Taking their love for Indian snacks and especially samosas to another level, power couple Nidhi Singh and Shikhar Veer Singh founded Samosa Singh in 2016. Their brand currently has 60+ outlets in 9 cities and is known for its crispy and crunchy Samosas!
It was Nidhi and Shikhar Veer Singh’s love and pride for the Indian Samosas and Indian Street food that made these biotechnologist scientists take the entrepreneurial plunge and start Samosa Singh. They love the cultural heritage and believe food is an integral part of entertainment and celebration and keeps the nostalgia, moment, and fun alive. According to Nidhi, it is all about sharing joy with everybody, and that’s what they do with their snack. A lot of people used to ask her why samosa, and she would respond with ‘Why not Samosa?’
Abhishansa Mathur was in a lip-smacking conversation with Nidhi Singh about her journey on starting Samosa Singh, her love for samosas, challenges, and everything crunchy! Here’s the excerpt from the interview.
1. The story behind starting Samosa Singh. How did you come up with it?
As husband and wife, Shikhar and I were settled in our life in Bangalore. We are both biotechnologist scientists by profession and were working in our respective jobs. But then, Shikhar always had this wish of starting something of his own, and this idea of founding a food start-up was with us for a very long time.
Samosa is one product that’s loved by mostly everyone and doesn’t need any introduction. I am yet to come across anybody who hasn’t had a fond memory of the product. And though it’s such an international product, yet it was highly unorganized, and nothing was systematic. All you would get is from the local halwai shops or street vendors, but nothing organized. Biryani, burgers, pizzas, everything was organized, but not this favourite Indian snack, and so we saw potential in Samosas. As much as there was potential, there was also an equivalent amount of risk involved because the simpler the product, the more challenging it is to get the market shifted or drifted. We were waiting for the right time to come and had this idea for so long in our minds. We thought the right time would be when we would have enough savings and settled enough to take that chance. But then the reality is, you are never ready for such a step. Something will keep coming, and you will keep procrastinating because it’s something that you have to do by stepping out of your comfort zone.
So, we kept contemplating, but then there was a point when I really felt we would never be satisfied unless we ventured into it, and that’s when we decided to jump into it. The next day Shikhar quit the job 8-9 months prior just with the idea and the concept, and then we continued working on it. So that’s how Samosa Singh was born.
2. Tell us about your journey of setting up Samosa Singh?
When we started Pre-COVID, it was all about supplying Samosas to airlines. Our first major client was the aviation industry. They used to procure samosa from local vendors, but they couldn’t fulfill the quality bar, as they were never consistent and would have different vendors, so an organized and centralized player was definitely a need, and that’s what we ensured. We knew it would be challenging because every city had its own favourite samosa spots. Our packaging focuses on that and will give you nostalgia.
3. Can you give a little background of yourselves and how did it help in founding Samosa Singh?
A lot of people ask us that you guys are scientists, and now you’ve become a halwai. So it takes a lot to tell them that it is beyond that. In our manufacturing unit, we use a lot of applications of science to roll out the best samosas. Before we actually ventured into our first outlet, we did a lot of research. The very first question we asked during the market research was about what is the one thing that people feel or think when they hear the word samosa?
Apart from the memories, it is about that feel-good, warm crunchiness associated with it. And people don’t care about the filling, but what they really associate with samosa is crunchiness and then its freshness. Nobody wants to have a cold samosa. The next important thing was obviously the deep-fried factor as it makes a samosa, a real samosa.
So the first thing we started working on in our R&D was to ensure that our samosas stays crispy for an extended period of time. And that’s exactly where we are applying our science. For example, how much the dough should rest, and how much pressure to be put on the sheet. So we did a lot of things and got into some level of in-house automation to make sure that all the samosas should have the same consistency. We ventured into all these factors and made sure our samosas were consistent. We utilized all our learnings in it, and we are still learning. Shikhar was always on the R&D side. He was responsible for process & team organization, scaling up and everything related to it.
4. What challenges did you have to face while setting up Samosa Singh and how did you overcome them?
One challenge that was always there even before we started Samosa Singh was scalability. The question was how we will ensure that if today we are making 200 samosas perfectly, will we be able to maintain the same quality and perfection when the number changes to 2 lakhs? That’s the major challenge, and I have seen many startups falter here. So we knew from the start that even though today we are making just 200 samosas, we have to think about scaling up. So we brought about certain processes to ensure consistency even for bigger scales.
Before the pandemic, 90% of my business was from big clients like multiplexes, cafes, and aviation. But one day in March 2020, overnight multiplexes, cafes, and airport counters were shut. We started working from home, and at that point in time, we had 6 outlets. But just because we were able to crack that main challenge of making the samosas the right way and that too quite in bulk, we were able to expand all through the COVID phase.
