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Business unusual

Chaat-doughnuts, accessorised chocolates, and sushi at your doorstep — food goes more niche writes Upala Sen.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2008 11:59 PM IST

Lokesh Bharwani


Mad Over Donuts

An appeal that cuts across demographics. A popularity spreading like wildfire across the globe...” No we are not talking about Michael Jackson. Lokesh Bharwani, director, Mad Over Donuts is holding forth on the cultural sweep of the doughnut.

Somewhere amidst a B-school stint in the US, a special interest in organised retail and food and beverage in India and a cultural observation lay the genesis of the business idea called Mad Over Donuts. Bharwani, does not call his place in Noida a shop or kiosk but a doughnut theatre. “Everything happens right before your eyes.”

A lot of details have gone into this project. There is the “secret mix” developed by a team of PhDs, specialising in food science. Why treat doughnut-making like a sensitive state secret? “Because yeast-raised doughnuts are a sensitive product,” says Bharwani.

Then there is the natty website. And finally there are the doughnuts themselves. A total of 16 varieties, ringed and filled, savoury and sweet. And if you suggest a nice flavour, you can even have a doughnut named after you. Imagine that!


Sofia & Nitin raj

Sofia Raj | Royale Chocolatier

She says she was honeymooning, but from the sound of it, romance was not the only thing on Sofia Raj’s mind. “Everywhere we went, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, we looked out for the chocolates.” First impression: That’s business? Next she starts talking ‘compounds’ and ‘covertures’, the high art, low art of the chocolate world. Second impression: sweet philosophy! But when she mentions the 200 kgs of chocolates she ‘did’ for her wedding you listen up.

Months after the honeymoon and the chocolate research, this erstwhile banker was ready with Sofia Raj Royale Chocolatiers. Sofia’s chocolates are from Belgium, the flavours from the US, there is chocolate for the diabetics (from Trinidad), Ayurvedic chocolates and even ‘accessorised’ coloured chocolates.

Says Sofia, “Most of our orders happen online (her husband Nitin designed the website). We cater to baby showers, corporate welcomes...”

Even the packaging is special. Sofia mentions how the PVC sheets are sent to Bombay for toxin-removal. “Unlike your usual mithai ka dabba, our chocolate box does not start smelling after three weeks.”

And just in case you were planning to go chocolate shopping in the cruel April-heat she also gives you an insulated ‘cool’ bag which keeps the chocolate from melting for six hours.


Sandeep bansal | Sushi King

It takes some imagination and a lot of gumption to sell raw fish to a butter chicken-eating Capital. But then as it turns out, the fish is not entirely raw, and Lady Unluck has had as much a hand in the roaring start of Sushi Kings as did Lady Luck.

Why sushi? “Why not?” says Sandeep Bansal, who also runs a software development and BPO company in Gurgaon. Is it true that he broke-even on month two? He replies with robotic precision, “No, Day four”

And why home delivery? “It was an unlucky fluke.” He and his wife Deepa had planned a dine-in, but the 3000 square feet, 90-cover place they wanted never happened. “But by then the team was in order, the chefs appointed, the research done so we settled for a home delivery service.”

A little more than two months since then, Bansal says he has a growing and varied clientele — but then that’s expected, right? What’s nice and unexpected are the little touches. Take the packaging and delivery system designed to “save the sushi from the Delhi-climate and the potholes”. The same combination of sensitivity and innovation is evident in the menu (you can order online). So apart from all that traditional Takara-nakara, there are versions and versions to suit tastes and distastes — cooked fish rolls, meat (Pepper Chicken, Ham, Pork Salami) and vegetables.

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