By word of mouth: Student Biryani goes global

Published: November 28, 2011
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It won’t be long before you will be ordering 
it in the US as well. DESIGN: JAMAL.KHURSHID

It won’t be long before you will be ordering it in the US as well. DESIGN: JAMAL.KHURSHID

KARACHI: 

Consistent taste and “word of mouth” is what has taken Student Biryani, a brand of Café Student, from a small roadside vendor to one of Pakistan’s fastest growing franchise networks. The Karachi-based food outlet – after attracting notable traffic in Dubai – now wants to test North American and European markets; extend its Gulf network through global franchising.

Established by Haji Muhammad Ali in 1969, the eatery – a favourite biryani restaurant for most, if not all, Karachiites – with a 15% return rate, continues to expand disregarding investors concerns about energy crises and poor law and order.

Student Biryani’s network is spread over 26 outlets (12 branches and 14 franchise restaurants) in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Dubai. It is adding one more outlet – a takeaway restaurant – in Boat Basin, Karachi this December while also finalising the launch of its first restaurant in Islamabad, to be operational early next year.

There is no better market for the business than Pakistan, Ali’s son and company director, Muhammad Arif believes. “There are more opportunities than difficulties. Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy,” he added, “ the ingredients are a lot cheaper here.”

There are days when sales are affected due to violence in the city, Arif said, but added that the business normally does great, especially on public holidays.

Arif’s father started the business – selling homemade biryani and a few other dishes – in Saddar, Karachi. He named it Cafe Student to attract students from a host of schools and colleges that were located in the area.

This worked well for him as his first customers were students and teachers who particularly liked his biryani, which dominated the business so much that it overshadowed Café’ Student, the official name.

Ali’s recipe for biryani is still the business secret for Café Student that associates its popularity partly to “the word of mouth” – publicity, as Arif puts it. The business has turned Ali’s recipe into a formula that’s centrally dispatched – mostly in the form of premixes– to all outlets to ensure that each place has the same taste, Arif said.

“We have a centrally-controlled supply chain,” Arif said, “we buy the same quality of rice to make sure the taste doesn’t change,” he added.

The love for biryani coupled with consistent taste helped the business grow significantly over the last decade. It converted its head office in Saddar to a multi-storey restaurant serving 2,500 to 3,000 customers every day – the number includes takeaway, dining-in and home deliveries.

With a continuous expansion plan, the company is now considering franchise option to meet the increasing demand for the brand.

“Franchising is the easiest and fastest way to grow your business,” Arif said. “You don’t have to invest and yet your brand name and consumer-base grows while you get royalty,” he added.

Responding to a question Arif said, one needs to invest about Rs8 million to develop a 3,000-sqaure-feet restaurant – a standard size for the business – in Pakistan. There is tremendous opportunity for this business in Pakistan; one has to be patient because it grows slowly, he added.

The company has a 15 to 1 return rate, he said, but it can vary for branches depending upon the size of the unit. The return ratio for a takeaway unit, he explained, will be different from a dining-in restaurant.

The company already has 14 franchise restaurants in the country and more are in the pipeline. The story doesn’t end here; Student Biryani is also extending its customer-base in the Middle East.

“We are almost ready to open our first branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Arif said, adding, “We have another branch in the pipeline for Sharjah; we will launch it soon.”

The majority of customers in Dubai are Indians, Arif said, he is, therefore, personally interested in entering the Indian market as well.

The company is in the final stages to give the go-ahead for three franchisees one each in the US, UK and Dubai. They are expected to launch their operations very soon, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Proud Baloch
    Nov 28, 2011 - 7:48AM

    When will it launch in Canada?

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  • Wahaj
    Nov 28, 2011 - 8:30AM

    Comon student biryani, Canada esp Calgary needs you badly.

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  • Haider Hussain
    Nov 28, 2011 - 9:34AM

    Student Biryani WAS something ten years ago, but now it has lost its taste. One can find better and much cheaper alternatives here and there…

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  • Danish
    Nov 28, 2011 - 9:45AM

    food centre is much much better product than student bryani.. in fact student bryani is now a ‘kachra’ bryani

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  • Khan
    Nov 28, 2011 - 10:52AM

    Residents of Karachi, please go to ‘indus foods’ in khadda market (defence). You’ll forget student biryani, i guarantee it.

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  • Nov 28, 2011 - 10:54AM

    Wat About INDIA? India is a very Vast Country and u can tap this Market well, with so many Biryaani loving people..!!!

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  • Shafaq Mustafa
    Nov 28, 2011 - 11:45AM

    The level of Quality and Quantity is not maintained by Student Biryani.

