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Tête-à-tête with Mr. Sharad Sachdeva, CEO of Lite Bite Foods

Often what’s ‘multi’ in offering of its expertise or service isn’t ‘national’ in its outlook. And when a firm is a multinational, it may or may not adhere to the classic new-age 21st century outlook; GLOCAL.

But it is heartening to note that amidst the cacophony of brands one has got used to seeing and living with, in the current age, there are names that are swiftly and smoothly reducing the boundaries between “global reach and local expertise”, and strengthening India’s position in the global market.

And, truth be told, a lot has to be attributed to the thinker envisioning the strategy and success of the brand’s outreach.

Would you want to let go of an opportunity to meet with a top executive, regardless of the nature or size of the organization who can offer insights from the leadership hat?

Probably not! We thought as much folks!

Amidst the shenanigans exuded by today’s brands, fighting turf wars on grounds of consumerism and capitalism- two of the most exciting and unavoidable facets of our time, we were lucky to interact with the chief mainstay at the very top of a leading F&B Retail, that’s dishing out some truly incredible and appetizing stuff.

Sharad Sachdeva, CEO of Lite Bite FoodsSimple and sorted, organized and focused we were delighted to bite into some snacky and palatable wisdom coming from the Chief mainstay of Lite Bite Foods, one of the leading and dynamic Retail F&B companies from India.

In an interesting conversation with Mr. Sharad Sachdeva, CEO, Lite Bite Foods, we learnt of what it takes to lead an exciting brand that has not one but 12 core brands under its umbrella.

You may or may not be a foodie, or you might prefer eating at a mall or simply hitting that exquisite eatery in your neighborhood, but more often than not, your gastronomical delight won’t feel gratified unless you’ve polished off from the divinity that only a Punjab Grill can offer, or the sumptuous appetizing wonders that an Asia Seven or Zambar bring to the table!

Amidst a world serenaded by delicacies and struck by the wonderful amazements of multi cuisine excellence, we learnt what excites the ever smiling Mr. Sachdeva about his work, his fondness for food, the outlook of one of the most promising names from Indian Retail F&B stable and its plans for the future.

What inspired one of the largest and most renowned FMCG companies to take these giant strides toward F&B Retail?

 Mr. Amit Burman is a maverick thinker-leader. It is the penchant of Dabur for undertaking exciting new endeavors that led the company to think in this direction and Mr. Burman’s passion for food enabled the creation of Lite Bite Foods.

While it brings immense satisfaction to be in this space, it is important to share that no great idea can marvel without something innovative as you’d notice. For instance, not many know that the Real Fruit juice is Mr. Amit Burman’s brainchild.

That said, to make giant strides toward this competitive field calls for a passion for innovation and re-exploration and food, is a space that calls for combining the two which is what we are about.

Sharad Sachdeva, CEO of Lite Bite FoodsWhat do you make of the current scenario of F&B retail in India? Is the market conducive to new players entering a space stifled with immense competition?

In one word- competitive. In more than one, challenging but fruitful. There is always a market for F&B. And, there will always be, regardless of the space being stifled with cut-throat competition.

So we have all sorts of people today who are constantly eating and changing and, redefining themselves through various cuisines. That’s something that I personally feel won’t change in the times to come.

You could be a foodie or be picky about what you eat. But the Indian F&B Retail space is something that is akin to a fertile ground on which both spicy and sweet and, authentic and western specialties grow. And, hopefully that shall go a long way to further entice an adventurous audience out there.

Post the recent influx of international restaurants in India (Yauatcha, Megu, Jamies etc.) many are struggling and facing the same struggles as the local outlets. What do you foresee in the next five years?

Food holds such an important part of our life, rather lifestyle that you cannot not think of world- cuisine and a person in isolation.

The two inter-mingle in choicest formats that are defining our urban reality today. You see people are forever on the lookout for something nice and a new way of exploring their identities and themselves through food.

Take Gurgaon for example. Almost every-day you’ve got the youngsters and those from divergent workspaces opting to go and eat out. There’s a rush that defines us in some way.

People are willing to explore and are perhaps more experimental with their food than they could have ever been and they would be most likely be doing the same 5 years hence. Let’s take breweries and wine bars for instance. There are many mushrooming in the city despite there being bars and lounges.

And, here lies the real challenge. Can you do something innovative and exciting enough for people to hold on to you? Often, we’ve seen that when a new brewery comes up, the others die out.

So I feel we are living in interesting times albeit facing real contest to stay ahead in the game.

What importance does Gurgaon as a market hold for you?