We had so many logistical concerns, but as soon as the lockdown restrictions started to uplift, we continued our expansion beyond Bangalore. We went to Hyderabad, Chennai, Mysore, Mumbai, Pune, and all the 9 cities. In the last 7 months, we added 60+ outlets and 7 more cities. So in total, from March 2020 to now, we have 80 outlets in 9 cities. Had we not overcome this challenge of how to make the samosas consistent, we wouldn’t have been able to get through this level. In fact, survival would have been tough.
5. What is your five-year plan for Samosa Singh?
We are very comfortable with B2C, and if at any point in time we have the capacity and feel the need, we might go for B2B. But now, we aim to spread PAN India with 200+ locations and at least 15-20 cities. So we usually plan for 2 years, then close it and then move forward. I originally hail from Haryana, and I want to bring my samosas to my hometown as well. We are also entering Tier 2 cities like Nashik and Vijayawada, and they’ve accepted our products.
6. What were some of your learnings while running Samosa Singh?
The first major learning I had in the very first week of starting the business itself was the business you made on the excel sheets compared to running the business in reality are two different poles. We draft the business plan on paper, and it feels all fancy and easy, and doable. But when you really go on the ground, things are different. I used to think selling thousand of samosas would be easy as we live in an electronic city, which is a hub of companies with 10k employees in them. Even if 10% of them have birthdays every day, everyone would order samosas. So even if I consider just one person, I’ll be taking orders of many samosas.
But the reality is different, and forget about selling 10k samosas, making 10 k samosas is a huge challenge! Another one is that people will love you, but they’ll never be able to give you that one big break as everybody latches onto someone else. There are some days that are very tough, so just stay on that, and eventually, things will fall into the right places. Keep trying, and one fine day it will happen. You’ll get the result.
7. Indian snack trends do you foresee?
Many! The first one is online ordering. It’s restricted to just millennials or to the big cities. But now I see elderly people like my parents also getting the hang of online ordering. I love the fact that people are up for food experimentation and trying new things. Also, one of the trends I’ve seen everywhere is that snacking is becoming popular. Earlier snacks were considered as an in-between meal kind of a thing. But now, snacking is becoming a new trend.
8. Tell us about the menu of Samosa Singh and did you do any experiments with it?
We did a lot of experimenting but one thing that we realized is that the filling goes best with the Indian spices. I tried having a pasta samosa, but it just doesn’t go that well together. And there’s a reason behind that. Two layers of maida always kill the taste, and when you combine pasta, it simply sabotages the taste. There’s a market for that, but it’s not that huge. So we realized that the variety that works is more Indianized, and every city has its own favourites. For example, when we launched in Mumbai, we got a request for Jain samosas, in Chennai, for Chettinad-style samosas, and in Hyderabad for more about vegetables and spiced filling.
9. Do you plan to come up with something called ‘healthy samosas’?
Well, there’s a market for health. When we started, our first outlet was in a building where there was a Zumba class section. Girls would come to sweat it out, then come down and have samosas from us. So one day, I asked them why they indulge in Samosas after working out, and they said that’s our treat. We count all the calories and don’t want to compromise on the taste as well. So Indian consumers are very smart. They will divide their calories, manage their meals accordingly, and have that small window of indulgence.
But yes, if there’s too much oil oozing out in every bite, I will lose such customers. People love to have fried snacks, but they don’t want to have that associated greasiness to it. And that’s why we have variants. The first one is the typical traditional samosas, while the second is our special shaped samosas. They are our top seller, and 95% of our revenue comes from that shape. This shape even helps with less oil absorption, and after we studied it, it even had 56% less fat.
We understand healthy snacking has a big market, and we may have different varients to it in the form of less starch or chutney with jaggery in it, but we don’t think as a brand we are looking to get into gluten-free or all such categories. We’ll have it in the indulgent category, but definitely a healthier version than the one you get in the market. So, it’s just about striking that fine balance. We may not be healthy food, but we are definitely a healthier option than your regular samosas. Samosas are not healthy food. It won’t help you lose weight but won’t make you gain either if you eat it in the right portion.
10. You are also partners in real life so how do you draw a line between your personal and professional life?
For the first three years, it felt like we were business partners staying together. It was challenging, and eventually, we realized it is important to compartmentalize, and differentiate work and personal life. Otherwise, the charm keeps losing in everything you do. So we started to divide time, in between the work, we take small breaks. When we are in the office, we are obviously working as business partners, and when we get home, we intentionally try to create a space where we don’t carry out work at least after 10 PM or 11 PM, and we try not to talk too much about work.
It’s not like you can take days off, but you can certainly take those small moments. Earlier, when you are working for someone else, you have the liberty of not thinking about work for two days, but when you are an entrepreneur, you don’t have that liberty. Instead of days, it’s about moments.
Also Read: How a kitchen accident made this husband-wife duo from Chennai launch a traditional cookware brand, The Indus Valley!
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