Started by Apinash Sivagumaaran in 2016, Isso Prawn is Sri Lanka’s favourite prawn restaurant. Soon after its launch, it became a favourite among prawn-lovers in the city, prompting the opening of more branches both in Colombo and the Maldives. The brand is now planning to enter into the India market and expand their business here. Excerpts here:
Tell us something about Isso Prawn. Why the name?
ISSO means Prawns in Sinhalese. We're a prawn focused restaurant. We started the restaurant in 2016 wherein we bring people together through delicious prawn dishes from around the world. Our focus is on taking a luxury ingredient and serving it at a price bracket that can be considered reasonable.
What’s your USP?
Our unique selling proposition is again prawn as we are focused on it along with affordable pricing.
What’s your plan for Indian market?
We want to make an entry into the Indian market as we think this is a strong market and is mostly untapped in terms of Prawns. Certain cities in India, culturally love prawns. So, I think in these markets we would do very well. There's also a massive gap in the market for Sri Lankan food. And, that’s where we fit in and are in search for a very strong partner for us to enter into the market.
Which markets would you say is the strongest in India for prawns?
Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Goa is a strong market and hold great potential for our product line.
Models in India?
We have three models. One is a full scale model that's about 2,500 to 3000 square feet that can sit a hundred people. I don't think that would be the first outlet. The first outlet would be an express outlet that's about 1,500 square feet and then there's a kiosk type as well. In a mall, 40 seater.
Which market segment are you actually targeting in India?
We are positioning ourselves as a quick service restaurant. So, we would hit the middle income all the way to the top. Again, we are taking a luxury ingredient and making it reasonably priced. So, that mean we are also catering to the top 10 but also giving something to the middle market as well as everyday food option.
Will it be a franchisee owned, franchisee operated, or the other one the franchisee owned and the company operated?
It would be case by case. We are looking for a master franchisee or a multi-unit partner for India. This would be a franchisee own franchisee operated. But if it is required, we are willing to set up base over here and do a company operating model as well.
Where will you be sourcing the ingredients?
We will try and locally source as much as possible. I think India has access to most of the ingredients. So, there's no reason to import it.
There is an increase in technology. So how will you be using this technology?
I mean couple of ways. We are rolling out our brand in Malaysia this year wherein we are introducing robotics in our kitchen. We're automating our kitchen. We're reducing the dependency on human capital that does mundane processes. Second, we are rolling out our loyalty program. We've built our own POS system. Apart from technology we are looking at trends in the food industry, plant-based protein is going to be the next big thing and hence, we are looking at plant-based prawns, plant-based seafood.
And any new trends that you're witnessing in the industry as a global restaurant?
Yeah. Skilled labor shortage is a major issue as you can get a lot of unskilled labor, but there's a massive skilled labor shortage.