“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
― George Bernard Shaw
We Indians inherit the love for food from our ancestors. Our culinary skills have been appreciated for ages and Indian cuisines are hugely popular across the world. Although we have a wide variety of local cuisines that doesn’t stop us from relishing foreign delicacies. In fact, we love to customize international recipes with Indian flavours and spices to suit our palette. The food and beverages industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in India with an approximate worth of $300 billion. This makes the F&B industry an easy target for entrepreneurs to begin with. Let us hear the story of Neelam Singh, a foodie of North Indian origin who built her own empire in the Indian food industry with India’s first home-grown burger chain.
A Humble Beginning
Neelam Singh was born and brought up in a middle-class family in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, a northern state in India. Her father, a retired Principal, was the first person from his village to move out and settle in a town. At a young age, she witnessed his struggles to get established in life and raise a family. As in typical Indian mediocre households, education was the prime focus for her since childhood. In family gatherings or outings, food always played an important role in connecting all friends and family together. She started developing a passion and her own preferences for food during this time. When she grew up, after school or college, she often went out with her friends. But in search of a good eatery where healthy, tasty yet pocket-friendly options of food were available, she always got disappointed. On the contrary, she knew that her friends and family members staying in metro cities had ample options to choose from. This clicked her young mind. She was curious to know why the popular eateries or food chains are limited only to big cities and metros.
The First Step Toward Entrepreneurship
Her first opportunity to do something on her own came for the first time in college. During a 3-day event with an estimated footfall of 4 to 5 thousand people, there was an option to set up a food stall. She wanted to try her luck. Neelam came to know that the cost to set up a stall is ten thousand rupees and the vendor alignment, logistics, and all other costs are additional. Without wasting much time thinking, she borrowed money from friends and booked a stall. She connected with multiple vendors, finalised the menu, did promotions, scheduled logistics, etc. on her own. Three days went by. Once the event was over, surprisingly she realized that she had made one lakh from the ten thousand she had spent. She happily refunded her friends and the rest of the money she saved for her expenses for the next few months. Being overjoyed with the first taste of success gave her the confidence to do something bigger in life.
Introduction To Corporate Life and A New Family
Neelam wanted to start her own business after completing graduation from Dayalbagh Educational Institute in her hometown, Agra. Although her father was adamant for, she to opt for a postgraduate degree. As he struggled in his early life for achieving professional success, he was not very supportive of the business idea due to the uncertainties involved. On his persuasion, Neelam enrolled in an MBA course at IBS Hyderabad. During the course, she did an internship at Devyani International Ltd., and soon after she got married. This was an important juncture in her life. Most middle-class women in India with an aspiration in life often let go of their dreams after marriage. Women on her in-law’s side were not allowed to do business. But Neelam chose the uncommon path and while continuing with her corporate job with Genpact and later with ICICI Lombard, she continuously thought of doing something different of her own merit. She started saving to outline her dream by curtailing on daily expenses. Eventually, she was able to save 4.5 lakhs. In 2016, on an international trip, she found prominent burger chains across a foreign country. It is when she got the idea of opening her own burger chain in India with a desi twist. She knew she needed to twerk the taste and menu a little bit to suit the tastebuds of Indian foodies.
Launch of The Burger Company and The Early Struggles
Soon enough, Neelam left her corporate job. She conducted thorough market research, put all her savings, and took a 10-lakh loan to build up the first outlet serving healthy and tasty burgers in Gurgaon. This was in 2018. That’s how The Burger Company was launched. She could afford only two employees and worked incessantly days and nights to serve customers the best burgers in the town. People used to take her lightly or simply made insensitive comments but being an exceptionally determined woman she never allowed the criticism to come in the way of chasing her dream. The outlet soon became a hit with its unique taste, varied menu options, and excellent service. This was a challenging time when Neelam used to clean the tables, take orders, sweep the floor, manage cash, and every other thing for optimum utilization of the limited resources she had. It was this grounded nature that led her to taste success in a short time. Work was worship for her and she never shied away from any form of work.
