A mere mention of samosa reminds you of a shanty teal stall at the corner of a street, outside college campuses or commercial spaces. Friends and colleagues chit chatting over endless cups of tea and the delectable snack. But can you imagine making a brand or a successful business out of the humble samosa? In 2019, that’s exactly what Diksha Pande’s parents thought when she told them that she had decided to quit her illustrious corporate job at Cowrks to ‘sell samosas’.
With her experience as head of innovation at Oberoi’s and Pizza Hut and later at Yum Brands, Diksha is recognised as the grand dame among innovators in the F&B industry. After shepherding the brands on their path to success for 10 years, she left her job in December 2019 with an indelible imprint. It was time for her to follow her passion.
Cut to 2022, Diksha Pande is a Co-Founder at Samosa Party, a QSR (Quick Service Restaurant). The brand serves 15 varieties at 35 locations and sells over 70 lakh freshly-made samosas every year! The task, though, has not been easy. But Diksha and her co-founder, Amit Nanwani have managed to build a success story with their grit and vision.
Innovation has been the key to success behind this QSR gameplan. They have given a facelift to the Indian snack using food tech. “Scaling and standardising the samosas is hard. We innovated on all aspects of supply and automation and served freshly made samosas for every order,” says Diksha.
An entrepreneur might have a great idea in mind, but what makes them a disruptive force in their business sector? The ability to navigate through the most difficult times and develop a business model that’s conducive to short-term survival and long-term resilience. Diksha Pande’s Samosa Party became a shining example of how a business should pivot successfully during the pandemic.
The Samosa Party began just before the pandemic in 2020 when we said a final goodbye to business as usual. The pandemic shuttered many restaurants across the country. Like many business owners, Diksha and Amit were also faced with the uncertainty that a lot was at stake. The urgent need to pivot the company posed a lot of challenges. “We agreed as an organisation to not stop and everyone did their bit. Even on the toughest days when the supply chain was disrupted or there wasn’t any clarity on operating guidelines, we continued to persevere as an organisation,” says Diksha. The brand followed stricter hygiene protocols, worked tirelessly, and increased their sales even during the pandemic.
Through Samosa Party, Diksha gave the ubiquitous samosa a delicious makeover while staying authentic. Their samosas have already been receiving high praise from discerning diners and critics. The next step, Diksha says, is to go global because this party has just started.
Diksha Pande proves that there is boundless value in persistence and perseverance. That’s exactly what makes her a perfect fit for our POPxo Women Who Win series. In a candid conversation, Diksha opens up about everything from leaving her cushy job to cooking up a storm during her free time. Excerpts below:
How do you begin your day?
Ours is a 24/7 business so as soon as I wake up, I check on operations and revenue updates from last night. Then, I catch up quickly on the daily news.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
We are an ‘operations intensive’ business in a 365 days/ 24X7 environment. So there is really no downtime in our industry. It’s always running and so is my mind. With so much technology and communication, you’re constantly connected to the field ops. Most of the day is spent with people working up new ideas and strengthening the older systems. We are an innovation savvy organisation so we do make time to innovate and invent something big or small every day.
Tell us about the inception of the Samosa Party. How did you get started?
Samosas are India’s favourite snack and in India alone we consume about 6cr samosas per day. Having worked in the F & B and QSR industries when my co-founder and I were discussing the largest opportunity in Indian QSRs, samosas stood out as the unanimous choice. However, scaling and standardising the samosas is hard. We innovated on all aspects of supply and automation and served freshly made samosas for every order. It was an instant hit.
What has been the biggest turning point in your career?
I have been fortunate to work for some of the best F&B brands and under the guidance of great leaders. I was on a great career trajectory within The Oberoi group but leaving that for Yum Brands opened up new possibilities. Yum is a behemoth QSR company running multiple, successful brands across the world and there was so much to learn on scale, standardisation and branding. There were learnings from across the world that were available to me and I loved how it helped shape my vision and thinking.
What would you term as your biggest professional accomplishment so far?
I think it’s yet to come but having worked in large organisations where I could impact the lives of my teams and associates has been special.
What are the skills or qualities that have helped you succeed?
There is no one thing that helps. It’s a combination of different skills at different points in time. But I think the most important would be persistence and the ability to innovate
A mantra that you swear by in your professional and/or personal life?
We are all stronger than we know. If we look for it, we always find strength.
You started the Samosa Party right before the pandemic. How did you manage your business through consecutive lockdowns?
It was hard but we are responsible for our team’s well being and financial security. Especially because we work with a blue collar work force that was even more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. We agreed as an organisation to not stop and everyone did their bit. Even on the toughest days when the supply chain was disrupted or there wasn’t any clarity on operating guidelines, we continued to persevere as an organisation. We did not shut down our stores even for an hour. We made SOPs and care protocols for any one that needed help. Once the restrictions were lifted, our teams chose to trust us and did not migrate. Our customers trusted us because of the clean, hygienic and trustworthy experience we provided and we began to become stronger than we were before the pandemic.
What advice would you give to youngsters considering a career in the F&B industry?
It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. A career in F&B gives you many life skills. It’s demanding but it’s also a lot of fun. So choose it if you enjoy this lifestyle. There is nothing like a WFH or flexible hours in this business so you truly have to be passionate to succeed. It’s a great industry and growth prospects in the future are even brighter than they were a few years ago
How do you unwind?
I love to cook and try different cuisines so whenever I get the time, I try my hand at cooking. Other than that, the company of good friends and family over a great cup of chai and samosas from Samosa Party.
Diksha’s journey has been inspiring and wholesome. Team POPxo wishes her all the luck for her future endeavours.