Hussain Lokhandwala launched his business with Rs 1.5 lakh and a 250-square-foot store in Pune. ‘What A Sandwich’ now clocks a Rs 50 crore turnover.
Hussain Juzer Lokhandwala, a former advertising professional, wanted to launch his own desi sandwich brand inspired by the American sandwich business Subway.
While working in an advertising agency in Mumbai, he would stop by a Subway at least three times a week for a sandwich.
That’s when an idea for a business came to him.
Hussain then founded the ‘What A Sandwich’ sandwich company, which has a Rs 50 crore revenue.
He says, “Although the Subway sandwich tasted nice, it’s menu starts at Rs. 150, which everyone cannot afford on a regular basis. I thought of developing a Subway-like sandwich brand that is cheap to everyone.”
Hussain then founded the ‘What A Sandwich’ sandwich company, which has a Rs 50 crore revenue. After conducting some study on the enterprise while still working, Hussain eventually invested his Rs. 1.5 million savings and opened his first 250 sq ft location in Pune in 2013.
Hussain says he is grateful to his former boss who asked him to devote all of his attention to his business idea for a few months. The former boss also told Hussain that if things didn’t work out, he could go back to work.
“I learned to create sandwiches by watching a lot of YouTube tutorials and also by seeing and tasting numerous Subway sandwiches.”
Hussain claims that he worked alone at first since he didn’t have enough money to hire anyone.
The restaurant was in Magarpatta, a prestigious location in the city where many business offices were located.
Hussain, now 33, was born in Pune’s Camp neighborhood.
His father has an interior design firm, while his mother is a stay-at-home mom.
He attended The Bishop’s School in Camp and received his bachelor’s degree from Symbiosis International University.
Later, in 2010, he earned his MBA from Savitribai Phule Pune University and relocated to Mumbai, where he worked for a few organizations before starting his own.
What A Sandwich’s menu starts at Rs 29. Vegetable classic start at Rs 40, hashbrown potatoes start at Rs 60, and chicken salami starts at Rs 60.
“Whereas Subway’s menu starts at $150, our brand menu starts at $29 (for which you can have a simple veg sliced sandwich with onion, tomato, capsicum, and cheese sauce),” Hussain explains.
“Subway serves 6 and 12 inch sandwiches; we serve (smaller) 4 and 8 inch sandwiches, which is convenient for a quick bite.”
What A Sandwich also serves salad, panini, tortilla wraps, sliced bread sandwiches, burgers, pav burgers, and loaded fries in addition to sandwiches.
Even though Hussain used to work roughly 18 hours per day, the first year in business was the most difficult. Hussain says he made only Rs 30,000 in a month, which was less than the rent.
He says, “However, I was convinced that it would succeed since I knew people would love our taste and the business would flourish.”
He used his skills in advertising to market his company in novel ways. He created a lot of WhatsApp groups and broadcasts, and he would send amusing posters, offers, and regular bargains to the subscribers.
Hussain supplemented his income by working as a marketing consultant for a few advertising firms. Hussian used to work in client service and liaison with the client and creative team during his advertising days.
As a consultant, he assisted companies in the creation of logos and social media communication by utilizing his ties with creative talents in ad firms. “It helped pay my bills,” Hussain says.
Hussain began to look into alternative options for expanding his business after relying solely on walk-in consumers.e He began approaching businesses in Pune and offering to be their food buddy.
Soon after, he began receiving large commercial orders. He also worked with food delivery services such as Swiggy and Food Panda in 2015, which gave him additional customers and increased sales.
“I discovered over time that the majority of my orders came from the internet, and I didn’t need a fancy restaurant to run my business. In 2015, I shifted my emphasis to cloud kitchen,” Hussain explains.
The cloud kitchen catapulted What a Sandwhich to new heights.
Hussain says, “I had only two stores at the time, both in Pune. We expanded into other cities once I chose to build cloud kitchens, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata. We now have 52 outlets.” He currently has only one physical outlet.
Hussain has taught a large number of women who operate the cloud kitchen as What A Sandwich franchises. Many women have found work as a result of this company strategy.
The women work with delivery partners like as Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, Dotpe, Magic Pin, and Paytm, who come to their homes to pick up the food. The company’s turnover climbed dramatically as the number of stores expanded.
Hussain says, “In 2017, we crossed Rs one crore, and in the last fiscal year, we crossed Rs 50 crore.We are now a national brand.”