Hurdles Faced While Expanding The Business
She knew by converting into a franchise model, not only she would need lesser funds and resources, but also, she can expand to many more cities just as she had dreamt of. In December 2019, she signed the first franchise contract, and the first franchise outlet was operational in January 2020. Before the business started showing results, the world faced the Covid19 scare. Suddenly, the pandemic came and swept away the hopes and dreams of uncountable aspirants in the country including hers. The next one and a half years was a period full of uncertainties and assumptions. She had lost all her savings and had a loan to repay. She had to sell her jewellery during this time to deal with the losses. However, the mettle she was built with didn’t let her lose hope. She did a brainstorming session with her little set of employees and came up with the idea of expanding the franchise model. This was a milestone in her entrepreneurship journey. In 2021, in the post-pandemic phase, TBC opened 30+ outlets across the country and signed 20+ franchises. The plan worked well and within two years, The Burger Company opened 100+ outlets across 40+ cities. The company currently earns a whopping 40-crore revenue, within 4 years of inception. This was a dream come true for Neelam. The right move at the right time not only saved her business to drown but also took it to new heights.
Building An Empire Centred On A Genuine Idea
Neelam paved the way for young women entrepreneurs in the F&B industry by reaching the INR 40 crore revenue mark with an investment of only INR 4.5 lakhs from her savings. She has not only turned her dream into a reality but is making a huge contribution to society by offering employment to many job seekers in tier 2 and 3 cities. When asked about the key to her success, she confidently says that it is the idea that came from realising the absence of big brand food chains in less developed cities. She remembered the struggle to find a comfortable place serving tasty yet reasonable food in her teenage years. She also realized there is a demand, and she needs to work to fill this gap. As she rightly says, one should have an idea that is related to your life and that idea worked exceptionally well for her. Smartly enough, she grabbed the idea and came up with the best solution to fill the gap.
The Best Casual Dining Café In Your City
The Burger Company outlets offer a great ambience and serve tasty yet affordable food. They also offer the customers to play games for fun. It’s an ideal casual dining experience and the best hanging place for people from all age groups. To keep up with the market trends her store launches a new product every six months based on customers’ feedback and detailed market research. It is Neelam’s zeal for continuous growth and staying competitive in the market that sets her ahead of other brands in the market.
Visit TBC website https://theburgercompany.co/ to check on the diverse menu options they have. It offers 17+ varieties of burgers, fries, momos, pizza and pasta, wraps, crunchos, shakes, coolers (lemonades, mocktails, iced tea), desserts (waffles, cookies, coffee) and the list is continuously growing! The desi twist to American cuisine won the hearts of thousands of customers satisfying their taste buds in an affordable range. The website has a fresh appeal with all the necessary information about the brand and the legacy behind it.
Career Options With TBC:
- Apply for job
Neelam’s LinkedIn profile, with 8000+ followers, says TBC is currently hiring for several posts for her corporate office as well as outlets across the country. Aspiring candidates can apply through the “Career” page on the website or through the job postings on LinkedIn. It is an excellent opportunity for candidates from less popular cities with less or no job experience to build a great career in the fast-growing F&B industry.
- Apply for Franchise
If you want to follow in her footsteps and want to be a part of her journey, you may invest in the franchise model that TBC offers. The initial investment to buy a franchise is 15-20 lakhs. You will be backed up by a centralised supply chain, marketing, and operations management team. Each franchise has a dedicated relationship manager. This is a low-risk investment with minimum operating cost, no brand commissions, or additional spending on raw materials. Moreover, you get promotional support to advertise your outlet as well. There are two franchise models to choose from, Signature and Premium Outlets both assuring an ROI within 18-20 months. This gives a great alternative for candidates looking to invest in an expanding business with guaranteed returns.
The Key Mantra To Success
Success has no true definition. Some say it is sheer luck or passion, and some opine that success comes with hard work or money. However, a small-town girl with a mediocre background proved that the key to success is having a genuine idea. That idea must be related to your life, so it touches the customers on a large scale. If you have a unique idea and a clear vision, money, luck, passion, and everything else can fuel your journey to be successful.
As a founder, Neelam shares USP of TBC is the “unique menu, quirky food presentation, comforting ambience, and excellent customer service”. Her goal is to delight American cuisine lovers with varieties of burgers of distinctive flavours that every Indian can connect with. She also made it a point to keep the prices reasonable without compromising on quality, so it is easily affordable for the common people. With her able leadership, TBC is competing with the world’s prominent food chains operating in India and has created a niche among modern casual dining chains of cafes.
Neelam is a true visionary and a role model for the new era of women entrepreneurs in the F&B industry. A working mother and an out-an-out family person, she is a superwoman balancing her work and personal life efficiently. With her rock-solid determination and self-belief, she has reached a height that many women with a similar background might have never imagined. Kudos to her decision-making abilities and foresightedness that will take her a long way ahead in life. Let’s wish her to reach newer milestones in her life breaking the stereotypes like she always did.