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  • Serenity
    Nov 28, 2011 - 12:52PM

    Students biryani is no more as good as it used to be back in the 90s

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  • Kashif Channa
    Nov 28, 2011 - 2:18PM

    Good to know that franchise is being opened in Jeddah, KSA. We badly need student biryani in KSA.

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  • Saad
    Nov 28, 2011 - 4:31PM

    Student Biryani is the best, for those who contest, I recommend to take samples from all other biryani restaurants and match apple to apple. you will be convinced.

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  • N M Javed
    Nov 28, 2011 - 6:31PM

    Don’t get over excited. Despite reaching to European countries Student Biryani will only remain limited to ethnical desi markets. Goras are not that pro-mirchi when it comes to eating.

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  • sajid
    Nov 28, 2011 - 7:34PM

    No way bao ji and savour food biryani of Rawalpindi/Islamabad is the best.

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  • Ali
    Nov 28, 2011 - 7:39PM

    Don’t get over excited. Despite reaching to European countries Student Biryani will only remain limited to ethnical desi markets. Goras are not that pro-mirchi when it comes to eating.

    Dude are you crazy? Curry is Britains national dish… i know whites that can out eat any desi in terms of mirchi levels! Gora food is generally so bland thats why desi restaurants do so well in Europe!Recommend

  • trtk
    Nov 28, 2011 - 8:29PM

    Student Biryani was a good thing in the late 90s and early 00s… but today it is totally Pathetic…a thelawala has much better taste in his biryani than students’…. Food centre is another pathetic option….Saadia biryani near Bahdurabad and Kaybees is a much much better option regarding quantity, quality, taste and price

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  • Nov 28, 2011 - 8:30PM

    Sky is the limit ,

    Behind this success a very hard work of mr jawed, mr arif ,mr rashid and shahzad
    Standing from sales counters to buying best quality rice they have worked 24/7
    They are also the fist local chain to start home delivery and still the first to deliver any
    Place in karachi . Best biryani with high class ingredients and a strong relation with coca cola inc THEY ARE THE BEST

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Nov 28, 2011 - 9:00PM

    Open in Riyaadh please please pleaseeeeee…. i promise it will be a huge hit….pleaseeeee…!!!!Recommend

  • Nov 28, 2011 - 10:29PM

    Student Biryani is not as tasty as it were in last five years. I tasted again 2 days back because of my friend insisted. One can find much tastier Biryani at ‘Thaila’ than Student Biryani. Even the
    Raita taste has been changes.!

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  • nikhat
    Nov 28, 2011 - 10:31PM

    @N M Javed:
    Britishers love curries, hot, medium and mild and biryani is very popular here,among indians, europeans,carribeans, africans and even with newzealanders.
    wish you all the best STUDENT BIRYANI. you have worked very hard and you deserve the best.

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  • Minahil
    Nov 28, 2011 - 11:45PM

    Student biryani tastes nice but not that outstanding… but still i Am very happy and the reason for hapiness is that we are flourishing and atleast trying to bring our taste at international level.. It feels great when u go abroad and see your local resturants there :) I felt great when had pani puris in Jeddah KSA this year at NIRALA sweet :)

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  • Nov 28, 2011 - 11:49PM

    Student biryani tastes nice but not that outstanding… but still i Am very happy and the reason for hapiness is that we are flourishing and atleast trying to bring our taste at international level.. It feels great when u go abroad and see your local resturants there :) I felt great when had pani puris in Jeddah KSA this year at NIRALA sweet :)Recommend

  • American Desi
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:07AM

    If not been already done, Student Biriyani needs to register the brand to protect the business. In New York there used to be a Student Biriyani which was substandard (may not be related to the original group).

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  • Usman
    Nov 29, 2011 - 8:48AM

    Their Biryani in Duabi pethatic. Went over there once & never advice any one to go there for biryani

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  • sara
    Nov 29, 2011 - 11:52AM

    @N M Javed, are you out of your mind? biryani is actually a big hit in the UK as well as other countries where there is a large desi population – equally popular with desis and non-desis alike. youd be surprised but despite all the bland and yukky looking foods the guys in the ME eat, biryani was also very easily available in cairo (where there are hardly any desis) and apparently the natives there are crazy about it too,

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  • Dec 6, 2011 - 7:09PM

    I agreed with some friends that Student Biryani lost it taste day by day as they increasing branches in country & abroad as well, we need real taste as they had provided in Chappar ( old place was located in temporary hut). I think Biryani of Allah Wala of Nazimambad & Usmania resturent is better than SB

    Naeem Qureshi

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