How this S’porean grew a canteen stall into a F&B tech empire

by Msnbctv news staff

13 years in the past, Neelendra Jain was operating a vegetarian Indian stall at Singapore Administration College (SMU).

Enterprise was first rate, however Neelendra wished extra. The very subsequent yr, he managed to open one other retailer known as Namastey India, and this was adopted by a number of extra shops within the subsequent few years. 

 By 2017, Neelendra’s portfolio of companies had grown to a powerful measurement — he owns a profitable restaurant chain with a number of retailers in Singapore known as Cali, and several other different stalls and eating places.

This was fairly the transformation. How did one man construct an empire out of a single retailer in a faculty canteen? The reply, in keeping with Neelendra, lies not simply in adopting expertise — but in addition discovering out what expertise is finest suited to the enterprise.

Why are they banking on expertise?

Because the proprietor of a number of meals and beverage (F&B) retailers in Singapore, Neelendra skilled first-hand the difficulties of managing the a number of facets of operating such a enterprise: incorporating buyer suggestions, enhancing gross sales, and plenty of extra.

As such, Neelendra got here to know the need of discovering options to those issues, and realised that F&B tech might be a beneficial asset to have.

Rising out of the SMU canteen house to 6 eating places in Singapore, we imagine that the suitable integration of expertise is a should for the enterprise to develop in Singapore’s enterprise panorama. Our large progress in Singapore will be attributed to that actual cause.

At the moment, the varieties of tools and methods developed and infrequently not appropriate for F&B gamers available in the market, since it is usually developed by non-F&B gamers. As such, we’ve got began to make use of our F&B enterprise as a testbed to develop options that may improve the productiveness and profitability of our enterprise.

– Neelendra Jain, founder and CEO of NJ Group

A few of the improvements that Neelendra has managed to develop for his personal eating places embody COBIE, which is a robotic that helps eating places serve meals.

COBIE, a meals butler robotic / Picture Credit score: NJ Group

Moreover, Neelendra’s eating places have additionally applied Eagle, which is an AI-powered suggestions system that takes into consideration actual time feedback from clients and generates ideas on learn how to enhance the enterprise. 

“Understanding suggestions, analysing, and developing with a response will be time-consuming and require manpower. Eagle is resolving this, and it’s being utilized in all Cali eating places now”, he defined. Cali is the flagship model of Neelendra’s NJ Group, and presently has 4 retailers in Singapore.

Zitimama, NJ Group's latest restaurant chain.
Picture Credit score: NJ Group

Moreover, NJ Group has additionally developed the world’s first baked pasta fast service restaurant, referred to as Zitimama. Whereas this in itself could not appear to be an enormous deal, it’s in how they promote their merchandise that makes a distinction — Zitimama utilises a “digital salesman” that clients order from.

Readability informs high quality

After all, with so many areas the place expertise might assist in the F&B enterprise, how did Neelendra handle to select the applied sciences that made sense for his eating places?

For one, he doesn’t simply implement options on a whim. The applied sciences that NJ Group adopts and develops are meant for particular functions.

Neelendra Jain, founder and CEO of NJ Group
Neelendra Jain, founder and CEO of NJ Group / Picture Credit score: NJ Group

We are attempting to fill the present gaps within the F&B business with our revolutionary applied sciences, serving to to enhance service high quality and assist the manpower crunch. Most significantly, we are attempting to include our options to every of our improvements to the issues we’ve got uncovered within the business with a purpose to resolve real-time issues.

The imaginative and prescient behind that is to reinforce consumer expertise, however with out burdening our staff members or interface with extra challenges reminiscent of technical jargon or advanced expertise.

– Neelendra Jain, founder and CEO of NJ Group

Any technological enhancements are offered to workers, who’re then given an illustration and requested for suggestions. 

“The workers take pleasure in with the ability to take a look at the prototypes, and see the outcomes firsthand. Additionally they wish to see the happiness of purchasers and the expansion of the enterprise. Typically, there may be room to enhance, and as such, we develop the general answer in phases,” added Neelendra.

“This lets us save time and allow our customers to familiarise themselves with the expertise, which comes with fewer hassles. The bottom line is to maintain monitoring and enhancing the options developed to achieve an upgraded outcome.”

As well as, the current Covid-19 pandemic additionally supplied NJ Group with a brand new course for growth.

The Group truly leveraged the time throughout the pandemic to determine issues inside their enterprise and implement new options. Lots of the aforementioned improvements have been truly launched throughout the pandemic itself, together with the AI-powered suggestions and answer generator Eagle.

F&B retailers of the longer term?

For all of the technological improvement and innovation that NJ Group provides, Neelendra nonetheless believes that the core of the F&B enterprise requires a human contact.

The human contact nonetheless takes up a giant majority of F&B’s hospitality and enterprise. Expertise merely amplifies the service and makes it higher. I personally really feel like expertise within the service business is like the quantity of salt that we add to our meals — barely an excessive amount of, or too little, will influence the entire flavour of the meal.

– Neelendra Jain, founder and CEO of NJ Group

As such, whereas NJ Group will proceed to seek for issues within the F&B sector that expertise can ameliorate, they’ve been cautious to not lose sight of the forest for the bushes.

They’re additionally hoping to licence their F&B tech out to different companies who additionally want to combine expertise into their enterprise.

“Our long-term aim can be to shake the business with our groundbreaking improvements and create a worldwide presence with our dependable merchandise.”

Whereas the F&B business has to this point largely handled technological integration as an possibility, Neelendra has as an alternative embraced it totally — discovering numerous methods to make F&B tech a key pillar of his enterprise empire. 

On the identical time, nonetheless, he has additionally understood that change will not be at all times an unmitigated good, and has been cautious to contain his workers within the implementation of his plans. As such, technological innovation has not been caused on the expense of workers, however relatively, in cooperation with these workers.

Featured Picture Credit score: NJ Group

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