Popularity of international cuisine has been on the rise in India: Varun Chaudhary

Wai Wai noodles recently launched Wai Wai city, a one of its kind chain of quick service restaurants in the country. TourismFirst spoke to Varun Chaudhary, Executive Director, CG Corp Global about his brainchild, the re-emergence of the noodle kiosk and the shift in the Indian palate.

Varun Chaudhary CG Corp GlobalWhat is the larger India strategy of the CG Corp Global group for WAI WAI, considering it has already acquired 30% of the instant noodle market share in India? 

Wai Wai is synonymous with instant noodles in South Asia. It is the market leader in Nepal and in Northeast India. It is truly an instant noodle which can be consumed straight from the pack as it is a pre-cooked soup sprayed and fried noodle with three additional taste enhancer sachets inside. It is exported to over 30 countries, and is spreading its manufacturing base to Europe, Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Beginning with two flavours, vegetarian masala and chicken, it has expanded to 20 flavours and more.

What are some of the current F&B trends that you see in India? Where would you say this story is heading? On a larger platform, are we going international or indigenous in terms of palate?  

In India, people are keen to try new tastes and flavours. They enjoy taking time out for specialised meals and also having a quick snack on the go, when they are busy. The palate is quite differentiated: the popularity of international cuisine has been on the rise while indigenous flavours continue to find favour too. The mind and mood are key to making food related decisions and who you are eating with: family, friends or individuals. This defines our choices too. Mumbai cannot live without its vada pav, Delhi without its chhole bhature and the south without a crispy medu vada – there is a growing appetite for novel tastes.

Metro cities have led this change with Mumbai at the forefront with its bespoke restaurant experiences. The rise of TV networks with food courts at swish malls further refined this experience which brought new tastes for people to try. This is a great trend as it allows people to go out and try something new. Eating out is no longer an occasional activity as busy schedules prevent people from spending quality time at home with family so an outing with a focus on food is the next best thing.

What is the noodle bar concept and what is the India plan therein?

For years, Wai Wai’s instant noodles have had a popular and committed following amongst youth and college goers for ages. Now, Wai Wai is taking the next step in its evolution as a ready to eat noodle bar where this special treat will be available in various flavours. This brings the brand closer to the consumer, giving them multiple options, and be a social hangout for friends to enjoy their favourite snack and have the time of their lives. 

How did you come about the idea of WAI WAI city and what are the plans for expansion in the local market?

The idea of Wai Wai City emanated from the social interaction that is facilitates amongst college goers and young people. Also, it is a ubiquitous meal option. Wai Wai City allows our committed and devoted customers to take their preference of Wai Wai to the next level where they can meet their friends over a meal of Wai Wai. This accords us with the opportunity to offer Wai Wai in myriad forms which go beyond the ready to eat concept. This way, many choices are available in an easy setting marked with camaraderie. As they are competitively priced, such an outing becomes a delight for our customers. We will be looking to have 100 new outlets over the next few months and we are ambitious enough to contemplate 1000 Wai Wai City outlets.

The noodle kiosk concept is not a new one in India. What do you think you can do differently this time around that will work? How big a factor will the advent of e-commerce and digitalisation be in this regard? 

The secret lies in the way the brand is projected in a restaurant setting. It is youthful and colourful and it gives a sense of the very city in which the new noodle bar is going to be located. It is customised for taste and brings high quality and quick food experience marked with great service and hospitality. It is a cut above the rest of the noodle bars as Wai Wai City is based on one of the most popular brands and we will leverage that familiar taste and flavour which needs no new introduction. This way we aim to strengthen the relationship between our consumer and our product, and Wai Wai City encourages them to step out and give themselves a treat. Digital and e-commerce will be essential in reaching out to new customers, many of whom are students, college goers and young professionals. This is the digital generation who live and work online, conducting all their business and leisure activities on the internet. So, our marketing and promotional strategy will be keenly focussed on this medium.

Talk to us about your hospitality ventures in India. Are you looking at any partnership opportunity with an Indian hotel brand? Where do you see the possibility of growth in Indian market as a brand? Which segment shows most promise?  

CG Hotels and Resorts represent the hospitality arm of the CG Corp Global. We are one of the largest hospitality groups in Asia and many of our properties have won international travel awards. CG Hotels and Resorts brings cutting edge concepts to life in hotels, resorts, residences and spas across Asia, Middle East and Africa with a portfolio of bold, desired and innovative products that cross all frontiers and redefine standards. There are nearly 100 hotels with more than 5000 rooms under its various brands and categories. We have joined hands with Taj Group and & Beyond (World’s leading luxury travel and ecotourism company) to provide unparalleled experience of the jungle in Central India and Nepal and in luxury destinations in Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

Alila offers innovative design and luxury in unique locations, set apart by an unprecedented level of private space, personalized hospitality and destination experiences. CHC Bungalows is a collection of 11 bungalows located in excellent locations throughout Sri Lanka. Jetwing Zinc Journey, a Joint Venture between CG Hotels and JW Hotels, operates luxury resorts in Sigiriya and Negombo.

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