Started in 2005 with an aim to provide quality confectionary to customers in Kashmir, the Hattrick chain has had an impressive growth. Haroon Mirani reports.
It started with one outlet in Rajbagh Srinagar. Today there are 14 Hattrick outlets or franchisees in the valley offering quality sweets, biscuits, cakes, pastries. Many more are in offing.
Showkat Chowdhary, the founder owner of the food chain came from a family of fruit growers and was involved in the family business before venturing into a new field. “While travelling to different countries, I always wondered why these tasty pastries and sweets were not available in Kashmir,” Chowdary explains.
So he decided to fill the gap. “It was a bit risky to introduce a high quality product priced above average in the local market,” recalls Chowdhary. “But I resolved that come what may the quality should be the priority and there will be no compromise.”
Soon he established a factory at Zakura near Hazratbal on the edge of family’s 200 kanal apple orchard. Around Rs 3 crore has gone into building the factory with machinery coming from India’s topmost manufacturer Nagpal Brothers in New Delhi. He got master chefs from all over India, many of whom had been working in 5-star hotels in India, Dubai and Holland.
“For a quality food product you need two things, good chefs and good raw materials,” says Chowdhary. “With chefs came skill and for ingredients I had to go for imported raw materials.”
Hattrick is the only confectionary in the state which uses imported raw materials like Coco Powder, Black Berries from North America and Butter and cream from European countries like Germany, Hollland and Denmark.
“We are making products like chocolate pastry of 5-star standard,” says Chowdhary. “If you eat the same at any 5-star hotel it will cost you Rs 150 but here it just costs Rs 30.”
A research team at the company assesses market moods and advises on quality control and introduction of new varieties. “Our chefs continuously experiment. Every month we bring out new products and almost all are loved by the people,” said Chowdhary. “Even if our food grade packing come at twice the cost of normal packing, we go for it. With batch number printed on the packing we encourage consumers for giving any suggestion or making any complaints.”
Huge demand has at times been a challenge. On Eid ul Adha eve when the stock of pastries was exhausted, angry customers hurled stones on Hattrick outlets at Sanatnagar, Pampore and Soura.
Hattrick has also been getting franchisee queries from outside the state. Businessmen from New Delhi, Chandigarh and even Mumbai want to open Hattrick outlets in their states. “Most of these are people who had cherished our products while visiting Kashmir,” informs Chowdhary. “They were amazed by the high quality that too on reasonable rates and they are now insisting us to venture outside too.”
Last year when Airtel chief Sunil Mittal Bharti visited Kashmir for some business function, he too was impressed with Hattrick pastry and cakes. “He inquired about the product and when he found it is made in Kashmir, he offered me to host Hattrick products at their showrooms,” said Chowdhary. “But presently we are keeping ourselves limited to Kashmir as the market here is still untapped.”
The demand has been growing with every passing day. Starting with just one outlet at Rajbagh, Hattrick now has 14 franchises in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Pulwama districts. More are in the offing and Hattrick has plans to reach to every district.
The factory at Zakura has six units for making Pastries, bakery, sweets, fast food, Wazwan and Tandoori. Hattrick has been the first to produce a local brand of Pizza, which has been received well. The Zaffrani Harrisa produced by Hattrick has also turned this local delicacy into a successful brand.
On an average Hattrick factory at Zakura consumes 300 chickens, 200 kgs of meat and 5000 kgs of flour per day. “Even at this rate we run barely on half of our capacity and even if our trade increases, we won’t require any major upgradation in machinery,” said Chowdhary.
Chowdhary adds that making money was not the primary reason for the venture. “For that I was doing fine in fruit business but I wanted to give something back to the society like a quality product and employment opportunities.”
Eight trucks ferry finished products from Zakura factory to all of its 14 outlets twice a day. The company also has four fast food restaurants. It employs 300 people, of which around 50 are from outside and rest from the valley.
“There is the absence of skilled manpower in food sector in Kashmir so we had to get the same from outside the state,” says Chowdhary. “To overcome this shortage we are training the local staff and also plan to establish an academy for training professional chefs in the near future.”
Chowdhary says Hattrick means three things in succession and reason he chose this name: “We believe in the principal of Quality, Service and Presentation.”
The company also plans to venture into juices, canning, dairy products and opening retail stores. Chowdhary informs that the company never went after subsidies or any kind of government incentive.