– Ayshwaria Lakshmi
While the global COVID pandemic had shattered the restaurant sector, there are few who can raise the collar for tackling it in a better way and few had dared the situation and ventured into a new business. Sree Ariya Bhavan in Thanjavur is one who has been in the restaurant industry since 1964, has decided to venture into the sweet and savory section. The restaurateur, a favorite for many of the localities had recently launched Shri Dhivyam Sweets and Café in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
A Ram Shankar, Managing Partner, Shri Dhivyam goes on speaking on the idea behind this venture: “This was in planning for a year and execution went on for another year. Thanks to the pandemic, progress was extremely slow and financially we were thrown in a tough spot. However, with the help of our friends and relatives for funding, we managed to open.” The new-gen entrepreneur who hails from a family in the restaurant industry for the past half a century calls ‘Shri Dhivyam’ a whole new approach to sweets. The outlet, located easily accessible by everyone has a slew of measures to keep the food very fresh and hot. “When we analyzed sweet business, we found out that most of the sweets we buy are at least three days old owing to the process the industry follows,” he said.
Disrupting the way a typical sweets shop functions:
Typically, in factories, sweets are prepared and ferried to the outlets in large volumes. These take about 14 to 24hrs to cool down, the step one in the process. Post this, there is a separate team to cut sweets. By the time, they finish cutting and arranging the sweets in a tray, over 30 hours is completed since the sweet is produced. Once cutting and decoration are done, it sent for loading where it gets wrapped up and the outlet to which this tray needs to be sent is marked. Most of these big sweets operate more than 10 outlets. After this, the ferrying process takes place where it has been nearly 48 hours since the sweet was produced. Then in the shop, the sweets are placed on the counter only when the counter is emptied.
“Technically most of the sweets that customers are buying from a big shop is at least 3 days old unless the sweet shop has its own kitchen. This is where we stand out. Preparation to counter in less than 12 hours for all sweets except Halwas, Namkeen, Murukku, Thattai, and Savories as they are delivered within two hours of preparation. All the varieties of Halwa are served through a Hot counter fresh. Jangri and Jelabi are made in front of customers and sold hot. The last and most important point is that customers can sample all the products before purchase and then make a decision to buy them or not. This reassured them that they are buying the best,” said Ram
Challenges in opening during Pandemic
Despite the challenges, the team would at no cost were willing to compromise their ethics and motto behind Shri Dhivyam. ‘Provide freshly made sweets to our customers by selecting the best ingredients available in the market.’ This had been its biggest motivator to sales as the customer were delighted to see freshly made sweets.
The team had a huge human resources issue. They worked on it for two months scouting across India and training them before the launch. They were able to attract their employees by offering a competitive salary. As a measure against the COVID, everyone was tested for covid, mandatory quarantine, and frequently monitored for BP, Sugar, and SPO2.
“We offered Ayurveda concoction and steaming with Turmeric, Nilavembu to help improve their immunity. Like every restaurant, we had a lot of challenges and we still have them, mostly pertaining to Manpower, Financial, increasing sales,” said Ram.
Customer Marketing and Supply Chain
Beyond the financial and human resource issues, the other challenges faced during the launch were to set the supply chain and attracting customers during the pandemic. Shri Dhivyam divided their sourcing into local sourcing and outside sourcing. After a lot of trial and error, and negotiations, their vendors were finalized. The team continues to work on the supply chain.
Shri Divyam trusts one aspect: ‘Fresh food’. While all the hoteliers are confused with the revenue model of the online sales, this outlet has the gut feeling not to include We don’t run any offers online sales are initiated in Swiggy and Zomato recently. It’s only 5 to 10% of offline sales,” added Ram on customer marketing. “When we launched our store during the pandemic, we thought it would be a good time to open as we are still new in this section. As the business progressed, we will have the opportunity to correct our operations, process, recipe and it has been progressing as planned. We wanted a slow opening and gradual pickup so that we will have time to remove bottlenecks, errors and streamline the workflow.”
Shri Dhivyam Sweets and café has plans to mechanize their production and improve the production facility. The teams also have plans to grow the number of outlets without compromising their motto, post their production expansion.
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Vethaa Brand wishes team Shri Dhivyam Sweets and Café a great success in their business. Since 1996, Vethaa is proudly associated with dairy production. With years of experience, the company is now manufacturing and marketing milk and milk products including butter, paneer, ghee, and fresh cream under Vethaa brand.