Gurgaon as a market holds tremendous importance for us at Lite Bite Foods. I feel, there’s not a day in the booming metropolis of India that isn’t filled with excitement, vibe and its own bittersweet challenges.

While on one hand, I see tremendous competition among various restaurants and eateries locked in a tense battle to emerge on top (in this part of NCR), at the same time I can sense a great scope for varied, exciting ideas emanating from the same space.

This is such a promising city. You win it here and you establish a reign so to speak. So, yeah the challenge for us is to capture not just the young and exciting audience but offer something for all age groups.

Food, after all, is the defining factor that bridges the gap between the heart and art and that’s our spirit behind all brands at Lite Bite Foods.

Lite Bite Foods

Who do you feel is a major game-changer apart from you?

I have tremendous respect for a number of brands that are operating in the Retail F&B space. I think the KFC’s and Domino’s are the big daddy’ of this space.

As for individuals, I have respect for Riyaz Amlani, who I think has done a great job with Social, Mocha and other creations.

What is the best leadership advice you can give to an Entrepreneur or a present nobody who aspires to carve a niche in the Retail F&B space?

There are many advices that you hear from all corners. But, truth be told, the one advice that I swear by is to “think from the gut”. To elaborate, while I use both, brains and heart, I go with what my gut says. It has worked for me and I can safely say that while thinking too boldly doesn’t work as one has got to take certain practicalities into consideration, you can make it far if you stick to your gut-feel.

Lite Bite FoodsIs Lite Bite foods planning to go international? Are there plans to launch restaurants in demography’s outside India?

I am elated to share that we are already operating in diverse and challenging geographies outside of India as we speak. Punjab Grill first opened in Singapore about 4 years back and later in Abu Dhabi

Lite Bite Foods has now expanded in SE Asia with the brand Punjab Grill in Bangkok. This place in Bangkok commands a total space of 280 square meters including the bar and lounge, and has a seating capacity for 70 guests. Diners who have experienced Punjab Grill’s cuisine in India, Abu Dhabi or Singapore will now be able to enjoy the restaurant’s signature dishes in thailand as well.

Another Punjab Grill is slated to open in Saudi Arabia in another 3 months from now. Lite Bite foods is also present at Washington DC, in the United States (American Tandoor)

From where I see, Singapore, USA, United Kingdom and Thailand are extremely important markets for us and the foodie in us as present in leaps and bounds in these geographies is going to get us to more places.

What are key challenges as you see when it comes to leading a dynamic set-up from the very top?

I am of the belief that if you wish to make it count and count big, then you’ve got to have a certain relevance in your work and in the brand.

As the saying goes, “No-one is going to eat yesterday’s pie”.

Therefore, the key challenge is to make yourself relevant and contemporary in today’s day and age where new ideas are as excepted as much as the discarding of needless or too much experimentation.

What do you love to eat the most and does outdoor eating hold a great part in your schedule?

I like to eat out every now and again. But, unfortunately I often don’t get much time as I would probably like.

What I love the most is a pizza. On other occasions, I relish burgers, kakori kebabs and tikka’s but I try to balance my meals by including space for a light workout. I am not too much of a coffee person and like to eat everything in moderation.

Is Lite Bite Food big on Digital media or mainstream media vehicles such as activation, events for awareness and other initiatives?

We follow a 360 degree approach to our brand communication. I don’t think Print occupies too much of a space in our ad-spend and yes, as you correctly mentioned, Digital is where our focus is at Lite Bite Foods.

I reckon, around 50-60% of our budget goes into digital media. We do banner ads and focus on third party websites to render engaging content relevant to our space of operation. We are also looking to leverage the best out of social media as that’s where today’s audience ‘hangs out’, especially Twitter.

What inspires you the most about your work Sir?

I would say my team. They are the backbone of the system. I can say with pride that it is my team that drives me to work every single day and the feeling of taking a wide bouquet of brands under such a competitive portfolio, one that couldn’t move without seamless collaboration and synergy is the high point of my work.

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Devdeep Tyagi

The Wall, F1, Orange, Black, Fast Cars, Bose, Trinidad and Tobago, Brian Lara, Swades, Toothpicks, Berlin, Reinhard Heydrich, lame jokes, Cyrus Broacha, Seth Rogen, James Dean, Bellucci, Drew Barrymore, Summers, Tilda Swinton, WWII, The Desert Fox, Herrlingen, Gorillaz, Birdy Nam Nam, Beat It, Maa Teresa, Rajasthan, Morrison, Espionage, World Peace and disruptive ideas.

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