First of the 50 that the Vam Organics and Chemicals' Bhartiyas have contracted to open during the next five years all over the country under the terms of their franchise agreement with the Domino principals at Michigan, America. Why did the Bhartiyas (incidentally, K.K. Birla's daughter Shobhana, who manages The Hindustan Times , is married into the Bhartiya family), chemical makers turn into bakers? What motivated them to join a pizza parade already crowded with the likes of Wimpy's, Nirula's, Slice of Italy, The Village Eatery et al?
Answer: the smell of money. "People are spending on food like never before," explains Domino's Business Development Manager Geeta Agarwal. "All you need to succeed is a USP." Domino's unique selling proposition: fresh not fast food pizza made with a tested recipe; tried at 5,200 stores in 45 countries and delivered at your doorstep within 30 minutes of your calling 6480690. Rs 30 off the sales price for a minute's delay in the delivery area which includes Greater Kailash-I, Anand Lok, East of Kailash, Nehru Place and Panchsheel Enclave for starters.
The product is fresh. A ten-sequence military drill commences once the order is placed: dough is rolled, slapped into shape a la rumalis , sauced, cheesed, topped, baked, ejected, cut, boxed, routed and delivered. A supervisor at the routing stand makes rapid route charts to ensure the pizzas are packed in specially devised "hot bags" and reached in time to the client by one of the 14 red-and-blue uniformed hustlers zipping out on pizza mobile scooters. Agarwal is cagey on late delivery penalty percentages on orders: "Let me assure you they are very low." Client feedback corroborates that. "Our nameplate confused them once so there were apologies and a 10-minute delay but the second time round they delivered in 15 minutes flat," reports a regular client, Yasmin Tyebbhai of Greater Kailash-I.
Fresh food, fast delivery is all very well, but is it tasty? Well, if the long queues at the store are any indication, yes. The pizzas are a trifle bland by Indian standards except for the Peppy Paneer which Agarwal says has been specially devised to suit Indian palates. Nevertheless, clients continue to pour in—from all over south Delhi, from Trans Yamuna and, hold your breath, from Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Meerut and faraway Jaipur too. Their refrain: "When are you opening in our area?" Average business on weekdays: Rs 20,000. "Business booms over weekends. We just can't produce enough to cope with the demand," reveals shift manager Ashok Kapur.
A demand that is soaring in spite of the high price of the product. Vegetarian pizzas cost Rs 60 to Rs 275, non-vegetarian pizzas between Rs 80 and Rs 250 . "It's not inflationary. Just value for money," protests Agarwal, justifying what many feel are extortionist prices. "Besides, our ingredients are costly: asparagus, olives, jalpenos and cheddar don't come cheap."
The high prices, however, do not seem to deter a clientele lured less by the fact that the food is hot, more by the fact that it is haute. "The demand is fuelled by yuppie youngsters seduced by western images of rock n' roll, pizza and peak cap, funk n' frisbee. This is as much food as fad," quips businesswoman Rekha Dutt whose two kids are die-hard Dominoists. Agarwal differs. "That's only part of it. Indians take well to pizzas because they are filling. And in our case it is as good as home cooked food because they are fresh. Business is growing and our clients are not complaining."
Nor for that matter are the Bhartiyas, who, apart from the money spent on real estate, have pumped in Rs 50 lakh on equipment and furnishing for its first outlet in Delhi. And plan to spend another Rs 250 crore on opening 50 Domino outlets all over the country. Hoping to cash in on a craze that is as much about food as it is about fad.