Kolkata boy Sagar Daryani, who made his entrepreneurial debut with the launch of QSR (quick service restaurant) brand Wow! Momo at the age of 21, has devised a strategy to take on American player KFC; his answer: Wow! Chicken. Having already launched in home market Kolkata, the plan is to establish about 100 mid-sized Wow! Chicken outlets across cities in the next couple of years. At a time when a spate of local new-age companies are banking on relatively affordable D2C model — thanks to the online boom, to compete with established Indian and global brands alike and widen the localised choice for consumers, the reasoning behind Daryani’s move to pit his brand against KFC, which is almost synonymous with fried chicken, is not very hard to surmise. Daryani basically wants to ‘Indianise’ the concept of serving chicken.

“India is largely a chicken-eating country when it comes to non-veg and somewhere I felt that it has been the same way of serving chicken over the years. There has been no fun with chicken. Also, there has largely been no tough competition to KFC. Homegrown brands have to be trend setters in a country which Domino’s has converted into a pizza-eating one from roti-eating,” Daryani, co-founder and CEO at Wow! Momo Foods tells Fortune India. The local chicken market is pegged at some ₹2,000 crore or so.

Wow! Chicken promises to offer an assorted mix of chicken items in a range of flavours and eventually plans to broaden the basket. “We will do different flavours of chicken, not just the basic crispy fried. We have come up with peri-peri, Americano. We also make tandoori chicken because that’s what really sells here. We will have chicken in both grilled and fried form,” claims Daryani.

While peri-peri and Americano definitely don't sound Indian, the idea is to give them a local punch. Momo or dim sums for that matter is a Tibetan dish but Daryani has given them a desi avatar by infusing them with paneer and introducing flavours like chicken butter masala tandoori momo.

“We have always thrived on Indianising momos, Chinese (they have a brand called Wow! China) and now we are Indianising fried and grilled chicken both,” says Daryani.

Besides, Wow! Chicken also serves burgers with veg and non-veg options starting at a price of as low as ₹69. To draw more vegetarians, the brand has added paneer tikka, something that locals love gorging on, and will soon launch veg chicken nuggets, a plant-based protein. The idea is to give vegetarians a taste of non-veg.

However, Daryani did not compromise on the pricing front, not at least in the case of chicken items. “We have not gone at a lower price compared to KFC because we feel we are serving you a good quality product. We have actually kept it at par with KFC and even higher when it comes to grilled chicken. It is not a price war but a product war. We will provide better taste because our products will not include MSG and chicken skin,” says Daryani.

Kolkata seems to have been receptive to Wow! Chicken. Daryani claims that sales from the brand’s food court style outlet at Acropolis Mall have gone up to ₹50,000 a day from ₹20,000. Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad will be the next markets in terms of launch of the brand.

“To begin with, we are looking largely at metro cities. The key is to carpet bomb the metro cities where our other brands Wow! Momo and Wow! China have already flourished,” adds Daryani.

The company which wants to build a house of brands is eyeing more product segments and is also open to relevant acquisitions. Daryani did not disclose the kind of verticals the firm has zeroed in on in terms of acquisitions and fresh launches. However, he indicated that the firm will not restrict itself when it comes to choices and is targeting a broader play. Pizzas, for instance, could be one possible option to explore. The firm has already forayed into the FMCG space with packaged frozen momos.

Funding is not a hurdle either; Daryani claims that they have been approached by investors. The company had last raised $15 million in series C funding round led by Tree Line Investment at a valuation of ₹1,225 crore, or $165 million, in September 2021. “We have enough capital to grow in the next 1-1.5 years,” says Daryani.

Business has grown compared to pre-Covid given that the company has entered new markets. Brands Wow! Momo and Wow! China have expanded their footprint into cities like Kerala, Chennai, Hyderabad through a mix of brick-and-mortar outlets and cloud kitchens. In FY23, the firm plans to open as many as 200 new Wow! Momo and Wow! China stores in a slew of cities including Patna, Guwahati and Ahmedabad. Of the 200 stores, 170 would be physical outlets and 30 would be cloud kitchens.

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