian momo market presents a tale of two distinct segments. According to industry reports, 97% of the momo market remains unorganised, with local street vendors serving up these dumplings across the nation. However, there's a noticeable shift toward the organised sector, which claims a 3% market share.

In terms of monetary value, the Indian momos market is significant, with an estimation of $2.7 billion. As organised momo chains continue to expand and introduce innovative approaches, they are well-positioned to capture a more substantial portion of this market, providing stiff competition to unorganised vendors.

As per Krishnan, the brand's effort has revolved around transforming the snacking experience from unorganised to organised.

“We've strived to achieve this goal through several key strategies. Firstly, we've made it a priority to understand the palate of our customers. To make momos a mainstream snack, we had to undergo a process of mainstreaming momos. This transition has been successful primarily due to our ongoing innovations,” he elaborates.

Even in a dynamic and diverse culinary landscape like India, certain brands hold a special place in the hearts of their consumers. One such example is Maggi, an instant noodle brand that has been a staple in umpteen Indian households for decades. For Wow! Momo’s connection with its patrons, Krishnan expresses a distinct ambition. 

"While it's important to note that no one can replace Maggi in India, we aspire for Wow Momo to become the next best alternative to Maggi."

“While it's important to note that no one can replace Maggi in India, we aspire for Wow Momo to become the next best alternative to Maggi,” he states.

In its journey toward broader acceptance, the brand introduced the ‘Momo burger’, known as ‘Moburg’. This has become a significant part of the brand's product mix, making up about 12 to 18% of sales. Around 2015, the brand also aimed to transform snacking habits from a "plate mentality" to a "tray mentality" to offer a complete meal experience.

“Innovation has played a pivotal role in this growth, along with our expansion efforts and our approach to reimagining the delivery experience,” shares Muralikrishnan.

Digital over TV

Wow! Momo has managed to establish its presence in the market primarily through digital and signage marketing without resorting to traditional methods.

“The most impactful form of marketing is our expansion and the visibility we create with our distinctive yellow signs. Nowadays, when you enter a mall and spot a yellow sign, you immediately recognise it as Wow! Momo,” shares Krishnan.

The brand allocates around 60% of its marketing budget to digital channels. Within the digital domain, they prioritise vernacular ads and outdoor advertising. Muralikrishnan points out that while the brand hasn’t ventured into television advertising thus far, it is actively planning to enter this arena.

“Our marketing strategy deviates from traditional methods, as our investments are entirely focused on the digital realm. Digital marketing today is about being top of mind, and I believe there's no better platform to build this frequency. Additionally, we place a significant emphasis on on-ground activations,” he shares.

Currently, approximately 30% to 40% of the brand's business originates from smaller metros and Tier 1 cities. Kolkata stands as the largest market, with Chennai following closely as the second-largest market in India. Key revenue sources for the brand include cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, and Chennai.

Additionally, Wow! Momo has successfully penetrated Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets, including cities like Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Indore, and Bhopal, where it has been thriving.

Distinguishing factor and global expansion

Krishnan emphasises that what sets Wow! Momo apart from international fast-food chains and contributes to its success is that the brand is one of the largest homegrown "Made in India" success stories.

“All our stores are company-owned, and the founders are actively involved in every aspect of the business. This hands-on approach, from the ground up, is one of the key reasons behind our success,” he states.

While global giants have entered the Indian market, they often rely on replicating their overseas success strategies in the Indian market. In contrast, Wow! Momo has tailored its approach to suit local consumers, and this strategy has worked well for the brand.

"We have ambitious plans for global expansion over the next three to four years."

“The primary distinction between them and us is that they've expanded globally and brought their concepts here, whereas we are mastering the art of scaling our business within India. We have ambitious plans for global expansion over the next three to four years,” he explains.

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