Investor interest in the growing Indian food and beverage sector is picking up. Avan Projects is the latest among a slew of business houses entering this segment. The privately held company founded by the family of Vinod Mittal, of the erstwhile Ispat Industries, has acquired around 80 per cent stake in Om Pizza and Eats Pvt Ltd, the India franchisee of Papa John's pizza chain which has 20 restaurants in the country. Om Pizza's current owners, TVS Capital and the Jawad Group of Bahrain, will continue to hold a minority stake. Atulya Mittal, Director at Avan Projects, shares his thoughts on investing in the world's third-largest pizza delivery company during an interaction with Sarika Malhotra. Edited excerpts:
Q. What were the reasons for making a foray into the restaurants segment given that the core of the family business is metals and mining?
A. Projects in metals, mining, energy and infrastructure are always on the group's radar. However, we also look for growth opportunities in emerging industries. In this case, an opportunity came up and when we conducted due diligence we concluded that the numbers worked and we could bring in the right management team to make the brand a success in India.
It's an unrelated diversification but one that I and my investors, in this case my family, are comfortable with after our due diligence and business planning. We also have the added advantage of having TVS Capital and Jawad Group of Bahrain continuing as shareholders and plan to utilise their expertise in consumer investing and franchise management, respectively, to make sure we move in the right direction.
Q. Will the group make more such strategic investments in varied segments? What will be the mandate behind such investments?
A. At Avan we will keep a peripheral look out for new brands that want to enter India, though our focus right now will be on Papa John's growth and success. As a business group, the mandate is to look for good opportunities where we have an edge or can create one.
Q. What plans do you have for Om Pizza considering that the pizza segment already has two big players, Pizza Hut and Dominos?
The plan is to grow Papa John's into a brand with deep national penetration. At roughly Rs 2,300 crore, the Indian pizza market is big enough and growing fast enough to accommodate more than two major players. Apart from the size of the market, we offer a distinct value proposition than our competitors of 'Better Ingredients, Better Pizza'.
For example, our dough is delivered fresh to our restaurants, our green peppers are store-cut to ensure freshness, our pizza sauce is fresh packed and imported from California and our meats are 100 per cent meat with no fillers. We are confident that these aspects of quality will resonate with Indian consumers and will help us become the preferred pizza in the Indian market.