Dheeraj Gupta, founder of the homegrown burger brand Jumboking shares insights about the brand’s evolution, its distinctive approach to growth and technological innovation
Bengaluru: With burger joints mushrooming everywhere, there is one Indian burger brand that distinguishes itself by serving an all-vegetarian menu. Jumboking is the brainchild of Dheeraj Gupta, who chose to set aside the safety of his family business to embark on his entrepreneurial journey.
Armed with a modest investment of Rs 2 lakh from his family, Gupta ventured into the unorganized world of fast food in 2001. With a humble beginning and a grand vision, he was able to build a successful business that today has a network of 157 outlets spread across the country.
In an exclusive interview with IndiaRetailing, Gupta, founder of the homegrown burger brand Jumboking gives insight into the brand’s evolution, its distinctive approach to growth, technological innovation, expansion and much more. Edited excerpts…
What is the backstory of the Jumboking?
We began as a company selling vada pav (a popular Mumbai-based street food) and were one of the pioneers to establish a branded identity for this previously unbranded product in the city. We opened our first retail store on 23 August 2001 at Malad in Mumbai.
However, in 2017, we decided to make a strategic shift to the burger segment and in 2018, we successfully completed the transition, making Jumboking India’s largest homegrown burger brand today.
Why did you choose to make the shift?
Let’s take the analogy of Bajaj Auto to understand this. Its transition from scooters to bikes was transformational because scooters had a certain preconceived notion around them. Thanks to the evolving aspirations of Indian youth, they preferred to be seen on bikes rather than scooters. Similarly, burgers have a more aspirational appeal in the market than vada pav.
Another significant challenge for vada pav was its pricing. Despite sourcing high-quality raw materials from top suppliers and implementing rigorous hygiene standards, customers were hesitant to pay more than Rs 20 for a vada pav, which presented a considerable obstacle for the business.
Was the company bootstrapped?
The company has been self-funded since its establishment, and we sought external investment only in 2008. Since then, we haven’t pursued additional funding rounds, and have been operating primarily based on our internal resources and approvals.
In the first financial year of our business, our system-wide turnover was Rs 1 crore.
What sets Jumbo King apart from other burger retailers?
Our key differentiator lies in the size of our stores. We do not operate sit-down restaurants. Instead, our retail outlets typically range from 200 sq. ft. to 300 sq. ft. in size. Our primary value proposition to customers is convenience. We take pride in being available at every nook and corner, and accessibility is our greatest strength.
Another significant aspect is that Jumboking holds the distinction of being the largest vegetarian burger chain in India. We offer a total of eight unique standardized options on our menu, all of which are entirely vegetarian. Many customers tell us that when it comes to vegetarian food, Jumbo King is their top choice, even surpassing international brands.
One crucial aspect you focus on while scaling up your business?
The major factor that we take care of is not to grow too wide, by expanding into many cities. At present, our presence is concentrated in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. We regard these four cities as our primary focus, and our goal is to thoroughly test and establish a strong presence within them before considering further expansion.
Many individuals attempt to expand rapidly into 50 or even 100 cities and make it complicated for themselves. In contrast, we adopt a simplified approach, which affords us several advantages, particularly in terms of economies of scale within the supply chain, marketing efforts, and the training and development support we provide to our franchisees.
Our business is tightly knit in these four cities. The idea is to dominate these cities rather than spread into too many cities and get stuck.
What are your current sales channels?
Our core sales channel is through the Jumboking stores. Through the stores, we also facilitate online sales. For delivery services, we have established partnerships with Zomato and Swiggy.
Do you franchise?
Like Subway, we have only franchise stores. Prospective franchisees interested in our business can either visit one of our physical stores to inquire and obtain contact information or in today’s digital age, they can easily access our website.
On our website, there’s a simple application form to fill out, requiring an interested person’s name, contact number, and email address. Our team reaches out to them to provide detailed information about the franchising process and what our brand offers. I make it a point to review each franchisee before a formal sign-up.
How do you engage with consumers?
In April 2023, we introduced a loyalty program- JK Burger Rewards. Within this relatively short period, we’ve enrolled approximately a million members. This program has significantly enhanced our communication with customers, allowing us to efficiently convey information about new offers and product launches, keeping them well-informed and engaged.
In addition to this, we also leverage social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook as marketing channels. We actively collaborate with various food influencers who possess their own dedicated audiences.
In what way do you integrate technology into the business?
Technology plays a crucial role in every aspect of our operations. This includes our loyalty program and JK University, where all training videos for our franchisee employees are available in a digital format. To access these resources, employees need to log in to the JK University app, which provides them with access to the video database.
Technology is seamlessly integrated into our supply chain operations. This includes the point of sale (POS) system, where the entire ordering process is conducted online, and payments are made digitally. In our stores, consumers can access product information, pricing, and other details digitally. Furthermore, our technology allows us to identify and keep track of our regular customers, providing valuable insights for our business.
We see tech as a powerful enabler that enhances the efficiency of our operations. Our dedicated IT department is constantly focused on exploring emerging technologies and assessing how they can be integrated to make the life of the venture easier.
Three game-changing strategies you have implemented in your business?
Primarily our focus is on a strategic approach to geographical expansion. Unlike many businesses that might expand to 100 cities by the time they reach 200 stores, we have deliberately avoided that path.
Our second key focus is on franchising with a strict emphasis on recruiting highly committed franchisees. We prioritize individuals who are deeply invested in the business, and we are not seeking financial investors. This approach ensures that our franchisees are serious and committed to their own success, encouraging them to expand with second and third stores.
Our third core principle is prioritizing the customer and remaining loyal to them, rather than just seeking their loyalty. We maintain a straightforward format by exclusively operating takeaway stores and avoiding high-end dining or seating options.
The customer experience is central to all our operations, akin to how a budget airline caters to a specific customer base seeking speed and reliability. Additionally, we remain committed to being a vegetarian brand and do not introduce non-vegetarian products, even if they are selling well in the market.
What are the brand’s long-term plans?
Our expected revenue for this year will be approximately Rs 120 crore. We plan to double our turnover in the next two years.
Currently, we are focused on building further momentum and expanding within the four cities we have mentioned. Our initial goal is to reach the milestone of 500 stores within these cities in the next 5 to 6 years, roughly by 2030.
Once we achieve this, our next phase will involve expanding into the top 100 cities in India. Our focus on international markets will come at a later stage.
Did you know?
Dheeraj Gupta said the name Jumboking appeared to him in a dream, just like Kekule came up with the benzene formula in a daydream—”I literally dreamt the name Jumboking and then justified it by selling jumbo-sized vada pavs,” said the founder.