It would be criminal not to allow the Kolkata Style Kathi Rolls and Dum Biryani and Curries an audience outside Kolkata. Which is why Roll Mafia with its crispy rolls and slow cooked Dum Biryani is findingfavour with customers in Pune and Patna. What makes this Quick Service Restaurant different is that it’s an “online mostly” chain with almost 500 orders a day and 80% of their customers as loyal repeat users.
Reviews amongst audiences have been positive. Says Sangeeta Deb, a loyal customer effusively about her experience at the restaurant, “Well, where there is good biryani, a bong just gets pulled in like matter in a black hole. Now this is a perfect place for ‘adda’ followed by a good meal. They give kulhar chai at a very nominal price and the taste is good. We ordered a chicken kebab roll and a chicken dum biryani with kebabs and lacchaparatha. Believe me when I say this, this place is worth a shot if you’re a biryani lover. The chicken kebab roll was also good. There is a reason why I rated it a perfect 5. Roll Mafia, you’re going to see me a lot. Keep up the good work.”
The investors seemed to have also been enticed by the food and the business model. Which is why Roll Mafia has now raisedRs. 1 Crore in seed funding against an undisclosed equity dilution. They were invested by Nirav Choksi (Co-Founder and Director, Equentia Natural Resources Singapore), Rajiv Ramnarayan (Co-Founder and Director, Equentia Natural Resources Singapore), HHC Holding Pte Ltd Singapore (A Seed fund based out of Singapore) and other HNIs including Bhavin Shah, Manav Khanna and Ram Kewalramani.
For Nirav Choksi, investment in the venture was an easy decision to make. “The promoters were the primary reason. Their passion and commitment to build a world class QSR leveraging a unique distribution model and their focus of customer amazement were key reasons to making an investment.”
Co-founded by brothers Vishal and Varun Sahay, Roll Mafia operates in 3 locations in Patna and 8 locations in Pune. These funds would be used to towards marketing, technology and further scaling its operations in Pune and expanding its core management team.
The story of setting up the restaurant is a simple one. The two brothers Vishal and Varun Sahay who are avid golfers discovered the taste of KolkataKathi rolls post their game of golf. “The taste was so delicious that we knew we wanted to take these Kathi rolls out of Kolkata to everyone in the world.”
Patna was an easy decision. Says 33-year-old Varun, “We were born and brought up in Patna. We knew the place. We understood the space and were confident that if we tried something there – we would be met with a positive response. We also made mistakes – learnt the importance of a central kitchen, quality control and also about location being important to food.” Which also explains why Roll Mafia has a special outlet in IIT Patna which is open from 5pm in the evening to 3am in the night.
The strategy that they follow is a perfect mix of the online-offline model. “The cities we choose define the strategy. In Patna, we do very little home delivery because our biggest signature store at SK Puri is ten minutes from anywhere. People still prefer the personal touch and like to make an outing out of a meal. In Pune, home delivery is a way of life especially for the IT and college kids who are constantly looking for a variety in quick service food and they would like to order quickly and preferably without speaking to anyone. Hence in metros, we have two-three signature stores with a central kitchen and we use our website www.rollmafia.inas our mode of online ordering. In tier II and tier III towns, physical restaurants will remain key to our business. In Patna, our regular customers know our front line staff well enough to ask them for “merawala roll” – which is a roll made specific to their taste.
Rolls are a well-known food story now in India. What makes Roll Mafia’s offering different is “our rolls have no sauce inside. You can eat our rolls with one hand and with no sauce dripping! The sauce and chutney is given outside the roll. It surprises a lot of people but the juicy chicken and succulent marinated paneer vows their taste buds.”
As an entrepreneur, the lessons learnt for someone who doesn’t come from the food business are immense. Says Vishal, “We’ve learnt that you cannot please everyone, but you have to try! Also food always tastes yummier as a customer on the other side of the counter.” A compliment the duo can recall is “When an immensely successful chef who hails from Patna and whose restaurant features in Asia’a Top 10 restaurants said to us during a meeting that he ensures he goes to Roll Mafia everytime he is in Patna to sample the amazing Chicken Rolls and Chicken Kebab Paratha.It reaffirmed our faith in what we were doing.”