Kailash AgarwalPresident - Haldiram’s QSR Retail

Kailash Agarwal, President – Haldiram’s QSR Retail, is a seasoned expert in Retail & QSR, and brings a wealth of experience from India and Southeast Asia. Spearheading omni-channel strategies, he utilizes digital solutions to elevate customer experiences. With a 25-year leadership tenure at McDonald’s, Kailash excelled in managing diverse cultures while prioritizing effective leadership and customer satisfaction.


1. How is Haldiram’s managing the balance between physical and digital aspects in its brick-and-mortar stores amidst evolving consumer preferences and technological advancements?

Consumer behaviour underwent a significant transformation, with a preference for doorstep deliveries becoming the norm. This shift continues to define post-pandemic behaviour. For Instance—rise to the evolution of cloud kitchens. Zomato aggressively expanded its presence, opening 1000 cloud kitchens, and even non-food companies like Ola ventured into the market with cloud kitchens to capitalize on this trend. Smart innovations became increasingly prevalent, as brick and-mortar businesses faced challenges related to high rentals, making them less cost-effective and convenient for customers. Major chains capitalized on the trend of revengeful tourism, with Haldiram’s opening 25 to 30 outlets, constituting more than 25% of their overall portfolio post-pandemic. Consumers today prefer self-service options. This empowerment allows customers to order what they want, when they want, contributing to the success of such concepts. Keeping this in mind, Haldiram is minutely evaluating various new technologies available and customise them to impellent for our brand such as providing curb side pick up, and self-ordering kiosks. In summary, both online and offline platforms are set to coexist, each with its own independent space in the market.

2. Can you share a notable success story within the Quick Service Restaurant format that highlights innovative experiential retail practices?

The prevalent theme was contactless operations, with numerous startups focusing on developing technology to streamline the ordering and payment processes. While progress had been made, we recognized the need for a comprehensive solution, especially considering the intricacies of our menu. Introducing table service became imperative, to explore possibilities for enhancing the dining experience. This went beyond mere transactions; we aimed to maintain a tradition of meaningful conversations. To address the challenges in our consumer journey, we collaborated with a startup. We assigned numbers to tables in the restaurant. Customers could simply scan the code, access the menu, place orders, and have their food served directly at the table. Even after the meal, if someone desired a hot gulab jamun, they could make payments seamlessly, eliminating the need for queues. Consumers have embraced this technological intervention, making it a pathbreaking initiative in the QSR sector. As of now, no other brand has ventured into or even contemplated such advancements. This unique customer experience surpasses the conventional standards, offering a level of convenience even beyond traditional Quick Service. The ability to conclude discussions without moving an inch epitomizes Haldiram’s commitment to future innovation and being a progressive brand.



3. In what ways does Haldiram’s aim to uphold its traditional values while incorporating modern technologies into its operations?

Implementing digital measures is not a standalone effort; it involves significant workflow changes, including shifts in consumer habits. Earlier at Haldiram’s, the consumer would place an order and make payments at different counters. Recognizing the need for a faster and more integrated consumer journey, we linked our point-of-sale (POS) system with the kitchen for more accurate orders, reduced waiting times, and delivery of hot and fresh food. Our focus is on optimizing every aspect of the consumer journey, from order placement to enjoying meals with family. Additionally, we are exploring self-checkout options to streamline the process further within our FMCG offerings in our stores. This is particularly beneficial for customers dealing with a vast array of products across different segments. The technology enables customers to place orders while enjoying their meals, saving time, reducing pressure on cashiers, and improving overall efficiency.

Enhancing back-end efficiencies is another crucial aspect. Consistency is key, and by leveraging technology, we ensure that products, like our famous Rajkachori, maintain the same quality across all outlets. While we strive to modernize the brand experience, we are mindful not to lose the unique aspects that have made us a family brand. We aim to be among the most modern and contemporary brands, surpassing many multinational corporations in ambience, service, and staff quality. Haldiram’s remains true to its traditions, such as the ritualistic Namaskar, a gesture that resonates with everyone. The goal is to evolve without alienating any segment of our loyal customer base.

4. How do international brands entering the Indian market stimulate innovation among local brands, and what challenges might arise in implementing these innovations?

When international brands enter the Indian market, they bring along a wealth of new ideas, inspiring local brands to adopt innovative approaches, similar to what McDonald’s and other multinational corporations have successfully done. One notable strategy is curbside pick-up, offering significant convenience to customers who face challenges finding parking space near outlets. This streamlined process involves pre-placed orders, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience. However, the main challenge lies in infrastructure. Despite the transition from 4G to 5G, infrastructure remains a persistent challenge that could potentially disrupt these initiatives. Within our restaurant, we have introduced a digitized system for our FMCG segment, incorporating barcodes for a self-checkout process through customers’ mobile phones. The goal is to empower customers to perform various tasks using their mobile devices. We are currently piloting these initiatives, representing some of the proactive steps our company is taking.


5.What strategies do you recommend for Quick Service Restaurant companies to integrate new technologies alongside existing systems effectively?

While technology can be out sourced, it is the communication and process adoption that QSR companies need to focus on. The integration of both old and new systems is imperative, with legacy systems continuing alongside the introduction of new technologies, giving rise to the need for a comprehensive communication plan for both internal and external customers to ensure successful adoption. Global retail markets have witnessed the emergence of self-operating restaurants where no human interaction is needed. AI will play a crucial role in concluding real estate transactions including due diligence, site selection, and design visualisation ultimately reducing capex. Innovations like cryogenics could extend the shelf life of food, allowing someone in New York City to enjoy products from Haldiram’s in a matter of hours. Drone technology, while not fully explored, holds promise in revolutionizing logistics. However, one must realise that with so many options of technologies to choose from, companies need to avoid buyer’s remorse. It is essential to start by identifying problem statements and thoroughly evaluating the challenges before implementing technology. Choosing the right tech partner and talent is crucial, and the level of tech transformation depends on the business’s appetite for innovation. Any new process should be adopted in a phased manner with a fallback strategy. A pilot test in a controlled environment before scaling up, allows one to gather all the necessary learnings without incurring expensive mistakes.