If you are a Mumbaikar, you have probably dined at the pop-up restaurant The Bohri Kitchen. The Bohri Kitchen (TBK) is a unique home dining experience in Colaba, Mumbai, for Dawoodi Bohri cuisine. Not only is it known for authentic Bohri food, but better known as a venture by Munaf Kapadia, the man who quit the No.1 employer Google to introduce traditional Bohri food to the world.
What started over a minor weekend tiff in 2014 over a TV show got Munaf thinking about how to keep his mother occupied. That is when the idea first struck Munaf. He had always appreciated his mother’s cooking but never thought of taking it beyond their kitchen. Belonging to the Dawoodi Bohri community, his mother was a culinary genius in traditional Bohri food items like Keema Samosa, Dabba Gosht, Kaju Chicken, Chicken Angara, Haleem, Nalli Nihari, and Bohri Biryani. All Munaf needed to do now was to invite people over to try her cooking. This food venture would probably keep her busy and simultaneously generate a source of income for her.
As an MBA, he immediately put his marketing skills to use. On the first day he sent out fifty emails to his friends regarding this venture, he got a call within two hours! Sonali, a friend of friends, decided to come over with six others to dine at the Kapadia residence for rupees seven hundred per person. Her genuine appreciation of the super-tasty and authentic Bohri meal got the ball rolling!
Within months the home dining experience picked up. Everyone in Mumbai, from food fanatics to food bloggers, began to visit The Bohri Kitchen. There was talk everywhere and articles in all newspapers about the unique experience at TBK. This mother-son duo had taken ‘Ghar ka Khanna’ to a new level with The Bohri Kitchen in Mumbai. By now, even Bollywood was at Munaf’s doorstep to get a bite out of his success. Ashutosh Gowitkar, Farah Khan, Rishi Kapoor, and Rani Mukherjee had tasted TBK’s exquisite food.
In 2015, Munaf officially quit Google, where he worked as an account strategist and began to look more closely at all aspects of the home kitchen business. The self-appointed CEO (Chief Eating Officer) at TBK knew it was time to expand the catering venture. He needed to establish a space for a delivery kitchen and to get more people on board. But the food business is a tricky business.
By 2016, the ratings of the delivery kitchen started to fall, and Munaf had burnt through all his savings. Munaf stated that he had made two mistakes – firstly, he wrongly assumed that TBK could replicate his mother’s cooking through the delivery kitchens, and secondly, he outsourced the business in its hatchling stage. He faced so many hurdles that he was on the verge of giving up his most passionate food venture – The Bohri Kitchen. He almost clicked to apply for another job with Facebook when he got a call from Forbes. Forbes was going to feature him on the cover page for their “30 under 30” issue. His first question to them was – Why Me? He disclosed to Forbes the bitter truth about not making a profit in the business and his urge to shut it down. But one line from Forbes made him decide to keep going – You may not be a millionaire today, but there is a probability you are on the verge of incredible success. We are ready to put you on our cover with only that 10% probability.
That was a learning lesson and the start of a new way of relooking at TBK. In 2017 Munaf began to visit the kitchen every day. He even learned how to cook the biryani himself, much to the surprise of his mother. He started to pay attention to the financial, operational, and branding aspects of the business. He rose to become the Top 50 food influencers. He gained international acclaim with BBC interviewing them for their program on Asian dining experiences. New York Times and Financial Times, London, also featured TBK. By the end of 2017, The Bohri Kitchen had fed over 10,000 food lovers.
In 2019, Munaf raised funding and opened up five outlets across the city, with four being delivery kitchens. The seed round in the specialised cuisine startup received participation from Anuj Puri of Venture Catalysts Qatar, Abhishek Agarwal of Rockstud Capital, Anirudh Damani of Artha India Ventures, F&B veteran Riyaaz Amlani and food chef Rahul Akerkar amongst others. The same year, TBK orders went from 20 to 200 per day! TBK’s samosas were present on the menus of famous celebrities and five-star hotels. TBK stood at #50 of 14526 restaurants in Mumbai.
Currently, like all other restaurant and hotel businesses, TBK too has faced a blow from the pandemic situation in Mumbai. It had to shut down three of its outlets due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But according to Munaf, they plan to relaunch in August-September 2021. Of course, for Munaf’s dream to come true to host the Bollywood King Shahrukh Khan for a Bohri meal, he will have to wait till life resumes in the New Normal.
Today Munaf has published his story in the book “How I Quit Google to Sell Samosas.” A story of love for food and another entrepreneurial success story. With a turnover of over rupees fifty lakhs per annum, this is just the beginning…
After a pandemic pause, The Bohri Kitchen will return tastier and trendier.