Momos in India

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The momo business

As in 2022

Prabhakar Jha, Dec 26, 2021: The Times of India

Ever wondered why a steamed dumpling of wheat dough filled with meat or vegetables has become the snack du jour in large parts of the country?

Ask Sagar Daryani, co-founder of Wow! Momo.

It's not that Daryani introduced momos to India. He is riding the momo wave, if we can call it such.

"During my college days, I used to go to a momo shop near my locality. The idea to establish a momo business came to my mind during one of those days. A college mate and I started our first Wow! Momo outlet with an investment of Rs 30,000 in 2008," says Daryani.

His restaurant chain serves 12.5 lakh orders a month across its 350-odd quick-service restaurant outlets. Wow! Momo’s brand value now stands at over Rs 1,225 crore. It was valued at Rs 860 crore in September 2019.

“The momo market is definitely huge and it is penetrating deeper into the country. Dimsums served at restaurants and quick-service restaurants are a Rs 200-crore market,” says Karan Tanna, founder, Ghost Kitchens, a company that invests in startups in the cloud-kitchen segment.

So what makes momos so popular?

Samir Kuckreja, founder and CEO of Tasanaya Hospitality, a boutique hospitality consulting company, says the easy availability has contributed to its popularity.

"Every street, every mall has a momo outlet. It is also not very expensive and causes no harm to health," says Kuckreja. Not only this ready-to-eat momos are also now available at supermarkets and on online shopping sites.

"The other big reason is the different varieties that are available,” Kuckreja adds.

Shawali Gupta, a Delhi University student who lives in Maurice Nagar, hits the neighbourhood momo stalls on a regular basis. “I started with the regular veg and non-veg momos. But I now like tandoori and fried momos,” she says.

"You need to understand what the consumer wants. You have to keep on innovating. Some of our success stories can be attributed to our innovations with different flavours," says Daryani of Wow! Momo.

Veg Darjeeling momo, Chicken Darjeeling momo, masala chicken momo, corn and cheese momo, chicken cheese momo, chilly paneer momo and chocolate momo are some of his brand's most sought-after flavours.

Not just the momos but the accompanying sauce or chutney has also seen changes. Earlier momos were served with a fiery red chilli sauce. But with many in north India not used to hot sauce, the serving of mayonnaise became prevalent.

"Earlier it was just the [red] sauce which we used to serve. Now people also want mayo," says Paikhomgbam, a Manipur who runs a momo stall in Faridabad's Sarai area.

With the advent of fried momos vendors started providing green chutney made of mint leaves and green chillies.

"Sometimes people also ask for less spicy sauce, its ingredients are the same as the red sauce but with less chillies," says Paikhomgbam.

To understand how momos are made, TOI+ visited a momo factory in the Chirag Delhi area of the national capital. The neighbourhood is one of Delhi’s momo-manufacturing hubs, with over 50 momo-making units.

Dev Bahadur's unit, a 400-sq-ft area, is a busy place from 7am to 4pm.

"Ours is one of the oldest momo-making units in the area," says Bahadur, who is from Nepal and has been making momos in Chirag Delhi since 2013.

"Initially there was not much business as momos were new to the people of Delhi. Over the years it has grown many folds," says the 42-year-old. He employs four people, all from Nepal.

It is not just veg and non-veg momos; people have also started liking paneer momos. We also get orders for peas and corn momos," he adds.

The business of momos

Gokul, an employee at Dev Bahadur's units, starts his day with chopping vegetables and prepping the chicken to make mincemeat. He along with three of his colleagues have to prepare momo filings for 200 plates.

"For 100 plates of non-veg momos, we prepare 5kg of chicken," says Gokul. "You need 15kg of cabbage to prepare 60 plates of veg momos and 3kg of paneer for 40 plates of paneer momos."

Next comes kneading of dough. "Momo dough is very important, you want to make it in a way that is easy to steam it," he says.

By 3pm most of the raw momos have to be delivered to the vendors. So that they can set up their outlets in the evening. By early evening streetside food vendors set up their tables loaded with momo steamers ready to serve.

Both Dev Bahadur and Wow! Momo say they went through a difficult phase during the lockdown period. "Business was badly hit. I had to let go of six of my employees during the period. But now it's back on track," Dev Bahadur says.

Daryani shares a similar view. "It was very difficult for us but now we are back to where we were during pre-Covid times. In fact, some of our stores are witnessing 100% increase in sales," Daryani says.

He now wants to expedite its FMCG business. In Delhi, the company has partnered with online retailer Big Basket to sell ready-to-eat momos. "The response has been overwhelming," he says.

"What we are planning to do is to gradually enter the Indian home. You still can't replace noodles but you have to give the people the next big option," says Daryani.

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