Mastering Franchising in India: Start to Success

Sunday, September 17th, 2023, The Masterclass Series Session 6 , was led by Chef. Hapral Singh Sokhi, a distinguished figure in the culinary world, who shared his remarkable journey and insights into the franchising landscape during. With a career spanning decades and a keen eye for business, Harpal’s story is one of passion, innovation, and strategic growth.

He gained initial experience as a trainee cook at Oberoi, Bhuwaneswar, which laid the foundation for his culinary expertise. Over the years, he explored various roles across the country, ultimately reaching the position of Executive Chef for the region. However, he chose to leave the hospitality industry to partner with a celebrity chef and venture into the world of franchising, a relatively novel concept in India at that time.

As a chef-turned-franchisor, Harpal Singh emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s product thoroughly. To create a successful franchise, the product must be unique, scalable, and easily reproducible. Simultaneously, building a robust support system is crucial. He learned this lesson the hard way during his early foray into franchising, as they lacked essential elements like an innovation center, product development team, marketing team, and adequate support structures.

Visibility and brand recognition are equally critical in franchising. The franchise’s appearance, color schemes, frontage, and signage must be consistent and easily identifiable, ensuring that customers recognize the brand from a distance. In the past, Shepherd Paul’s ventures faltered due to a lack of such branding consistency.

Chef Harpal shared experience of his latest venture, ‘Karigari,’ exemplifies his evolution in franchising. The first year of ‘Karigiri’ was dedicated to building the brand’s identity, visibility, and addressing any shortcomings. He adhered to the management principle of focusing solely on building the brand within the first year.

‘Karigari’ presents unique challenges as it is a chef-driven brand with a vast and diverse product offering. He recognized the need to establish a support team, invest in training modules, and conduct regular audits to ensure standardization.

His insights into the world of franchising reveal several key considerations for success. First and foremost, he stresses the importance of stringent margin control in the franchising business. Factors such as managing raw material costs, handling aggregator charges, and optimizing delivery expenses are critical to maintaining profitability.

Furthermore, Chef Harpal places significant emphasis on the cloud kitchen strategy, emphasizing the need for meticulous planning in this model. He highlights that clear and effective communication of the brand’s name, food offerings, and cuisine type is indispensable for triumph in the cloud kitchen arena.

In addition to operational strategies, he underscores the pivotal role of effective communication in business and customer relations. He recognizes that successful customer acquisition and revenue generation hinge on clear, consistent, and responsive communication.

Before embarking on the path of franchising, Chef Harpal offers valuable advice: invest ample time in product research and testing, spanning a period of 8-9 months. This preparatory phase enables the efficient streamlining of processes, establishment of standardization, development of innovation centers, refinement of backend processes, and the gradual building of the brand.

He also advocates for the FOFO (Franchise Owned, Franchise Operated) model as a means of retaining strong control over the top line, ensuring that the franchisor manages the revenue aspect of the business.

Lastly, he introduces the concept of cloud kitchens, compact and efficient spaces dedicated solely to delivery services. These cloud kitchens eliminate the need for traditional dine-in spaces and offer a location-independent approach to food service, catering to the evolving preferences of contemporary consumers

Key Learnings

  • A franchise-worthy product must be unique, scalable, and capable of standardized production.
  • Building a strong support system, including innovation centers and marketing teams, is vital to assist franchisees.
  • Recognizable branding aids in customer identification and loyalty.
  • Rushing into franchising is discouraged. Franchisors should first ensure the profitability and demand for their products.
  • Investing in the right technology and processes can streamline operations for franchisees.
  • Transparency and collaboration are critical in maintaining a healthy franchising ecosystem.
  • Creating memorable customer experiences, such as unique desserts, can set a brand apart.

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