When the news of the Indian army’s ‘surgical strike’ on Pakistani militants spread, each person reacted to it differently. Some were skeptical of the narrative while others felt it was long overdue. Few brands actually thought of using it as a marketing tool but then again, Burger Singh is quite unlike any other food brand you may know. While the rest of India was appreciating or debating the surgical strike on terror, Burger Singh decided to join in the celebrations, which some may have thought to be insensitive or in bad taste, by offering a discount code for users that said – fpak20.
Kabir Jeet Singh, the Founder of Burger Singh doesn’t just admit it, he sort of gloats about it, “We are a cheeky brand and we started owning it.”
Being friends for over 20 years, Kabir Jeet Singh and Nitin Rana founded Burger Singh in 2013 with an aim to offer ‘craft burgers’ to food lovers in Delhi NCR. However, the Burger Singh story itself started while Kabir was studying the UK. To make ends meet, Kabir worked in burger shop where he would get a free meal everyday. Once he got bored of the “bland burgers” he started experimenting with the meat by including Indian spices. That’s also when people started calling him “Burger Singh”.
The founders wanted to introduce a ‘cost effective, big burger’ with Indian spices and flavours and began testing it on their family friends initially. Around August-September of 2016, they managed to raise $1 million in funding, this is after raising an initial amount of $200,000 a few months before that.
In 2012, when Kabir returned to India, he felt like he was in the right place at the right time. He wanted to build a scalable model and considered burgers to be a scalable product. Kabir believes that burgers are one of the most “franchise-able” products and when coupling that with Indian food – which is popular around the world – he realised his “pen–pineapple–apple–pen moment”.
Talking about the initial problems he faced, Kabir says, “One was to be able to build a scale where you’re viable to a supply chain partner or producer or a meat processor. To achieve that scale, we needed to build a brand that can initiate a repeat consumer experience.” The second issue he points to is that once he had reached a certain scale, the supply chain needed to be made more efficient. He feels India is an “exceptionally inefficient country”, citing, “Truck wale ne bola, ‘Sir main ek ghanta door hoon’, ( The Truck-wala says, “Sir I’m just an hour away”) and you suddenly realise that he hasn’t left Indore.” He says that for overcoming these issues “it’s all about the team again.”
Burger Singh’s parent company, Tipping Mr Pink Pvt Ltd, secured investments of $1 million from existing investors including Ashvin Chadda, Rahul Singh of Beer cafe, Redcliffe Capital’s Dheeraj Jain, Rannvijay Singh, Captain Salim Sheikh and Avtar Monga, COO of IDFC Bank in August 2016. Speaking about the funds they have managed to raise, Kabir notes that the only thing that raises funds for a business is the business itself. “To be honest we didn’t know how to raise funds at all, I didn’t know how to make a business plan – I was good at making burgers,” Kabir says, adding, “If you’re raising the first round, you’ve got to be likeable and when you’re raising the second round your business will raise it for you.”
While the organised F&B industry is pegged to reach over Rs 150,000 crore ($25 bn) by 2018, at a CAGR of 16%, burgers constitute only 2% of the QSR market but is growing at a fast rate of 25%. According to Burger Singh’s founders, they believe the brand works and is going to expand ‘quickly’ through the franchisee route. The QSR space is getting increasingly competitive and consumers, now more than ever before, have multiple choices of the food they want to consume. Hence, Burger Singh’s objective is to build a strong supply chain that is nationally functional which would enable them to set up an outlet from Kanyakumari to Jammu. The brand has even opened two outlets in the UK recently.
Burger Singh was named in the 50 hot start-ups to watch out for in 2017 by ET Small-Biz. Glassy by Burger Singh is an aggregator bar where young entrepreneurs who are looking to get into the food space get a platform or space to experiment where could test if their food is good enough to consider further investments.
Asking Kabir Singh to share tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, he first says “I don’t know if I’m a good entrepreneur, yet.” However, he goes on to share that once someone takes up this role, this is all they are going to be able to focus on. “A lot of people try and run a startup and Goa is also on the agenda – that cannot happen.” He also shares that when one is doing well as an entrepreneur, people are friendly with them and being that there is a flipside of inefficiency, one shouldn’t let things get to their head or take anything personally. The brand has a non-apologetic approach that has so far managed to work in their favour and they now plan to open around 77 stores across India within 5 years and few more in the UK as well.