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From Engineer to Momo Mogul: Silchar’s Shouvik Dhar’s Recipe for Success

Have you ever contemplated opening a café, food joint, or a cloud kitchen if no other plan of yours works out? Food unites people, erasing many divisions and weaving a social fabric. Momo is one such food that tantalizes your taste buds just by its name, evoking memories of your favorite roadside stall. For the people of Silchar, it might be Jhalupara. But can you envision building an empire from this humble steamed dumpling, coming in various shapes and filled with different flavors?

Shouvik Dhar, a Silchar-born engineer from NIT Silchar and a former DRDO scientist, now operates over 70 momo outlets across 9 cities, earning a staggering revenue of rupees 25 crore annually. Zomoz, the Hyderabad-based momo brand which commenced in 2016 from a 2-BHK apartment aiming to serve authentic momos to the city, has now evolved into a fully automated production process.

This entire technological advancement and automation have been engineered by Shouvik himself. According to his customers, despite the momos being machine-made, they retain the authenticity of handmade ones, if not surpassing them. The founder of Zomoz, in an exclusive conversation with Jnanendra Das of Barak Bulletin, shares the secrets behind Zomoz’s uniqueness and its strong foothold in South India.

Here are the edited excerpts from the conversation:

Let’s start with the most obvious question. Why did you leave DRDO to start a food venture?

I joined DRDO during our campus placements at NIT Silchar, where I pursued Electronics Engineering. After four years of working there, I left to pursue an MBA from ISB Hyderabad, aiming for a larger role in the emerging Defense Industry. However, I had different plans. Initially, I ventured into an ed-tech platform while in Hyderabad. Momo has always been my comfort food, and while trying some momo places in the city, I realized the taste from back home was missing. Seeing a market gap, I decided to enter the market with authentic taste.

How did you initiate the business?

I started the business in late 2016 from my 2-BHK apartment in Hyderabad. As a student, I frequented Jhalupara quite often, where my love for momo began. Seeing no established momo brand in southern India, I saw an opportunity. Initially, I hired employees from Jalpaiguri, most of whom were Nepali. In 2016, Zomoz opened its first outlet in Inorbit Mall, Hyderabad. It marked the beginning of our journey, and there was no looking back.

Despite having skilled employees and chefs, why did you opt for automation?

The momo-making process is labor-intensive. While a skilled employee can make about 1000 pieces a day, our demands were escalating. To expand our outlets, we needed to automate. Hence, we imported encrusting machines from northern China, but they weren’t compatible with the Indian setting. Drawing from my DRDO experience, I reverse-engineered these machines, developing Indian counterparts that outperformed hand-made ones. However, the recipe remains our USP.

Are your initial employees still with you?

Yes, our first employees remain with us, and I’m grateful for their loyalty. Witnessing the company’s growth together forms a special bond. Some started with a salary of INR 5,000 and now earn INR 40,000 a month. It’s fulfilling to see the company supporting over 150 families of our employees.

How did you achieve the remarkable growth, expanding from one to over 75 outlets?

The growth was gradual. Until 2018, we relied on manual operations with a capacity of 4000 momos daily and 10 production staff. With our developed machines, the capacity increased to 18000 momos a day with 6 production staff. From 2022, we successfully reverse-engineered Japanese technology-based machines, boosting the capacity to about 2 lakh momos a day. Currently, we operate 74 outlets across Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Mysore, and Mangalore, with Hyderabad alone hosting 34 outlets.

Since you’ve automated the entire process, do you foresee machines replacing manual labor entirely?

Despite our fully automated process, human labor remains integral. We employ 34 staff in our central factory, 120 across our outlets, and 23 in our central team. The human touch is indispensable.

What’s next for Zomoz?

We plan to expand our operations across Tier 1 and 2 cities in Western India, given the promising traction we’ve observed. Our focus thereafter shifts to North India, with Delhi NCR as our base, followed by the eastern part of the country, with Kolkata as our focal point.

Why no outlet in Silchar?

I would personally love to start operating in Silchar. However, as per our plans, we would need at least 18 months before we can start planning for Assam. We are trying to expedite it all.

 Lastly, any regrets about quitting the defense industry?

I had immensely enriching experiences working on state-of-the-art Radar systems for the Indian Air Force and Navy. But now I am serving thousands of customer, who enjoys the authentic taste of momo every day. The satisfaction of our customers keeps me going.


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