Founded in the city centre during the summer of last year, Wrapchic is now a growing brand with nine outlets nationwide. Founder Mahesh Raikar describes his plans for a global business
It’s been a busy 18 months for Mahesh Raikar, ever since he opened his business in Birmingham in July 2012 his focus has been on growth and expansion. Wrapchic, which sells Indian-style burritos to the lunchtime crowd, has expanded rapidly and now has nine premises up and running in the UK. The Indian-born entrepreneur is bullish about the future and is already discussing international expansion. “Everyone talks about the problems with growing quickly or too soon, but we have proven this model is expandable and that it works,” says Raikar.
Raikar had worked in the food business for 18 years and moved to the UK about a decade ago. He saw the popularity of Indian food here and realised there was a gap in the market. “I thought that even though Indian food is really popular, it was all about the evening and weekends. There was nothing to eat at lunchtime, so I wanted to offer a real alternative for Indian food. People might not want curry and rice at lunchtime, but they like wraps.”
Raikar spent a couple of years working on the business before launch, perfecting recipes in his own kitchen, picking the brains of contacts in the food industry and getting his models right. He did all the branding himself and financed the business through his own money, with some help from family and friends and a small bank loan. Wrapchic actually means “sexy” in Indian, which raises a smile among those in the know. “It’s a tongue in cheek thing which I knew Indians would get, but it has enough oomph for an English audience.”
In a sense Wrapchic is fusion food or as Raikar puts it, “it’s a Mexican format but the food is Indian”. However, although ‘fusion’ is a dirty word in the restaurant business, consumers don’t appear concerned that the spicy food inside their burrito isn’t Mexican. “Initial tests were done in my kitchen. I have a lot of contacts in the food industry so I could work with some great Indian chefs and perfect the recipes.”
Finding premises was a struggle and he was let down by a landlord, before finally landing a spot in the North Western Arcade in the city centre. He’d quit his full-time job to run the business, but says he didn’t languish during the wait. “It took almost a year to get the first site up and running. Finding a location was hard and we were let down by a landlord. But the whole time I was researching. One of the reasons why we have been able to expand so quickly is because of all the research we had done.”
Brummies have taken well to Wrapchic’s spicy lunchtime wraps and snacks with the mutton madrasi proving a hit and the wraposas (a toasted samosa) also popular. “The launch was very exciting and it was a new format for Birmingham. The main challenge was educating consumers on what to try as it was a new idea.” But soon after the first outlet was opened Raikar was rolling out a franchise model to other parts of the country. By the end of 2012 Wraphic was in Leicester and Coventry, followed by Roehampton, Middlesex and Derby. The business now has nine sites up and running and recently opened a store in Soho, central London. “It’s a really simple model, very easy, and this explains why we’ve been able to expand so quickly. The biggest challenge is getting staff trained but once you’ve overcome the first part it’s a very easy operation.”
Wrapchic has grown rapidly and now Raikar says he is taking stock of his position. After a period of substantial growth it is wise to review systems and processes to “keep the ball rolling”. Raikar is considering creating a kitchen base in Birmingham, which can supply other outlets nationwide. He is also talking to interested parties in India and the Middle East about the possibilities of opening up overseas. It’s remarkably early to be planning a global business, but entrepreneurs are often ambitious and Raikar is certainly that. “We want to be the market leader and I believe this concept can go global,” he says.