Being the momo lovers they are, three friends—Saurav Sah, Subekshya Hada, and Paras Shrestha—imagined a place where they could serve a variety of momo. Not just make the ‘evergreen’ momo but they imagined all sorts of fusions, many of which they have introduced in Sinka and received a tremendous response. The trio were BBA students of Ace Institute of Management when they started working in their dream project and finally turned it into reality on February 2017. In conversation with Saurav Sah, we talked more about their momo business in Nepal and what’s in store for Sinka’s future.
MOMO Business in Nepal
1. Why start a business in momo? What is your vision for Sinka?
The food industry is never ending industry, there is no maturity phase, nor decline phase. So, we worked around it to build up a viable model of business. We had confusion in what to work in though so we conducted a survey, and asked people about their eating habits—including what they ate, the amount they spent days and the quality of meal they consumed. And ‘momo’ was the ultimate answer.
Then came the question ‘How to sell momo differently?’ We tried a lot of fusions and selected only those that worked for us. And it is now our USP.
The aim was not just to do business, but we had envisioned to make Sinka a brand that is our own. Also to inspire the youth and tell them that it is possible to do business or create a living by using the resources we have, in our own country.
2. What were the ups and down you had to go through in the initial phase of Sinka?
First of all, we had a hard time finding the location. We searched for almost six-and-a-half-months before we found the location. Secondly, finding a cook, who could deliver what we needed or what we had imagined, was equally difficult. And so was finding the manpower that could retain in the field.
On the day of opening, we were out of stock within the first three hours of operation. We were overwhelmed by the flow of customers and their responses but we also realized we were not well-equipped or well-staffed to handle the level of the crowd. So, we decided to shut down Sinka the very next day. We hired more staff, set up a new kitchen and opened again.
3. So your USP is in your fusion momos. From where did you get the idea?
We were just sitting together and cracking jokes about different imaginary momo dishes that we wanted to try. By the way, our brand name also came up while we were cracking some jokes; well that’s a different story altogether.
So, we were blending different, already popular foods with momo to come up with different dishes, many of the ideas we came up with then are included in our menu too. Looking back at it today, we realized those conversations worked like the secret sauce to our dishes. We still have conversations like those where we come up with new fusion momos, try the combination with our cooks and see if they work or not.
4. How is the teamwork like in Sinka?
We have altogether 15 staff members. We all work together, experiment and bring new ideas to the table. The team trains the new employees and they are also involved in brainstorming. We ultimately want to make the workspace more favorable for the youth. We aim to give more employment opportunities to youth looking for a job to start their career in the momo business or hospitality industry.
5. What, in your opinion, is the key to sustain in the business? What are your strategies to stand out in the competitive market of momo business in Nepal?
Sinka’s USP is innovative taste and new fusions. The market is very competitive, and food can easily be replicated by other restaurants. Thus, it requires us to make constant efforts. So, our strategy will be to continue our brainstorming and introduce new taste in momo. It is very crucial for our business. Along with that our strategy is to have the consistency in our taste, maintain the quality of our raw materials and maintain our relationship with our customers.
6. How have you seen the Sinka’s journey so far? How would you judge your success?
Customer retention is an important indicator of success for any restaurant, and for Sinka as well. Until now, we have had a high customer retention rate, and this gives us the feeling of accomplishment and ensures us that we are on the right path. Some of our customers visit us regularly, some travel 20-30 km to visit us while some visit us before their international flights and some have waited even an hour outside the restaurant to eat. All of these tell us about our success and we try to maintain it by regular customer interaction. We take their feedback seriously and make a conscious effort to make their experience better each time.
7. Will we ever see another branch of Sinka? Any plans to move out of Kathmandu?
Yes, definitely. We are planning to open three/four branches within the Kathmandu Valley very soon. After that, we shall move out of the Valley. Probably in Pokhara, Butwal, and other places (It’s a secret!)