Billionsmiles Hospitality: All points south

Vijay Abhimanyu, CEO of the award-winning Billionsmiles Hospitality Pvt Ltd, talks about changing dining demographics in India

Who are Billionsmiles?
BHPL is an Indian hospitality venture promoted by Billionways, a holding company that promotes and invests in multiple ventures spanning technology, hospitality and fashion. It was founded in 2007 and has three brands: Southindies, an upscale casual dining south Indian vegetarian restaurant chain, BonSouth, an upscale casual dining south Indian non-vegetarian restaurant chain and UpSouth, a highly scalable south Indian vegetarian quick service restaurant (QSR) chain.

How would you describe your long-term strategy?
We want to build the most respected, highly-scalable, quality-focused chain of south Indian restaurants offering the best experience and value. There is a strong emphasis on building value for all stakeholders – customers, employees and shareholders.

We will scale up all three brands across the major cities of India. The restaurants will later be taken to international cities outside India. BHPL plans to build these three brands into a 250+ restaurant chain in the next four to five years.

What are you trying to achieve?
Common objectives across these brands are to be highly quality-focused, to elevate customer experience to the highest possible standards and to take south Indian cuisine to the world. With the QSR vertical (UpSouth) our objective is to build a highly scalable brand. UpSouth has the potential to be the McDonald’s of Indian cuisine.

Southindies and BonSouth are probably one of the earliest, if not only, entrants in the upmarket casual dining south Indian dining space. We believe there is an excellent international potential as well with these brands. Though the scalability of casual dining brands are significantly lower compared to a QSR chain, we do intend to take these brands to all major cities in India. We are also exploring entry into a few international markets. The franchisee interest has been quite high.

What are the biggest challenges you face?
India is a disorganised market when it comes to food and beverage retail. There is an 8% organised penetration, compared to 80% in Western markets. This is an amazing opportunity but it comes with its own set of challenges.

The opportunity for the early entrants is to capture a significant market share of their specific categories. However due to limited organised penetration the talent pool is not extensive. There aren’t too many well-established industry processes/benchmarks which can be emulated by young businesses like ours.

India is not necessarily a very easy market in which to run a business. Infrastructure and governance are difficulties we face on a day-to-day basis. As a result it is challenging to achieve a hockey-stick-like growth curve.

KFC has been in the Chinese market for about 25 years. It has added around 20,000 outlets and this is one of its most important markets worldwide. But KFC has been in India for about 20
years and has only about 280 outlets. India is now more ready for branded food and beverage chains today than it was a decade ago.

The next 10-15 years are going to be very exciting for this market.

How do you foresee the dining market changing in India?
There has been a steady increase in eating out spend in India. We have a massive, young, domestic market and this is going to be a powerful consumption engine. We expect to see a significant increase in branded and well-differentiated organised restaurant chains. We should witness at least 40-50% organised penetration in the coming decade.

The concept of multi-cuisine chains is slowly disappearing; specialised restaurants focusing on a typical unique cuisine is a trend which is picking up. The home delivery concept is also picking up gradually, slowly going beyond the pizza delivery to other cuisines as well

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