A major new Indian food & beverage force is born as Travel Food Services is launched in Mumbai – 15/05/09

INDIA. A major new force in travel-related food & beverage operations was born in Mumbai on Tuesday night at the official launch of Travel Food Services.

The company has been founded by Indian businessmen and entrepreneurs Sunil Kapur and Amit Thacker. Kapur is the founder of Blue Foods, a major Indian restaurant and food services player, and restaurant chain Copper Chimney. Thacker, who heads the Thacker Group, is a highly successful figure in the hospitality and real estate sectors.

The company is bidding on Delhi International Airport Limited’s new food & beverage contract at Indira Gandhi International Airport’s new Terminal 3 (the tender closed today), and it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) for a master concession covering F&B space at its domestic terminals and some international outlets.

In an interview with The Moodie Report in Mumbai on Tuesday evening just before the launch party, Travel Food Services Chairman Sunil Kapur told The Moodie Report that the company plans to open 60,000sq ft of F&B space across Indian travel locations in the next two years.

(Left) Sunil Kapur; (Right) Travel Food Services founders and partners Sunil Kapur and Amit Thacker

These will include railway stations and second-tier airports. The company has also tied up a deal with Emirates Flight Catering that plans to develop inflight catering out of Mumbai.

Kapur is well known in Indian airport circles having worked closely with international concessionaire HMSHost (with whom he at one stage signed a MoU for a joint venture) when the Autogrill-owned company entered the Indian market.

“We wanted to create a 100%-Indian company,” said Kapur. “It will be the first of its kind. It will specialise and focus only on travel-related business with airports at the forefront because of the way the market is evolving and expanding.

Sanjay Reddy, Managing Director of Mumbai International Airport Ltd, announces the Travel Food Services deal

“We have the wealth of manpower, the infrastructure and the knowhow. We understand the Indian consumer because of the background of our business. So the dream has evolved and now we need to put it into action.”

Kapur said he was delighted with the MIAL contract which would cover the “full gamut” from cafes to ice cream bars to fast food bar to bars, casual dining and some lounge business.

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“We understand how to improve conversion and capture rates… consumption of food at Indian airports is very low. It’s a fraction of the international level. We believe we can improve the business dramatically – there’s no limit to its potential,” he said.

Chief Executive Rajeev Panjwani said the company was optimistic that it could win the Delhi contract, which together with the MIAL business would give the company an estimated 60-70% of the current revenue base in Indian airports.

“Then we want to expand into smaller regional locations – the hub and spoke model. For our international competitors those airports are not really worthwhile… but for us it’s an attractive model as we come from an Indian cost base.”

He said the company had tied up with more than 20 major brands – most on an exclusive basis – linked with the big airport bids. The company has linked with McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Subway, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Travel Food Services has also developed six in-house brands involving specific concepts targeting Indian clientele and palates.

“The idea is to saturate the airports with various food & beverage offerings,” he said, in a reference to the diversity of offer the company is planning.

GMR Chief of Commercial & Airport Strategic Development for the Airport Sector Suredj Autar (left) with Travel Food Services Chief Executive Officer Rajeev Panjwani at the opening launch party in Mumbai

Panjwani said that if the company secured the Delhi and inflight catering businesses it has targeted, it expected to generate turnover of around IR100 crore by the end of the financial year 2010/11.

“We’re quietly optimistic,” he said. “It’s the right time and the right place. If you ask why it didn’t happen ten years ago I would say there wasn’t a Terminal 3 in Delhi or a modernised airport in Bombay (Mumbai). The development of that infrastructure has opened up this avenue.”

The company also has international ambitions. “By 2014/15 we want to be a leading Asian player,” said Panjwani.

We’ll bring you further details on this major development in the Indian airport food & beverage sector in an extended interview with Travel Retail Services Chairman Sunil Kapur and CEO Rajeev Panjwani next week.


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