Starting from garage Wow Momo reaches 150 outlets

Sagar Daryani would spend many-an-hour doodling logos, and come up with alternatives for various well-known brands. Hailing from a middle-class family, though he was interested in the exercise of building brands, doing so seemed a distant dream due to lack of capital.

At our first outlet we offered free samples to customers, because we were sure if they tasted our momos they'd  surely buy.

When Sagar and his classmate Binod Kumar Homagai were in the final year of graduation at St Xavier's College, they sure they would not pursue an MBA or study chartered accountancy.

“Unfortunately for us, we were very poor with numbers and to crack an exam like CAT, one needs to be good at Math. So, we knew we could not do well in CAT and get into a good B-School,” says Sagar.
Momos instead of burgers and pizzas?

“It occurred to us that if we can have places selling pizzas and burgers, why could we not have Momo places?” says Sagar. This is how Wow! Momo was born.

Sagar and Binod started Wow! Momo with steamed momos, and soon came up with 12 different varieties, some of them being chicken, chicken and cheese, schezwan, and prawn. For vegetarians, the offerings include corn, and corn and cheese, among others.

Steamed momos were easy enough to do, so the team introduced a pan-fried variety. Momos were fried in different sauces making the offering spicy or sweet or sour, essentially flavours that would suit the Indian palette.
“We managed to Indianise momos. The pan-fried momos became a huge USP for us. The idea is that people take a bite, and say wow! Hence the name Wow! Momo,” says Sagar.

Beginning from scratch

To set-up their first outlet, Sagar and Binod approached the supermarket chain Spencers to set up a stall. In the initial days, Sagar would wear a Wow! Momo T-shirt and approach every person entering the store, and ask them to sample the momos.

Fresh graduates, the duo had no resources and began with borrowing Rs 30,000 from their parents as initial capital. Sagar also managed to rope in part-time chef ­­Ramji KC who was working at a small restaurant in the city.
“Paying him a part-time salary of Rs 3000, we would get him to come to my father’s garage, which worked as a makeshift kitchen to make the momos for Wow! Momo,” adds Sagar.

On the first day, the team’s sales were Rs 2200, and by the end of the month, had touched Rs 53,000. Today, Chef ­Ramji works full-time for Wow! Momo, and is the head chef with a salary of Rs 1.5 lakh a month.
An early start

In the early days, Sagar would begin his day at 5:30 in the morning and buy the raw materials like chicken and vegetables on his bicycle. To ensure the momos would be transported fresh, the duo would carry them in hot cases to Spencers.

“While coming back, since the crates were empty, we would walk to save money. Now we have a fleet of 50 vehicles. It has been a journey for us. We always believed that Re 1 saved was Rs 5 earned. We did quite well at Spencers and they noticed that, giving us another location in the best mall at Kolkata with the biggest Spencers.”

A plate of momos from Wow! Momo sells for Rs 40 and the second stall opened in Kolkata’s South City Mall four months after the first.
The South City Mall store marked a game changer for Wow! Momo. The team claims it moved from a revenue of Rs 50,000 a month to Rs 9 lakh. With the additional income, the team hired more people and invested in R&D for their products.

Forget the burger, welcome the MoBurg
Wow! Momo next decided it would deep-fry momos, and started charging Rs 10 extra for pan-fried momos and Rs 20 extra for deep fried momos. It was now about converting a snack into a meal.

The recipe for success
  • Believe in your product
  • Treat your employees as your family
  • Let everyone benefit from the wealth your company creates
Sagar adds the team was fascinated by how other
 fast food joints made burgers and pizzas into a meal and sought to do the same. They came up with the concept of Momo burgers, called MoBurg.
During this time, they figured that apart from capital, another way to create a brand would be to build a best-in-class product. Ideating on business plans took up several study sessions and the common thread for them all was hunger pangs, often satiated by instant noodles or momos.

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