More than just noodles

CG Corp Global, makers of Wai Wai noodles, looks to reinvent the noodle category with its QSR foray in India.

wai wai, wai wai city, noodles, FMCG, instant noodles
Varun Chaudhary, MD, Wai Wai City

It’s one thing to crack open a pack of instant noodles at home to satisfy a hunger pang, and quite something else to walk into a food outlet that specialises in such offerings. CG Corp Global (of Wai Wai noodles fame) wants to ‘own’ the noodle consumption space with Wai Wai City (WWC) — a QSR chain of noodle bars with a focus on a fresh-off-the-pan menu. “So far, we have seen pizza and burger joints in the fast food space. But there is no noodle bar which can serve freshly made fast food. The idea is to create a new segment in the QSR space,” says Tarun Chauhan, brand and strategic advisor, Wai Wai City. The FMCG player has opened 30 noodle bars so far in India since last year, and plans on opening another 500 outlets in two-and-a-half years. However, instant noodles in India as a category has a very low per capita consumption base compared to other markets.

For instance, per capita consumption of noodles in Japan is 70 packets per year and 40 packets per year in Thailand, but in India it is only four packets per year (industry estimates). “With WWC, we want to grow the category and get people used to the idea of noodles. Noodles is essentially carb. In other countries, it has replaced rice. In India we want to position it as healthy and fun carb for instant gratification,” adds Chauhan. Therefore, the FMCG player is focussing on the forward integration of its noodle brand Wai Wai into an eating experience.

At Wai Wai City, consumers can eat noodles prepared in 25 different ways. This fast food item will cost Rs 90 per helping of 300 gm. “That is the strategic framework — promote healthy noodles — fresh-off-the-pan,” says Chauhan. “We realised that the only way to grow the noodle category in India is to let consumers start experiencing the noodle in various forms and find new reasons to consume,” say Varun Chaudhary, MD, Wai Wai City.

Keeping the menu fresh

Wai Wai City’s aim deviates from sticking to the standard quick service restaurant layout. It is thus, working on creating a functional space with the idea that noodles is not a preparation in itself (for instance, Chinese or instant noodles that Indians are used to consuming) but instead a ‘fun carb’ that anyone interested in cooking can use as a base and play around with in terms of flavours/sauces/styles of cooking, etc.

So after realising that the earlier menu (during the pilot phase last year) was not doing well with consumers, the company has launched a revamped menu in line with its new thinking and alignment with India’s cultural food palate. The new menu offers everything from a snacky Wai Wai City bhel to south Indian flavoured noodles to the very contemporary Thai curry flavoured noodles. It also has desserts such as tiramisu and beverages including cherry coke and nimbu masala.

“Each WWC outlet not only aims to break the myth about noodles but also delight its customers by offering a large spread of different styles and flavours of noodles,” says Chaudhary. WWC plans to grow through the master franchise and sub franchise route. It has assigned 25 master franchisees who will operate their own outlets in addition to sub-franchising the brand in their respective regions.

Marketing plans

The company with a marketing budget of `6-8 crore for WWC will focus on digital, being a young brand. While the TG for Wai Wai City is the youth, it is looking to target people across age groups. “We plan to amplify through digital and cinema theatres. Apart from that we are also trying to explore radio, on-ground activation, newspaper inserts, price point and menu communication on digital, tying up with popular food bloggers and doing activities with them,” informs Chauhan.

Wai Wai City will compete with the likes of KFC and McDonald’s with an average store size of 500-550 sq ft. The focus is on high catchment areas with a pan-India presence. WWC will have different formats such as kiosks, standalone stores and food courts. In addition, it is also looking at the truck and highway model.

Wai Wai claims to have 27% share in the instant noodle category which is about Rs 2,400 crore currently as per industry estimates. CG Corp has already invested Rs 50 crore for its expansion in India and further plans to invest Rs 250 crore over the next two-and-a-half years. It is planning to capture a market size of Rs 1,000 crore from Wai Wai City by the end of 2025.


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