Mr Thakur joined his uncle’s business in Nepal at the age of 14. He grew up learning the ins and outs of running a business with minimal investment, and the art of making the customer happy. In 2011, he started China Bar in Hong Kong, and then, went on to establish Gusta Café in Malaysia.
He got his epiphany in Australia, in Gold Coast, where he saw an outlet called ‘Noodle Box’. It took him by surprise, that even at the far corner of the earth people were flocking to a south-east Asian joint to get their noodle fix. “I cancelled my flight,” he remembers. “I stayed back. I was amazed that people all over the world would be so much into this food.”
The idea for doing something similar with momos took hold. In 2014, the brand Momo King was born in Malaysia. However, initially, Mr Thakur had thought of it as an accessory to his main business, the China Bar. “I did not really focus on it,” he says. “But I started noticing when good reviews started pouring in. Footfalls increased. I was getting positive feedback from my acquaintances and customers. Even European customers liked our momos- who would have guessed?” he mused.
Encouraged by the signs, Mr Thakur decided to develop the brand. Today, Momo King is a flourishing business in Malaysia, and Mr Thakur plans to make it global. “I want to take my brand to the world,” says Mr Thakur. “We will soon open a Momo King outlet in Poland. We are also going to be there in Amsterdam and Berlin. We are trademarking the name in the USA. And of course, we are coming to India.”
India is a unique market when it comes to momos. Momos are immensely popular in India, and in every big city, you will find a momo stall in every street corner. Momos are a street food staple for Indians- and in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, north Bengal and the states in the northeast, they are a cultural landmark.
But then, as Mr Thakur puts it, if you want to find authentic momos, you have to look somewhere other than the street corner stalls. “What you get there is hardly the real stuff,” he says. “That is fine for satisfying your craving, but if you are passionate about momos, and value authenticity, you have to either go to the Himalayas or spend a fortune at some five-star hotel.”
He points out that in the street stalls, not only is the product being sold not authentic, there are other pressing issues to take note of as well. There is a question of hygiene, and use of good quality products while making momos. “One day you might have a plate and then fall ill. Because they have used rotten ingredients, or not maintain proper hygiene. Always remember that the priority here is to provide momos at cheap prices, but that does not mean that you will be getting quality products,” he says.
Mr Thakur and his team’s priority is to serve the customer and provide them with the authentic taste of momos. “We will give you the real stuff, but you won’t have to burn a hole in your wallet for it. And be assured, your food is going to be clean and healthy,” he says. Momo King’s objective is to provide momos of authentic taste and excellent quality at affordable prices.
The USP of Momo King is using the original herbs that have been defining the taste of the Himalayan momos since historical times. Momo King will use herbs like Timur and Silum, which are found only in Nepal and China to impart that unique flavour to their momos, that you won’t find in any street stall or other outlets. “These are very expensive and rare,” Mr Thakur says. “But we are going to make sure that you do not have to pay a fortune for them. I will say this loudly- what you have been having till now is not what momos should taste like. And once you taste the difference with Momo King, you will come back for more.”
What you get at Momo King are juicy, fresh momos and impeccable customer service. “If you want to build a reputation, you must look after your customers. You not only give them the best products but also ensure that your service is fast, your representatives are polite and savvy, and your outlets reflect the spirit of hospitality,” says Mr Thakur. Which is why, in all his businesses, he has always strived to provide a great ambience so that the customers feel welcome and come back again.
Mr Thakur also believes that narrow focus on making money is detrimental to a brand. “If you are focused only on the commercial aspects, your product will reflect it. You will settle for less, for un-fresh products, your taste will suffer, and eventually, you will turn off your customers,” says Mr Thakur. “At Momo King, we understand that quality and good customer service should always be the top priority in business. It is the only way you build brand loyalty.”
What Momo King plans to do is to create a niche for itself. “We are not going to serve our customers only one type of products,” says Mr Thakur. “What we will do is go beyond the usual chain restaurant formula. We will serve our customer’s fresh products that incorporate the local flavours as well.”
This is truly an ambitious gambit because each city and region in India has its own take on Momos. In some places, momos are all about heat and spiciness, while in others, they are more of a wholesome and soothing nature. To make sure that customers get the local zing in their nearby Momo King servings, the brand aims to have centralized kitchens in every region. This way, the products stay fresh, the local flavours get infused, and uniformity in taste is maintained across all outlets in that circle.
Mr Thakur is optimistic about Momo King’s worldwide success. “We are looking at all possible areas, “ he says. “We do not want to leave anything unexamined.” The plan is to open 120 outlets in India over the next two years. The brand will operate its own stores, as well as look for franchisees to reach customers- depending on the local market.
Momo King has a unique business model- it requires less investment, and Mr Thakur is confident that franchisees will be able to recover their expenses much faster than in other businesses. Because Momo King stresses on affordability along with product quality, it will drum up volumes faster and maintain a loyal customer base and cement the brand as the one that defines the authentic taste of Himalayan momos.
In India, Momo King plans to operate kiosks, stand-alone stalls and proper dine-in facilities. Momo King has something for everyone- because its founder believes that his brand should reflect the versatile nature of the products he is serving. “Momos are great as snacks, they are a popular street food, and you can also have them as lunch and dinner,” he says. “So we want to make sure that you will find a Momo King outlet that will serve you for whatever occasion you have in mind.”
And that makes sense, since Momo King wants to respond to the needs of young India. “Our products are great, our service is fast, and we are authentic,” Mr Thakur talks about his company. “We understand that our customers look for quality at affordable rates, and often prefer to have their food on the go. We want to be everything they are looking for.”
Momo King wants to reach out to as many customers as possible and wants to keep their customers happy. Being a progressive, friendly and forward-thinking brand, Momo King keeps innovating its products. You will find new recipes and concepts regularly at Momo King.
Momo King aspires to create value for its stakeholders and serve its customers with gusto. “We are a friendly, helpful, cheerful team that believes in satisfying your appetites”, says Mr Thakur. “Momo King is poised at the edge of a global breakthrough. We aim to tickle your taste buds and take the spirit of Himalayan hospitality and cuisine to the world.”