This humble roadside Tibetan delicacy is getting a branded makeover, and the efforts are appearing to be delicious

By: | Updated: January 15, 2017 7:27 AM

ARE YOU a ‘momo-holic’—meaning, you don’t just eat momos, you ‘worship’ them? Then, there is a disclaimer: reading this piece could induce excessive drooling and unbearable hunger pangs.

Wow! Momo’s menu includes 14 different flavours, including chocolate momos.Wow! Momo’s menu includes 14 different flavours, including chocolate momos.

ARE YOU a ‘momo-holic’—meaning, you don’t just eat momos, you ‘worship’ them? Then, there is a disclaimer: reading this piece could induce excessive drooling and unbearable hunger pangs. Gone are the days when momos—the humble street-side snack that traces its origins to Tibet (the claim is somewhat disputed, though; some say it’s Nepal, others Han province of China, but as long as it melts in the mouth, who cares, right?)—came filled with just some meat or vegetables, served piping hot with dollops of chilli chutney. Now, in their renewed avatar, they are making their presence felt almost everywhere, from food carts to food courts.

Just picture this: you go to a market in Kirti Nagar in west Delhi and notice a cart that features an LED TV displaying the items on stock and offers of the day. You find almost 250 different varieties of dumplings, with fancy names such as ‘Ooo Bolo-Tara-rara’, ‘Mushi Mushi’, ‘Akhbar ki Jaan’, ‘Selfish Prawns’, ‘Unbutton D Mutton’, ‘Kuk-dhoo-koo!’, ‘Chic is In’, Sunny Side Up’, ‘Dark O Holic’, ‘Honey Bee’, ‘Volcano’, ‘Green Land’ and ‘Oooommmgggg’. Right from picking out your choice of filling (from fish to chocolate) and the way you want it cooked (fried, steamed, etc) to the various dips and gravies that go with it, you can mix, match and customise your own momos. To top it all, the momos are ‘prepared’ in machines, so no more worrying about the unhygienic handmade dough and filling. What’s more, the cart also doubles up as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Welcome to the new era of presenting momos, a kind of snack that has, over the years, become one of India’s favourite street-side offering. “Although people have changed their preferences from eating samosas to momos, this business had never been organised in the country. Also, there was no guarantee that the snack available in every street is hygienic, as it’s manually handled,” says New Delhi-based entrepreneur Jahaan Khurana, who, along with partners Divy Kohli and Deepak Dhingra, recently launched 6 Pack Momos, an organised chain of momo carts, in the national capital. While Kohli is the ‘momo enthusiast’ with over three years’ experience in the food industry, Khurana calls himself a ‘food explorer’ having spent more than seven years running a food chain. Dhingra is an entrepreneur.

6 Pack Momos’ unique hi-tech carts have been designed in Germany with power-packed features such as a conveyer belt mechanism, frequency control, uniform-sized momos, superior feeding capacity and user-friendly technology. “The momo-making machines are capable of making around 10,000 momos in just under an hour,” adds Khurana. The owners wanted momos to be more than just something with vegetable fillings, balanced in taste and accompanied by spicy and hot sauce. “Gone are the days when a plate of eight momos had four negligibly filled and two just thick steamed flour lumps,” says Khurana.

6 Pack Momos may have appeared only recently, but the idea of giving momos a branded makeover was brewing long before—around 2008 to be precise. Two young entrepreneurs—Sagar Daryani and Binod Homagai, 21 years old then and just out of college (St Xavier’s, Kolkata)—started a small kiosk in a 30-sq-ft space in a Kolkata mall with an initial investment of R30,000, making R2,000 a day. In eight years, the duo’s Wow! Momo brand has branched out to 100 outlets across cities like Kolkata, Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai and Kochi, with an average turnover of R4.2 crore per month currently. “We have grown rapidly to become the country’s largest chain of momos in terms of volume, turnover and innovation. We have not only been trendsetters in the momo market, but have actually created a new line of business in the fast-growing quick service restaurant industry. Moreover, we have successfully built an Indian food brand, which dreams of going abroad soon,” says Niloy Chakraborty, national business head of the Kolkata-based brand.

Wow! Momo’s menu includes 14 different flavours of momos available across steamed, fried and pan-fried formats, largely in white and brown flour variants. “We have innovated and invented to create ‘sizzler’ momos, ‘MoBurg’ (momo burgers), ‘tandoori’ momos and ‘baked momo au gratin’. To top it all, even our dessert is chocolate momo,” Chakraborty adds.

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At Wow! Momo outlets, you can watch your food being prepared in the live kitchen. As per co-founder Daryani, Wow! Momo never compromises on hygiene. “And to keep up with our mission to serve healthy food, we have also introduced wholewheat momos (made of atta) for those who avoid maida,” he adds.
Going forward, expect to see more such outlets across the country. After raising its first round of investor funding of over $2 million from Indian Angel Network in August last year, led by founder Sanjeev Bhikchandani, the company has big plans. “We want to be India’s version of McDonald’s and grow globally. The brand has a long-term goal of having an IPO in around six-seven years’ time. The team feels 1,000 Wow! Momo stores in the near future is a definite possibility,” says Daryani.

Similarly, launched only in October with a beginning at Kirti Nagar in west Delhi, 6 Pack Momos wants to establish more than 30 new outlets in every major city, serving more than one million delicious, authentic momos every year to Oriental food connoisseurs across India by next year.

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