PizzaExpress has entered India, through a partnership with Gourment Investments, promoted by the Bharti Family Office. Talking to about the entry, Neil Wickers, MD, PizzaExpress International said, "Before opening I went to most pizza outlets in Mumbai and Delhi and found what was available was the American version of what they understand is Italian pizza."
Wickers says PizzaExpress' USP will be the authentic Italian taste that they are renowned for worldwide. Right from sourcing ingredients to building the team, Wickers says everything will be Indian and no stone will be left unturned to make its Indian customers feel at home.
The brand has done away with beef offerings in their menu and introduced more vegetarian and spicy variety to appeal to the Indian palette. "We never serve chilli flakes in our UK outlets, but after trying it on pizzas here, I cannot do without them," exclaims Wickers.
According to an earlier report in ET, the organized Indian pizza market is valued at Rs 1,700 crore and Domino's is the category leader followed by Pizza Hut. While both those brands operate in the quick-service-restaurant (QSR) space, PizzaExpress is different.
"We believe in giving customers a holistic experience of the brand and therefore we will not do pizza delivery at this point," explains Wickers.
PizzaExpress has positioned itself as a casual dining restaurant. Its outlets will have a live kitchen where customers can watch the making of a pizza live, interact with their chefs and spend hours over slices of pizza. The brand's marketing activities in India will be public-relations driven and through social media. It also has plans to reach out to corporate businesses to explore possible partnerships, says Wickers.
On the expansion front, Wickers says they are in no hurry and would like to completely establish themselves in one market before they move to other cities. Possible locations for the outlets would be in premium areas like shopping malls, cinemas, business parks and residential areas, having an area of 2,500 - 3,000 square feet.
While PizzaExpress has its doors open to all types of customers, those from Section B and above have been its typical connoisseurs. PizzaExpress operates 420 outlets in UK and have 50 outlets internationally in countries like China, UAE and Indonesia. The Indian outlet is the 51st outlet outside UK.
Abneesh Roy, associate director, Institutional Equities - Research, Edelweiss Group thinks the chain is very late in coming to India. "Without the delivery option, PizzaExpress will compete with all other dining options in the market. In India, a bulk of the pizza business is from delivery," says Roy.
Roy doesn't think there is any strong differentiation that the brand brings to India. However he is quite enthused by their joint venture partners - Bharti Family. "The Bharti group understands India and retail very well, so that is definitely an advantage. But their success would depend on how quickly they can scale and open more stores across the country," says Roy.
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